Here is this week’s blog assignment, you’ll have to do a little research to write about this. The images all refer in some way to terraforming. From to right (artist’s rendering of a terraformed moon); ditto Mars in four stages; ditto Venus; An oxygen generator on Mars and a potential future “atmosphere processor”. Discuss the potential for terraforming within our solar system.
20 thoughts on “Geography of Fictional Worlds Blog Assignment #5”
As Earth’s future becomes more and more uncertain, the leading science programs are looking toward other planets and moons in our solar system for the future of humankind. The above illustrates the different thought processes and the new innovative technologies that might give us a future on another planet. The first planet humankind look to colonize is Mars. Using the MOXIE machine, scientist hope to create a breathable atmosphere that would allow humans to not only sustain life but walk the surface without pressure suits; taking the carbon dioxide in the air and transforming it into parts oxygen and carbon monoxide. The machine (it is hoped) will work for fifty-one days and produce 20 grams of oxygen per hour. The hope is to create a breathable atmosphere with this machine within the next one hundred years (if this machine works) to produce larger ones and send them to Mars producing the atmosphere well before any astronauts would travel to the planet. Once a breathable atmosphere is established and colonies established water is the next key, if the atmosphere does not produce moisture on the land then water must be found beneath the surface. Without water further life cannot be sustained, though if it is found the detail of above could happen, in which water takes up the majority of the surface creating a total of one continent. SEEDing becomes the next step, creating life at the microscopic level that would then move to creating agriculture to sustain the colonies so they can become independent of Earth.
While terraforming on Venus would be somewhat more hard as its size and proximity to the sun. Scientist would first need to figure out how to reduce the surface temperature before any life can even step foot on the planet. Next would be to alter the atmosphere as we would have to on Mars. The planet’s atmosphere has a carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide composition which would not sustain life. Cooling Venus would take advanced technology as cooling the planet via space would be met with mixed effectiveness, as the planets clouds are reflective, with an albedo of .65. Once the surface temperature is moderated the atmosphere would have to suffer a great change. It is thought that if Venus receives high doses of hydrogen it will create graphite and water; then magnesium and calcium to suppress the abundant amount of carbon dioxide in the air. This would also aide in the cooling of the surface; this would allow for water to either settle on the surface come up from under it. Paul Birch suggest that if water were to settle on the planet it would result in one hundred meters of water cover the entirety. The composition would be similar to Earth’s with broken up continents covering the surface, that would sustain a small portion of humankind, the landforms would be like islands scattered about the ocean. While the larger continents would house more life it would still be broken up and stretch over many lakes and seas.
Good discussion of the two principal terraforming plans for planets in our solar system. A little thin on details.
It is believed that Mars was once very similar to Earth, having both an atmosphere and liquid water. Therefore, if humans were to try terraforming a planet, it would make sense to start with Mars. The biggest issue with long-term living on Mars is the lower gravity. We don’t currently know if a gravity pull one-third of Earth’s is enough to prevent muscle atrophy and other low-gravity issues, but at the very least it should be enough to allow for multi-year stays. There is virtually no atmospheric pressure on Mars compared to Earth, but with the creation of an atmosphere, the pressure should rise above the Armstrong Limit, at the very least allowing humans to spend time outside of suits and not die. How would we create an atmosphere? Possibly the most straightforward and efficient way to do so would be to heat the planet and sublimate the frozen carbon dioxide on the surface, which would snowball into melting more CO2 for us while also heating up the planet. The atmosphere wouldn’t be breathable, but it would be thick enough to not need pressure suits. One way to do this would be with solar mirrors reflecting additional sunlight down onto Mars in order to heat the planet. Most others involve producing or sending large amounts of ammonia, which is heavily nitrogen based and could be later converted into its constituents in order to provide a buffer gas of nitrogen for the atmosphere, or albedo-reducing chemicals to heat up the planet, none of which are particularly practical right now but could certainly be in the centuries to come. Of course, it helps if you can actually breathe the atmosphere on the planet you’re trying to terraform. Many slow, but effective, suggested ways to do this rely on plant or bacteria colonies to fix the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to oxygen. It’s slow, but would eventually work. The MOXIE is a currently planned experiment to convert the carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen through more technological means. Though it is currently too small to produce an atmosphere on Mars, future iterations could theoretically be efficient enough to slowly convert the atmosphere. And if not, then you still have a good way of taking the atmosphere and using it to produce oxygen to be breathed through tanks or space suits. The last issue with Mars is radiation. The magnetosphere is very weak and there’s not a way to fix this directly. Living on Mars would require radiation shielding in habitats and suits in order to keep radiation levels acceptable.
