TheGuyNamedAlan

Mars 'impossible" to terraform

Can Mars be terraformed?  

43 members have voted

  1. 1. Can Mars be terraformed?

    • Yes
      17
    • No
      17
    • It's Elon so anything is possible
      9


Recommended Posts

I think we know very little about the conditions on Mars in a way that would allow us to make meaningful conclusions regarding terraforming. However, it's pretty clear that sending people there to stay just a little while is doable with today's tech, and I think once we accomplish that we will be able to find out for sure exactly what it takes to make Mars really habitable.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even if Mars doesn't have enough CO2, or other substances, the Asteroid belt and/or Venus does. The project would take several thousand years at least, what's another couple hundred or less to get the resources to Mars? I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say the only way Mars can't be Terraformed is if we decide not to altogether.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

For certain values of the term terraform, for sure there's at least a possibility! Things we need:

CO2 <.03atm (more is toxic)
O2 ~.20atm  (less is uncomfy)
Temp > -20C  (need green house gasses to maintain)
Diluent gas enough to make the O2 not ignite us poor carbon based life forms with a single spark.

There's Fluorine on Mars in atleast some amount, so we could imagine converting the deposits into a green house CFC that doesn't rapidly degrade by UV photolysis. That could help drive up the temperatures.
There's plenty of Oxygen on Mars, in the soil as oxides and at the poles as CO2
There really aren't any good sources of a diluent gas, like N2 or Ar. This could be a big sticking point.

How would we drive up the O2 and down the CO2? Like all rose-tinted plans for Mars habitability, this one involves finding water out there. Once Crispr really hits its stride, we could (atleast in our ambitions) terraform the red planet using highly modified plant life. This plant life could lift O2 out of the rusty soil, and drive CO2 out of the air by affixing it. If they were dark enough, their albedo could help warm the planet (with the help of some potent green house CFCs) . I think the hardest part is that there aren't any suitable diluent gasses. To last on the surface, you'd need N2 or Ar... And there just aren't any good sources for either!

Hmmm... By the time we do all this, the human body may be obsolete anyways. Mars as it is could be a get away paradise for the AI human androids certain to be ubiquitous in the near future! Maybe we should just leave enjoying the fun and sun on the red planet to them? ^_^ ... I'm sure Elon would agree :lol:

Edit: My plan is missing a few little details.... Hah! Slightly understated of course. I really shouldn't post when I'm so tired.

Edited by Cunjo Carl

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Terraforming Mars to habitable atmosphere still leaves a lower gravity that's barely enough to retain the atmosphere, and it isn't good for human body. I can only see that the practical colony in Mars is only composed of mining stations and robotic workers, with human supervisors living in orbital stations, occasionally coming down to check them. As a side note, terraforming the atmosphere alone takes A LOT of time. You can't finish it in decades, it takes at best hundreds of years for it, and I doubt any investors in space program (especially privately owned) would be interested in investing such a long term project where they won't see the result and profit

@K^2, you might be interested in this

Edited by ARS
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

And total area of Martian surface is just 1/4 of Earth's.
Would that really cost such efforts?

Spoiler
23 minutes ago, The Dunatian said:

I saw the title and I thought: "Oh dear." 

Image result for can't watch emoji

Kaor, Mr. Ambassador!
(accompanies "by the Martian salute of both hands raised above the head with palms forward.")

 

Edited by kerbiloid

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To answer your question, of course it can. With infinite resources we could give it more mass, move it to Earth's orbit, seed it with atmosphere and give it life.

To answer the question I think you're asking, no I don't really ever see us terraforming Mars or any other planet. I expect it'll always be far cheaper and easier to just build sealed habitats.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With todays tech? Even if entire Earth population put its resources together under proper leadership, motivated by something that we all had in common, it would be an immense project that would have to last hundreds of years.

There is nothing fundamentally impossible about terraforming. No laws of nature need to be broken, but the sheer magnitude of the project makes it just shy of impossible. People forget how huge a planet is, and how tiny human space probes are. Just look at asteroid sample return mission. That's probably a good approximation of our abilities to move asteroids. Huge rocket goes out to asteroid belt, a tiny container returns. Even if you allow for an order of magnitude better outbound to inbound mass ratio, it's still bugger all.

Isn't setting up a habitat already hard enough?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think you particularly need diluent gasses. My basic chemistry says that only the partial pressure of a gas affects its reaction rate, not the partial pressures of any other gasses.

