As long as we have discussed traveling to Mars, the topic of creating a second Earth has been in the discussion as well. By terraform Mars, or creating a more stable environment for humans, on Mars’ surface, we would essentially be cloning our own planet.
Scientists have argued for both sides over the years. From the climate change procedure to the improbability of creating plant life on the planet. Could it be possible, though? Is there a way to use what we already know about the Red Planet to create another inhabitable place for humanity to thrive?
While Mars shows many signs of the ability to sustain life over time, it shows us just as many, if not more, obstacles to overcome in order to achieve that goal.
The advantages of moving to Mars
Mars is part of what’s known as the ‘habitable zone’ of the solar system. This area of the solar system is where it is believed life can exist. This area is also characterized as the area where water flourishes with a certain temperature range, 273K to 373K.
Water ice is also known to exist on Mars. According to scientists, there is enough water beneath the surface of Mars to fill Lake Superior. There is also the existence of water ice at the poles of the planet, along with dry ice, also known as CO2 (carbon dioxide). In the Martian summers, the carbon dioxide leaves behind water vapors that are picked up, along with dust, by strong winds and create Earth-like clouds in the planet’s atmosphere.
The soil on the planet’s surface also hints at the possibility of sustaining life. The soil is made up of many ingredients that are important to life, including nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, carbon and sulfur. These are all known to help plants thrive, which also creates oxygen for the atmosphere and enables human life forms to live as well.
How to terraform Mars
So we know that there’s a chance we could terraform Mars and make it a reality. But how do we do it? Many scientists and research groups have been coming up with ways to inhabit the red planet for years now. While there isn’t necessarily an agreed upon process of making this happen, there are many proven ways to help us achieve a habitable second planet.
We would first need to create a Martian greenhouse of sorts. This can be achieved by using large orbital mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the surface to heat up the planet.
These mirrors aren’t like the ones we use at home, but more like large pieces of foil called solar sails. These solar sails would be used to float around the planet’s atmosphere and reflect the Sun’s light rays to raise the temperature of Mars. We can also start rerouting ammonia-heavy asteroids into the planet to create a higher greenhouse gas level.
Going to extreme measures
By attaching nuclear, thermal-rocket engines to these ammonia-heavy asteroids, we can direct them towards Mars. Once the asteroids hits the planet, its ammonia and water will be released on the surface. The ammonia will help raise the greenhouse gas level, while the water will add to the planet’s existing water and help create more life.
The rockets will help steer the asteroid over a period of about ten years or so, at which point they would shut down and allow the asteroid to crash into the planet with minimal damage – not exactly the Armageddon you were hoping for, huh? We can also install greenhouse-gas producing factories to retain solar radiation in Mars’ atmosphere, which is and idea scientists have tossed around for quite a while.
We have had experience on Earth with releasing greenhouse gases like CFCs, methane and carbon dioxide into our own atmosphere over the last 100 years or so.
The terraform Mars process would work the same way – we would plant these factories around the planet and as they release the greenhouse gases, the planet’s temperature will rise. This process will help the atmosphere be able to sustain more life forms for a longer period of time.
While the inhabiting process seems both exciting and time-consuming, these ideas are still hypothetical until they are put to the ultimate test on Mars’ surface. Before we can really begin to conquer Mars, we have to find better ways to travel to Mars, which may still take a while. So is it possible to terraform a planet like Mars? Maybe. Could it happen in our lifetime? Only time will tell.