Venus has a very hot, very dense atmosphere composed of almost entirely of carbon dioxide, which presents a major hurdle to terraforming the planet, although all the conditions are related to one another. Because Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth, some have suggested reducing the amount of light that reaches the planet in order to help contain the runaway Greenhouse effect currently ongoing. Increasing albedo through various means has been suggested, though the size of any such covering would be a daunting task to build. Additionally, Venus already has a high albedo, meaning that humans would have to use extremely efficient materials to make a difference. Of course, the main issue with Venus is its almost entirely carbon dioxide atmosphere. As of right now, there aren’t any good ways to rectify this. It’s unlikely that we could get enough organisms on the planet to significantly alter the atmosphere and the only alternative, as of now, would be chemical means to capture or convert the gas. All of these options would require massive amounts of chemicals far greater than we could reasonably produce or get to the planet. Additionally, Venus has a weak magnetosphere, exposing the planet to radiation and solar winds. Overall, right now there isn’t a good way, even theoretically, to terraform Venus.
With our current understanding of space and technology, Luna can’t be terraformed, at least on a planet-wide scale like Venus or Mars. It simply isn’t big enough to hold an atmosphere. At most, environmentally controlled colonies could be put on the planet, using some of the ice that may exist on Luna for water, and using the planet as a whole as a relatively cheap and quick to reach staging area for other missions. Eventually, if you could build a production plant for a breathable atmosphere, you could continually pump gases onto the moon in order to maintain an atmosphere since it would take time for the upper atmosphere to be lost to space.
Other bodies in the solar system, particularly moons such as Europa or Titan, have various issues with terraforming them. Mainly either radiation or reduced solar energy, not to mention the length of time it would take to reach the planet. Therefore, for now, there isn’t much feasibility to terraforming them simply because it would be too costly, too dangerous, take too long, or there wouldn’t enough energy from Sol in order to power anything.
Very nice discussion, especially the little coda at the end about the moon.
Terraforming Mars or any other planet in the Solar System is such a great concept but is it even possible at large scales? I look at the pictures and the introduction of MOXIE and my first reaction is “no…not possible at the scale shown in the images.” Maybe is an idealistic dream and/or way to create fictional worlds but unless we have reached a more advance technological level and understanding of many sciences we are not even close to do anything similar to what has been accomplished in the images.
Terraforming Mars in a small scale is more feasible. If we create an enclosed artificial environment, like shown in the images, where we control all environmental factors and introduce the missing elements necessary to begin the process, we may be successful in reaching a similar but not identical conditions found in Earth. It would never be Earth not matter how hard we try.
Terraforming Mars on a planetary scale is not going to happen. At least not until many issues addressed below can be resolved. Reasons be:
1. The gravity on Mars is too weak to hold an atmosphere.
2. Mars does not have a magnetosphere to protect the atmosphere from Solar winds.
3. Mars, although at one point was believed to have an atmosphere similar to Earth, is not in the “Goldie Lock Zone”. Mars is too far from the Sun that the temperature is a bit colder than Earth’s.
