It is believed that Mars once had similar conditions to those on Earth. Eventually, it cooled and lost its atmosphere. Mars One is a project with the aim of terraforming this red planet. Humans will be sent there in order to develop a permanent settlement, and transform it into an Earth 2.0. Realistically, is this project ambitious, or is it somewhat feasible?
Terraforming Mars into Earth 2.0
What are the conditions on Mars today?
Temperatures reach -60 degrees Celsius
Its has un-breathable air, composed of 95.97% Carbon Dioxide
It receives deadly doses of radiation due to not having an atmosphere
If you put 2 and 2 together, humans simply cannot live there as it is. Could we use technology to change the conditions there to successfully terraform it? ‘Terraforming’ is simply the Science of transforming a planet to support human life. To begin to consider what needs to be done on Mars to terraform it, it would need an Earth like atmosphere.
The history of Mars
Roughly 4 billion years ago, Mars had many similarities to Earth . It had an atmosphere, and its soil absorbed Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen. Active volcanoes then put them back into the atmosphere and the cycle repeated. Asteroids hitting Mars kept it nice and warm and it had a magnetic field which protected this atmosphere from being stripped away by the Sun’s radiation.
Eventually the planet cooled, and its magnetic field died down. Volcanoes stopped erupting and asteroid collision rate went down. One thing that did not change is the martian soil continued to absorb the contents of the atmosphere. Solar winds stripped away what was left leaving Mars in the state we see it today.
How do we recreate the atmosphere on Mars?
In simple terms, we must induce a massive Global Warming effect. Technology can be used to extract Carbon, Fluorine and Sulfur in its soil, and convert them into greenhouse gases. These gases are then pumped into the air.
These greenhouse gases begin to trap heat from the sun, which in turn slowly warms up the South Pole of Mars . When it gets hot enough, the dry ice on the South Pole undergoes sublimation. Sublimation is the conversion of a solid directly into a gas. The result of this would help trap more heat from the Sun, which again, releases more greenhouse gases.
While this sounds like great news, it would take a long time. Besides that, these machines would need a lot of resources which are not readily available.
In that case, what else can we do?
Scientists can build a machine, which effectively is a huge mirror, that they can put into Mars’ orbit. It would reflect sunlight onto its ice cap thus causing sublimation of Carbon Dioxide, releasing it into the air.
Another way would be bombarding the planet with asteroids. Asteroids on the edge of the Solar System can be captured, and rocket engines can be used to propel them into Mars. There comes a problem with doing this though. The power of this asteroid would be like detonating a 70,000 megaton Hydrogen bomb, meaning if we chose to do this, we must do it before Humans physically go there.
Now that we have an atmosphere, is that it?
Having just an atmosphere is not enough. This atmosphere would need an ozone layer to absorb some of the sun’s Ultraviolet radiation. Without it, this radiation would be dangerous enough to damage DNA. To solve this, organisms can be introduced that release oxygen as a by-product. Over time, and Ozone layer would be formed .
What about Nitrogen? We would need to release Nitrogen, and a lot of it, to achieve an Earth like atmosphere. Some bacteria could be used to extract trapped Nitrogen in the soil back into the air, or again, Asteroids can be used to achieve this.
Is Mars now Earth 2.0?
Not quite. How would Mars hold on to this newly created atmosphere, without a magnetic field. A magnetic field is needed to fend off Solar winds from stripping it away. This is the biggest problem we are faced with. In fact, we don’t quite know how to do that yet. On Earth, its core is made up of liquid metal which causes the magnetic field. If we knew how to melt Mars’ core which is solid metal, it would bring back this magnetic field.
The mission would then certainly be accomplished. Bringing in water and plants would finish off the job. It would then only be a matter of time, before humans would colonise what would now be known as Earth 2.0.
This video will help fill in some gaps!
If you have any questions, leave them below and until next time, take care.
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