Space the Final Frontier: Terraforming Mars

Since the dawn of humanity, humans have gazed up at the stars in the night sky and craved to live among them. In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took to the sky raising the bar for human achievements. In 1942, the V2 rocket from Germany was the first object to leave our planet, breaking the sky as a limit. In 1969, mankind witnessed the first of our species to leave the planet, making one small step for man but one large leap for mankind. Today, Earth faces problems never before seen on the surface of the planet.

The issues surrounding poverty, hunger, and overpopulation stem from one issue: too many people and not enough planet to sustain them (Nii). However, today science is on the brink of a discovery to trump what came before it. In the future, we as a species may claim another entity in space as our own; however, instead of a moon, or an asteroid, we humans could someday inhabit the red planet, Mars. Through the process of terraforming, it could become possible to make Mars a flourishing paradise suitable for inhabitation by humans. Though commonly left to science fiction, recent discoveries point to the fact that this may be the answer to many a human crisis, and an offer for a second chance with a new planet (Choi). The word terraforming itself means to make like the Earth, and is exactly what modern physicists are working toward.

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The major disparities between Mars and the Earth include: lack of oxygen, lack of atmospheric insulation and lack of water. The solution on how to bring these to Mars is also the cause of the crisis we face on Earth, greenhouse gasses. Greenhouse gasses on Earth are causing the creation of a thicker atmosphere, thus making it inevitable that more light and heat is trapped between our planet and the atmosphere, causing the crisis in the North and South poles (Twicken). However, if we were to create this phenomenon on Mars, we would be able to create a suitable atmospheric insulation, which in turn would raise the temperature on the planet and melt the frozen polar ice caps. This would eliminate the water scarcity.

The lack of oxygen could be taken care of by our little green friends; not Martians, but plants. These plants could be transported to the face of the planet and in the new greenhouse rich environment would flourish. The atmosphere on Mars is predominantly carbon dioxide, but it does not have significant greenhouse conditions due to the thin atmosphere. To recreate the Earth, the surface pressure would have to be multiplied by 100 times. The only current procedure would be to heat up the planet initially so it can become a self-sustaining greenhouse environment. Though they seem outlandish, several propositions are being considered at the moment with the potential to achieve just this (Kaku).

Orbital mirrors would be Mylar disks with a diameter of 155 miles, which would be rocketed into Martian orbit to reflect sunlight onto Mars and heat the planet. To build such a construction, the process would have to take place in space, for lack of propulsion power to boost it from Earth and lack of space on the planet to build them (Zubrint). Greenhouse gas factories are what are destroying the hospitality of our planet, but could allow for the hospitality of Mars. Large factories would have to be built across the planet, which would generate large amounts of methane and chlorofluorocarbons and carbon dioxide. This in turn could trap the radiation of the sun without orbital mirrors.

Though this seems more logical than the former, it would result from centuries of work simply to transport materials to Mars for assembly by a team of specialized robots (Pbs). The procedure involving ammonia heavy asteroids is the most catastrophe oriented. It would involve attaching thermal rocket engines to an ammonia rich asteroid to change its route, and force a collision with Mars. Ammonia could also raise the greenhouse gas levels on the planet and orchestrate the process without previously stated heating; however, this process could cause vast damage to the planet, depending on the force of impact (Pbs). Once one of these procedures was to occur, the next step would be simply to wait and observe.

With an influx of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the temperature of the planet would rise substantially and with this, the polar ice caps that have been proven to harbor frozen water would melt and start the climate cycle on the planet. Though this process sounds arduous, eventually it would allow for a sustainable environment on Mars. As Nasa planetary scientist Chris McKay says, ” You don’t build Mars, you just warm it up and throw some seeds” (Kunzig). Now to the important question, why do we need to have another planet? With one glance around we can see that today our world is different from what it was originally. Though many changes such as medicine are beneficial, others such as fossil fuel dependency are destroying our environment (Borenstein). If we were to multiply our living space by two, the net damage we cause on each planet would be divided into two.

This would allow each planet to heal itself and would allow humanity to sustain human life in our solar system to see another century. Furthermore, we may also consider another crisis facing our planet today. Overpopulation though originally a benefit, currently causes poverty and scarcity throughout our planet. Now if we were to nearly double our cultivable and inhabitable land, we would be able to meet demands and potentially come close to solving poverty as well as world hunger (Nii). Our planet was never meant to sustain over 7 billion humans, and so this concept would be a great enhancement to today’s technological capacity. Citations Borenstein, Seth.

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