4. There is not an active core that produces convection which leads to point 2: lack of Magnetosphere.
5. There is not tectonic movement to ensure the production of new fertile soils.
So, the idea of terraforming Mars is just a romantic notion that is born from the years of creating all sorts of fantastic conjectures about our neighboring planet. However, if we were to find a planet, located in a similar situation as Earth –close to a star that produced the right amount of energy and heat to keep said planet warm and cold, right size, active core, right atmospheric pressure and gravity, similar atmospheric composition, etc— maybe with the proper advance technology we could be able –in the far far far future—to transform said planet into a new Earth. But as I said before, we are not there…not even close.
Another thing to keep in mind is the amount of terraforming engines we would need to convert a planet. How many would be enough? How to even calculate their size or pin point their ideal locations? And when the process is finished, will the new earth be able to continue the process on its own? And, if we introduce a foreign atmosphere, would we be damaging or stopping the actual natural terraforming process occurring in said planet? Earth itself went through its own terraforming process and it took billions of years to get it right, but it did. If we were to speed up that process, what sort of damage would we be inflicting in said planet?
Good discussion of the possibilities (or lack of them) for Mars and of the potential impacts of altering the natural process of planet development on any planet that we might try to terraform.
While terraforming may be a good idea for any number of reasons, the images all fail to address the serious lack of plate tectonics associated with long-term atmospheric stability. Europa may be the most likely candidate for such a transformation if it is indeed found to be volcanically active, possibly with a combination solid-liquid core to provide a magnetic field to reduce atmospheric loss to solar radiation. That said, terraforming mechanics are interesting in and of themselves.
Traditional standards of terraforming turn an entire planet into a habitable landscape. In some circumstances, this would be very desirable. It is far easier to live and work on a planet when you do not have to wear a pressurized suit sleep in what is essentially a container. Creating a greenhouse effect is the first step towards life-sustaining terraforming. Humans and healthy, oxygen-producing vegetation needs a warmish atmosphere—-typically with seasons, but that would vary from Earth’s on other worlds or moons—-in which to live and work.
Creating that greenhouse effect can come in two forms: artificial and natural. Artificial would use machines such as the ones in the top left of the image. NASA even has a prototype of an atmospheric processor for use on Mars. Artificial processors also have their advantages in being relatively easy to build, maintain, and disassemble as all the parts are man-made and could even potentially be made in-situ. Natural means would likely entail some sort of simple life-form seeding. Extremophiles which can survive in harsh conditions such as living in tundra or ice-rampant conditions could be seeded in polar regions. With Mars thought to possibly have liquid water beneath the crust, certain organisms may be able to multiply in the crust much like Terran soil is host to millions of bacteria. Using such small organisms to change the planet might take a long time though, unless extreme measures are taken. Genetically modified or even engineered organisms might be able to accelerate the process if adapted to specific landscapes of the planet or even adapted to specific stages in the terraformation. For our first changing of a planet, out strategy would likely have to adapt as the planet progresses. Balancing the atmospheric composition after creating it would be even harder, but if genetics was capable, any issue could be solved, at least in the relative short-term of the terraforming process, with a self-replicating organism. Whether or not such organisms could be controlled later and/or what impact to humans they might have in the future of living on the surface is unknown.
What is interesting to note in all of the greening images of planetary surface is that everything taken to another planet (or sent) can be meticulously picked. Each and every single organism would be subject to lengthy scientific debate. Is it needed? What for? What impacts will it have among other plant life being sent? In essence, every single plant or organism sent will have an environmental impact report for the planet and every other life-form being sent. If one species of cold-hardy, fast-growing bamboo is sent, what will it be kept in check by? Does it need to be? In such a scenario, it may be preferably to attempt atmospheric stabilization by letting it grow rampant as it may in the hope that once oxygen reaches a specific tipping point, forest fires will produce more carbon dioxide to give the planet an overall warmer temperature. All this and more would be a headache or bureaucracy, but an exciting time for scientists nonetheless.
Very nicely done.
I love the 1950’s Microwave Radio transmission towers! How could you go wrong when terraforming a new planet as long as you have microware radio to fall back on. Thought Zhan while staring at images in the tabletop.