We had a thread about this a while ago and I don't think we could find a reason why humans couldn't live comfortably in a 0.2 atm pure oxygen atmosphere, after a suitable period of decompression to get the existing nitrogen out of our systems.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, tomf said:

I don't think you particularly need diluent gasses. My basic chemistry says that only the partial pressure of a gas affects its reaction rate, not the partial pressures of any other gasses.

We had a thread about this a while ago and I don't think we could find a reason why humans couldn't live comfortably in a 0.2 atm pure oxygen atmosphere, after a suitable period of decompression to get the existing nitrogen out of our systems.

Shorter term it works fins, over years it might have impact, same as 0.4 g gravity. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think some people here fail to see the sheer size of transporting an atmosphere to Mars.

Relevant xkcd-What-if: https://what-if.xkcd.com/153/

Since Mars has only half the radius of Earth, the pile would only need to be a quarter of the size it has for Earth. However, since Mars has lower gravity, if we want the same surface pressure, we need a higher atmosphere.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

 

Nature article about terraforming Mars. Summary: no, it is not possible to terraform Mars. There isn't even enough CO2 to produce decent atmospheric pressure so that somebody could walk around without a pressure suit. Not mentioning all the other elements necessary in fantastillions of tons. We can bring a rover weighing a ton or three on earth, but not even a human.

 

But we can marsiform earth and are doing so in more and more places, cut down forests, fill areas with radiation ....

Btw. yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day, the day humanity used up all resources that regenerate during a year.

Edited by Green Baron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Quoted from Wikipedia:

"Russia wanted to sell its Alaskan territory, due to the difficulty of living there, apparent lack of natural resources (gold was later discovered in 1896), and fearing that it might be easily seized by the United Kingdom in case of war between the two countries."

Now look at the State of Alaska, 150 years later. It's still sparsely populated compared to the rest of USA - but there are cities, infrastructure, industry, farming and tourism. If we humans want to settle somewhere, we will find a way to do it :) If not now, then in a hundred of years. Or a thusand years if need be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Counterargument: We find a way because there are resources that can be exploited. Alaska is a nice place. If these are used up, we move on. If we can't move on any more, we die out. It has always been that way.

There are no resources on Mars, it is being radiated, the soil is poisonous, water is lacking, there is nothing to breathe and nothing to eat. We can't terraform the place, we don't have billions of years. Nuking the place might be [insert cultural reference of your imagination] style, but is grossly counterproductive to "terraforming", which apparently is thought of to be like going shopping down the road to the chemist. But the task is mindbogglingly huge :-)

 

Edited by Green Baron
  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Scotius said:

Now look at the State of Alaska,

Quote
Population Ranked 48th
 • Total 739,795 (2017 est.)[2]

0.74 mln of 300+ mln, i.e. 0.25%.

0.25% * 8 bln = 20 mln

Terraforming a whole planet for 0.25% of humanity?
It's much easier to build a 20 mln big city in Antarctica or Sahara.

P.S.
Also pemmican is cheaper on the Earth. On Mars they don't have pemmican trees.

Edited by kerbiloid

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
53 minutes ago, Scotius said:

If we humans want to settle somewhere, we will find a way to do it

The trouble is, only a very small fraction of humanity wants to live on Mars and vast majority of those can't afford to go there. As for those that don't want to live on Mars, most of them don't feel like spending astronomical amount of money of sending those few for no return of investment.

With Alaska, there was a political reason for US to purchase it, and later an economical reason to populate it. There is neither on Mars. Even though we could conceivably set up a colony there, there is little incentive to do so. Historically, colonies have been a source of income, trade route support, or military outposts. None of those scenarios apply to Mars. There is nothing there to trade, nobody to trade with and nobody to fight. Mars colony would be a financial drain on anybody that tries to colonize it. Elon Musk may fantasize about it, and I fully support him in starting the colonization process, but the project will not be a financial success (when I say I fully support him, it's to the same extent I support a sports team - I may or may not watch a game on TV, and after it's done switch the channel. Go Elon Musk, but I'm not getting my money involved in the project.).

Terraforming Mars doesn't bring any benefits but comes with almost all of the problems of colonization with habitats, except the cost of the habitat is suddenly many orders of magnitude higher.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today. That we know of. What we can use with current technology.

