Terraforming Mars refers to the idea of making the Red Planet more hospitable for its future inhabitants--humans. Huge mirrors surrounding Mars to reproduce an atmosphere; science fiction, right? No, this is one of the ideas on how to terraform Mars and make it more livable.
How can we make Mars livable? There is no water--no liquid water anyway. Mars has vast resources, such as oceans of frozen water, metals, minerals, and gravity. If we thickened the atmosphere by warming it up just a few degrees, life might be possible. How could humans heat an entire planet?
Photo. An artist's drawing of Mars after it has been terraformed, making it possible for liquid water to exist once again on the Martian surface. Courtesy of NASA.
If giant mirrors made of thin foil orbited the planet, sunlight could be directed to Mars's south pole. In less than ten years, this could melt it. The rise in temperature would release carbon dioxide, which, because of its weight, settles on the surface and acts as a blanket. This carbon dioxide would raise the temperature even more, causing even more carbon dioxide to be released. All of this extra carbon dioxide would increase the air pressure, allowing us to create large habitats with inflatable domed structures. If we tried to construct a dome under Mars's present surface conditions, it would explode!
As the polar ice caps melted, how could the water be channeled to the equator? Schiaparelli spotted canali on the planet. Dried up river beds could be brought back to life and used for irrigation ditches. Is there any way to make the ice caps melt faster? Scientists believe that it might be possible to transport dark mass and dirt to the ice cap. The dark material would absorb sunlight which would heat the ice and eventually melt it. How long would this take? Around 800 years.
The air on Mars now is made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide. To turn the carbon dioxide into breathable air, plants could be transported to Mars. With the temperature raised and water available, algae would be able to survive. After a few decades, the algae would have created enough oxygen for more complex plants to grow. These plants would slowly spread, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen every day. In only about nine hundred years, humans would be able to walk around without spacesuits or masks.
Perhaps one day, the dreams of science fiction writers and the imaginative speculations of scientists will come true. Perhaps there will be life on Mars. And we will have become the Martians.
Photo. An artist's rendering of Mars after terraforming. Courtesy of NASA.
Mission to Mars. An educational site created for the ThinkQuest contest.