“Typical government bullshit and layout, who else would put the atmosphere generators in a line marching away from the power plant?’
“You think they should be in a circle?
“Absolutely! Where is the solar array, the thermal difference generators, or the wind turbines?” “You do not ship a nuclear power plant half-way across the galaxy unless you are a bureaucrat and the contracts are in your district.”
“The output of the three towers is confusing. It must be CO2 or some other greenhouse gas being emitted through combustion.”
“Who left the door open on the habitat at the front of the image?”
“The habitat has a door standing open and there is no one in sight.”
“You are always looking for a conspiracy!” “Why are we having Planetary Engineering 101 anyways?”
“Just shut up and study the materials. We have three weeks to learn enough of this stuff so that we sound like we understand terraforming. Unless you have a better way of making some money?”
Placing the food on the table Zhan says, “besides making sure a planetoid livable is way better than our last job. I still can’t get the smell of the bugs out of the cargo bay.”
“I understand how they did Mars; every kid gets taught that in third grade. OK, maybe I don’t get where the water comes from. Is the moon the same process?”
“Eat your food!”
“Don’t get eggs on the surface again!” Offering a towel. “A lot of the water came from Saturn’s rings, some from inside the planet, and some more from the captured comet.”
“So Mars took 300+ years to make it livable outside and still needs tweaking now and then. How did this moon project go so much faster?”
“There was just that much more available water in some underground reservoirs and in the nearby system.” “Not to mention a shit ton of money got thrown at it once it went entirely private.”
“Do you remember how Mars had five atmosphere purifier and generation plants. Each one was the size of a city with and AI at the helm and an army of bots and humans running the place”
Wiping his face Zhan clears the dishes.
“On Caledonia they had 100 mobile factories that would move to follow the infant jet streams. They had a functional if limited atmosphere in twenty years. We’re talking plants living outdoors and a semi functional water cycle.”
“Jeezus, how much did it cost?”
“No one will ever know that figure. They made sure of it.”
“These mobile plants were MOXIE stations that ran primarily on wind and sun. The atmosphere might have been thin but it sure heated up every day.”
“Listen to this”
All of Caledonia’s soil was infused with small chunks of basalt. Thousands of robots crushed and ground ancient mineral rich lava flows and mixed it with the sandy alluvial fans that covered most of the moons lowlands. This produced a matrix for building soil that warmed quickly in the direct sun. These same machines toiled endlessly mixing in chemicals and microorganisms into hundreds of thousands of acres of soil over a twenty-year period. There were many planned extinctions of uncounted microbiota that could live in one environment but not the next. Algae and bacteria that could live in a high CO2 low O2 environment died later as atmospheric levels approached earth normal. This was planned though as their remains became the food and fuel for the next set of species.
“Enough of the infomercial!”
“Sorry, I thought it was interesting.”
“Word is though that every freighter that landed planetside would get a bonus if they purged most if not all of their atmospheric tanks before they launched.”
“Is that illegal?”
“It is if you are over pressurizing your tanks on one world and taking it to another.” “Air-theft is not a faceless crime.”
“So I load up steel and aluminum on Titan and over pressurize the hull to 3X earth normal including every gas tank and cylinder on board.”
“When I get to Caledonia they pay me to off load the cargo and the air?”
“Now you are getting it woman.”
“Don’t make me kick your ass again.”
“It just isn’t that obvious of a scam.” Offering a beer.
“Have you ever been in a space port where a ship is not venting air or pressure?”
“Who would notice if you are offloading illegal air?”
Thanks”, setting the beer off to one side. “That would mean someone would have to come onboard to verify air pressure, volume, etc…”
“There must be records then. How else would you keep track of it?”
“Well it could be that there was just extra ore loaded or a docking fees waived.”
“There are all kinds of ways to hide money in the shipping universe.”
“So are you saying that the whole planet is dirty?”
“No we are too far past that now.” “I am sure that when the project was first started it was dirty as hell but most of the people involved have met an early end.”