I just wanted to illustrate changing priorities and opinions. One hundred and fifty years ago no one would be excited at the news of rich oil and gas fields in a tundra near the Polar circle. And nobody would even seriously consider investing piles of money into extraction of said fields. Today, we can't say what our grandchildren will consider valuable enough to travel to Mars for. Maybe they won't need anything, and Mars will remain a barren desert. Or maybe there will be domed cities housing hundreds of thousands of people - working jobs we can't even imagine today.

Please, refrain from throwing "imossibles", "nevers" and "pointless" in relation to the strange ways of Homo sapiens :D

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mars is a cold rock covered in toxic dust with just enough atmosphere to be a nuisance. Amount of energy required to give that planet a proper atmosphere is absolutely off the scale. We don't have any sources that would allow us to deposit that much energy in anything like a reasonable amount of time. We could make the Sun do the work, by playing with albedo of the surface, or adding mirrors in orbit. But that will take millenia on top of requiring centuries of work to build the structures. But even supposing that we found a way to get that much energy fast, that will put all the aforementioned toxic dust in the air. That will also take an absolutely crazy amount of time to settle, oxidize, and become harmless. 

Using today's technology, and stretching plausibility of human cooperation on that scale to the limit, terraforming Mars would still take far longer than we could possibly hope to predict future for. We are talking timescales at very least comparable to span of written history, if not much greater. In that time we might find much better ways to go about it or go extinct.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

To be fair, the easiest way to "terraform" a Mars would be to consume process it and then wait for a while for it to come out as a part of terra.

Spoiler

poop joke aside, the answer is, truthfully and practically... No.

 

Edited by YNM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Cunjo Carl said:

 

There's plenty of Oxygen on Mars, in the soil as oxides and at the poles as CO2
There really aren't any good sources of a diluent gas, like N2 or Ar. This could be a big sticking point.

 

Nitrogen isn't just a diluent gas.  It's impossible to make amino acids, proteins and life as we know it without it.

I'm interested to know how mar's minerals are different from the earth and  how life, plate tectonics and water affect this.  Thanks to life here we have free oxygen, carbon in the form of coal, calcium from limestone etc.  Are there any useful ores on mars?    

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, KG3 said:

I'm interested to know how mar's minerals are different from the earth and  how life, plate tectonics and water affect this. 

Minerals aren't much different. Mostly basaltic stuff in its various forms and its p/t-variations and weathering products. Marsian surface is old. But there is of course not earth's variety of sedimentary and metamorphic/diagenetic and soil building processes, etc. blabla :-)

Life - none detected until now, as we all know. Life affects mostly soil,but of course all the other spheres as well. Earthly soil is by a large part composed of life(tm). Even the upper crust if i may say so holds life.

Plate tectonics: not existent on Mars. It would show. Thought to be a prerequisite for life over longer times as it renews elements, offers sinks and wells and many sorts of cycles, has equalizing effects on temperature and composition in the spheres ... etc.

Water: there was a work published recently on the possibility that marsian water might have been drawn into the mantle in an early marsian phase, when atmosphere was thicker and temperatures were higher, before it would have escaped to space. That water would reside between 0 and 100km below marsian surface now, either as pore water or locked in minerals. Marsian minerals we have on earth show no cristalline water, but these are from a greater depth (100km and more, assumed to stem from a giant impact in mars' younger days), so that is not necessarily a counter argument. Newer hints to surface or subsurface water are all based on remote sensing, so there may still be we can be sure of many surprises.

I love surprises :-)

Edited by Green Baron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)

Aren't silicates still the biggest problem facing the colonization of Mars? That stuff effects lungs the same way eating glass affects the digestive tract. Even assuming life in domes, and using suits while taking as many safety measures as possible, Mars has regular dust storms, and if any of that finds its way into the living space, either by air currents or on the soles of boots, it'll lead to you having a very short and painful life.

1 hour ago, KG3 said:

Nitrogen isn't just a diluent gas.  It's impossible to make amino acids, proteins and life as we know it without it.

I'm interested to know how mar's minerals are different from the earth and  how life, plate tectonics and water affect this.  Thanks to life here we have free oxygen, carbon in the form of coal, calcium from limestone etc.  Are there any useful ores on mars?    

We're not even sure where Earth's nitrogen came from, aside from a possibility that it arrived via meteorites, or even Jupiter at a time when it had a much less stable orbit and wandered nearer the sun, handing out gases to the rocky planets like candy. So isn't it possible there's a decent supply at the poles or beneath the soil?

Edited by vger

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now