“How does that eliminate the dirtiness?”
“It has been 75 years since Caledonia opened for business.” “The people who live there now are not guilty of their grandfathers’ sins.”
“So why do we have to go there?”
“Because we think that they have advanced planet cleaning technologies that they are not sharing.”
“What a super soap?” “Now you sound like a commercial.”
“That is just it, we do not know, and that is why we are taking a trip to Caledonia.”
“I need you to come along in case it gets ugly.”
“How much is Earth paying us for this research trip?”
“Amnesty as usual, they always offer forgiveness for the last thing they had us do.” “And an annual salary of C500,000 for the next 10 years if we behave.” “Plus a C1,000,000 bonus if we go unnoticed.”
“That never happens so we can kiss that bonus goodbye, and I don’t know if I want to be on the leash for 10 years.”
“You would get to be Major again.”
“And an expert on terraforming.” “If you finish reading all of these reports.”
Highly entertaining as always, I particularly like the idea of atmosphere “theft”.
I don’t particularly understand why on earth (or off of it) anyone would want to terraform Venus. For one thing, the fact that it’s so close to the sun, and the length of its day, means that it gets extremely hot, and the atmosphere is exceedingly thick and inhospitable. (Also Elrond would probably not be too happy if you tried to terraform his dad.) Cooling the planet would be very expensive, possibly involving one or more giant space-based shades to block the incoming solar radiation. This would involve technology and materials that we do not currently have access to, and a way to prevent the shade from becoming a sail and flying off on the back of the solar wind would have to be found. Another, more fanciful, suggestion is to build a series of floating cities, which would, on a large enough scale, block incoming solar radiation, and could house processing units to replace the Co2 atmosphere with oxygen. The proposed methods for terraforming Venus are incredibly impractical, but are perfect fodder for the science fiction writer who is willing to sacrifice realism for unabashed fantasy.
The Earth’s moon also presents problems, since it is small enough that any atmosphere it might accumulate would be lost again relatively soon, and have to be replenished. It does have the advantage of being close to earth, which would make the moving of building supplies and foodstuffs much easier, and a better option might be dome-based lunar colonies, instead of attempting to terraform the entire planet. Another prospect to consider is that of other moons, orbiting the outer gas giants, which are larger than our moon and lack the problems that come with its low gravity, and in many cases already have a potential presence of liquid water and life-sustaining elements.
It seems then that the most viable option (and indeed, the one currently being pursued) in our solar system is Mars, which quite likely once held an atmosphere, and has evidence of once supporting liquid water. The problem is to warm the planet, and to convert the atmosphere into something more breathable. This is where the atmospheric processors come into play, which, (like on Venus) could potentially convert Co2 into its component molecules of oxygen and carbon, releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere. Currently in development is a small-scale device, to be sent to Mars on a rover in the near future and produce atmosphere in very small amounts, but if the technology is successful it could pave the way for eventual large-scale operations to create a planet-wide breathable atmosphere.
Nice summary discussion of the terraforming possibilities for the three planets nearest to us.
According to the new discoveries made on Mar’s possibilities about making it habitable to humans many things have been proposed. What is interesting about all of these proposals of terraforming mars is that the ideas exist. However, more scientific research has to be carried out and that is something that requires a lot of investment. The idea of terraforming Mars sounds more and more convincing with the passage of time and the new discoveries made. Sometimes, it is difficult to process the idea that there is this two thousand years-terraforming project on mars that is being designed right now. According to this terraforming project mars will have its own vegetation by the year six hundred. The question now is how are they going to make this possible? The idea of the MOXIE seems to be very promising. What scientists are trying to figure out, with the use of the MOXIE, is an efficient way of producing oxygen through the use of the existing carbon dioxide in Mars. The main goal of the MOXIE is to be able to produce enough breathable oxygen so that humans are able to land in Mars. I consider that the idea is that humans are able to have enough contained oxygen in mars that allows them to find new possibilities of producing more oxygen through the improvement of the MOXIE or through the invention of another device.
Many studies have suggested the possible existence of underground water in Mars. Mar’s-studious suggest that these underground water reservoirs are found in solid-ice form. The existence of water plus what it seem to be the arid soils from mars make a great combination for development of fertile soils and therefore the production of good crops. This is what happens on the earth-deserts whenever they get in touch with water.
Other scientists suggest the use of cyanobacteria for the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen. They think cyanobacteria are perfect for the production of oxygen as they can stand to be in very hostile environments of earth.
The possibilities of terraforming Venus seem to be less than Mar’s. The fact that Venus is closer to the sun creates a totally different scenario. First of all, it makes it more difficult for us humans to send something (a robot or something else-like it was sent to Mars) to evaluate its physical conditions to be able to make the proper terraforming plan to make it habitable. I am strongly convinced that one of the first things to be made in order to make Venus livable is the creation of a thicker atmosphere (like a stronger ozone layer) that is able to create enough protection from the sun.
Good discussion of Mars, a little short for Venus.
Early the exploration of Mars, planetary probes and rovers sent back images of a planet that was a barren, lacking any detectable lifeforms. It seemed as though there was no promise of future colonization for humans because there were many issues and obstacles to overcome. Problems such as the atmosphere, which is too thin and made up of 95.3% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and .2% oxygen. Although these elements are found in Earth’s atmosphere, our air contains 78.1% nitrogen, 20.9% oxygen, .9% argon and .1% carbon dioxide.
There are many issues with terraforming Mars but there is also a small amount of potential which would allow human survival. There is essentially no atmospheric pressure but if humans are able to convert the large percentage of carbon dioxide into breathable air, it would allow the atmosphere to become thicker and form a greenhouse effect. This would heat the the planet’s surface and create a livable climate for animals and vegetation.
Scientists are working on a device that would function to create breathable air for humans. MOXIE is a developing instrument which currently can not fully create a breathable atmosphere. But it is believed that eventually MOXIE will be able produce enough oxygen for humans to live on Mars. Scientists say that it will take one of the carbon atoms in CO2 and two oxygen atoms, one of which will be isolated and later will combine the two oxygen atoms. It will then release this and the carbon monoxide into the air, creating a breathable environment. At this time, MOXIE only produces 20 grams evert hour but is planned to make two kilograms per hour by the 2030’s. The top left hand photo communicates this idea.
A second method that would warm the planet’s surface is to create enormous mirrors reflecting radiation from the sun. But how do scientists build large enough mirrors that can be launched from Earth? This is a paramount problem for this method which they are trying to conquer.
An additional obstacle to overcome while terraforming Mars is the issue of low gravity. Many health problems can be attributed to low gravitational pull and we are unsure what long-term exposure could do to the human body.
Good discussion of Mars, although no mention of Venus or the moon.
The theoretical possibility of terraforming a planet within our solar system is relatively real. However that being said we are not even close to a feasible stage within budget and technology to even seriously consider putting forth and effort for the matter. In my personal opinion as well, we have far more important things to solve on our own home planet, there is not much of a reason for us to leave the current world we live in. We should focus on humanitarian projects and other explorations on our current homebase.
That being said, it is besides the point of this assignment. If we were to go ahead with a project like the “thousand year” project for mars, there would be many variables and unknowns we would have to deal with. The most important being with the gravimetry of the planet. A human would weigh .38 of their weight here on earth, and currently we have no idea what long or even short term health effects could come of living there. We have no idea what it would do to a child born on the planet. Would our bones degrade like they would in open space? Would the difference in gravity create a deformed child? Would they grow improperly and die at a young age? These are all pondering questions one should ask themselves before even thinking about terraforming an alien planet. Beyond even that, there is the logistical and financial side of being able to pull off such and operation. Could we have the manpower and money to assemble a program to even pull of such a feat? The sheer cost of such a program would be unlike anything ever seen before.
Mars is also incredibly cold, the largest factor that would determine the ability to colonize the planet would be to introduce an atmosphere into the planet., as well as the introduction of water into the planet. A feat to control the atmosphere of the planet could consist of either directing small comets to the planet, to help increase the temperature. There is also the thought of introducing CFC’s into the atmosphere (chlorofluorocarbons). The martian surface also has the problem of losing water to space due to the fact that it has not magnetosphere, therefore there would inevitably need to be some effort to introduce planetary magnetism into mars.
This all being said, there are a ton of necessary things we would have to figure out as a collective whole on how to engineer this planet for suitability. The amount of resources and materials along with brainpower to fuel such an endeavor is frankly out of the question in today’s world. It’s an incredibly fun concept to play around with in our imagination, however I feel it is more pressing to perhaps engineer our own planet for maximum suitability. Perhaps solve the climate change crisis we are currently dealing with. I’m all for a world where man has the ability to terraform a planet and eventually colonize it, I just don’t feel that we as humans are ripe for the time to do so.
Nice discussion of the pros and cons of terraforming Mars.
I feel like the most logical candidate for terraforming, as of right now, within our own solar system, is Mars. Technology is almost undoubtedly the most prevalent obstacle in a successful terraforming effort, but this problem also, I feel, has many different facets to it. Not only do we have to consider how to terraform a planet into a livable state, but we also have to consider the consequences of the planetary environment and our necessary adaptions to dramatically non-earthlike conditions, and also to the costs necessary to move large quantities of material to the planet itself, which at our current level of technology seems a bit out of reach. That being said, the dramatic closeness of Mars in relation to any of the other, albeit promising, satellites of Jupiter or Saturn seems to override any potentially dangerous problems such as the critical atmospheric pressure problem of Mars, along with its lack of plate tectonics and significantly more hostile temperatures.
One particular method of terraforming Mars that I discovered being espoused by a Christopher McKay, of NASA, indicated that with the influx of enough chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere the temperature will increase to acceptable levels. This would be done by factories that would derive the needed material for the CFCs from within the Martian geology itself. The summarily raised temperature would melt much of the frozen CO2 at the poles, leading to an influx of CO2 in the atmosphere that would act as a positive feedback effect, further increasing the temperature of the planet. The water that would melt at the poles and be released as liquid water would not only be conducive to the development and spread of either native (?) or introduced (god help us) life, but would also serve to help regulate the atmospheric temperature problem, allegedly reducing the pressure to the more manageable state of that of a mountaintop. This would perhaps necessitate use of an oxygen mask, according to the NASA report, but also might result in an atmosphere in which people could breathe for short periods unaided. While the anticipated temperature rise has been projected to be possible with the appropriate level of investment in less than a half century, creating a breathable and thick enough atmosphere out of the currently rather underwhelming Martian atmosphere is a much more lengthy task. One of the more marvelous works of science fiction that I have read, the Expanse trilogy, rather eloquently, in my opinion, illuminates a potential road towards Martian terraforming. Firstly, he indicates that Mars is colonized even before the moon, given its more Earth-like characteristics, and that this leads to Mars being what turns out to be a multi-generational project, with much of the identity of the Martian people contained within the meaning of the terraforming of an entire planet. As the process continues, the population lives underground, where it is easier to avoid hazardous surface conditions and it is also easier to formulate contained oxygen rich, breathable environments until the surface is more habitable. I find this to be, out of all the terraforming options I have looked at for this blog, to be perhaps the most reasonable sounding option. In this the lack of tectonic activity could in fact prove to be a boon to an underground city, to which I imagine an earthquake would do horrible things. In the end, however, I would agree with many of my fellow bloggers that while Martian terraforming is more and more within the realm of possibility, I wonder as to the opportunity cost-why would we spend the effort to terraform a planet so far away when we have a planet here already, mostly livable, that just needs a few tweaks back to its original state?
Very nice discussion of the possibilities for terraforming Mars.