Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Mars Space

Scientist Calls Mars a Terraforming Target 575

Posted by CmdrTaco
Raver32 writes "Mars will be transformed into a shirt-sleeve, habitable world for humanity before century's end, made livable by thawing out the coldish climes of the red planet and altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. How best to carry out a fast-paced, decade by decade planetary face lift of Mars — a technique called "terraforming" — has been outlined by Lowell Wood, a noted physicist and recent retiree of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a long-time Visiting Fellow of the Hoover Institution. Lowell presented his eye-opening Mars manifesto at Flight School, held here June 20-22 at the Aspen Institute, laying out a scientific plan to "experiment on a planet we're not living on.""
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scientist Calls Mars a Terraforming Target

Comments Filter:
  • by teknopurge (199509) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:30AM (#19634803) Homepage
    These guys obviously haven't seen Total Recall.
    • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:39AM (#19634907)

      These guys obviously haven't seen Total Recall.
      Would that I could say the same.
  • KSR wrote it first (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jdray (645332) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:30AM (#19634807) Homepage Journal
    Nope, haven't RTFA, but Kim Stanley Robinson laid out what at least one NASA guy has said was more or less a roadmap to terraforming Mars.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      Problem with KSR's plan is that it involves rerouting comets and sending them through Mars' atmosphere. Basically the whole thing is based on technologies that don't yet exist. Great books (I own/read them all) but not that practical in the short time scale. I like the soletta mirror a lot, though, I think that was the best thing in there (short of the space elevator, whose relevance is widely known already.)
    • Its perfect.

      Every belch from a power plant or a factory will actually be doing some good.

      No pollution controls required.
  • Gee, Wally (Score:5, Funny)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:33AM (#19634835)
    Jeepers, what is this foreign concept called "terraforming [wikipedia.org]" [that's been discussed for at least 50 years] - I'll try looking for information on this new resource called the Inter-Net and report my findings as soon as possible.

    Wish me luck.
  • Terraforming... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Notquitecajun (1073646) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:33AM (#19634837)
    I always wondered if terraforming could just be done my massive planting of hardy fauna. A ton of trees (like a rainforest), should drastically change even weather patterns...I always thought that it would be an interesting experiment for a lander to plant - and tend - some cacti or something and see what would happen over time.

    I do think that the time span is a bit idealistic, and doesn't account for the Law of Unintended Consequences, but the idea is sound.
    • depends on the planet.

      If the planet has little/no water or 'stuff-that-can-be-made-to-water', and/or little or little/no oxygen that can be put into the atmosphere (with respect to the size of the planet, not an absolute "little" here), then it'll take more than just tossing some hearty growing things on the planet.

      As for 100 years, it depends on what they plant, but that seems fairly reasonable, if they can find something both (a) hearty enough, and (b) fast growing enough. I saw a project reling on Kudzu,
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by XxtraLarGe (551297)

        If the planet has little/no water or 'stuff-that-can-be-made-to-water', and/or little or little/no oxygen that can be put into the atmosphere (with respect to the size of the planet, not an absolute "little" here), then it'll take more than just tossing some hearty growing things on the planet.

        Maybe if they're lucky, they'll find a nuclear reactor left behind by an ancient alien civilization that would melt the vast quantities of ice hidden beneath Mars's surface, thereby giving the red planet an almost instantaneous atmosphere!

        • by jimstapleton (999106) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:52AM (#19635083) Journal
          call me nuts, but the idea of breating an atmosphere of water vapor leaves me breathless...
          • Earth: 78% nitrogen

            Mars: 3% nitrogen

            Whether or not you can change the CO2 for oxygen is irrelevant if you can't magic up a lot of nitrogen. And remember you're talking about replacing most of a planet's atmosphere with a different element altogether. Its not feasible on a century scale.

            So what do you do with it? 95% CO2 on mars, you could put some plants there (they don't seem to need the nitrogen, at least for photosynthesis). But that will only get you the O2 and create a sink for water (whi
    • Re:Terraforming... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by badasscat (563442) <`basscadet75' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:51AM (#19635067)
      I always wondered if terraforming could just be done my massive planting of hardy fauna. A ton of trees (like a rainforest), should drastically change even weather patterns...I always thought that it would be an interesting experiment for a lander to plant - and tend - some cacti or something and see what would happen over time.

      The problem is you need to raise the temperature of the atmosphere in order for most anything to grow, because there's no precipitation. The cycle can't begin until you've done that first step.

      I haven't RTFA, but there was a show on Discovery Channel a while back where one of the guys who had designed a series of Mars missions for Lockheed/NASA back in the 80's (and he's still fighting for them) had proposed actually building a bunch of factories on Mars whose sole output would be greenhouse gases. Their entire purpose would be to just pump billions of tons of what we'd call pollutants on Earth into the Martian atmosphere. Supposedly you could raise the planet's temperature by 10 degrees over 100 years using this method, which would be enough to start releasing the water trapped in the ground as ice into the atmosphere, creating clouds and precipitation for plants. Then you could start planting forests, which would thrive in the CO2-rich Martian atmosphere and would begin to create the oxygen we need to breathe.

      Humans could live on Mars as the terraforming process was ongoing, but they would need to be in enclosed colonies until the process was complete. Eventually, though, they'd be able to venture out into an Earth-like world.

      I'm curious to see how the author of this article thinks the process could be sped up - the Discovery show said it would take thousands of years given current technology before the air would be both warm enough to live in and breathable for humans.
      • Factories on earth emit "greenhouse gasses" i.e. CO2, because they can easily import carbon-containing fuels and oxygen from the atmosphere, and burn them to provide energy and CO2. Since the fuel and the oxygen would need to be imported from off-planet, why bother with the factory? Just import CO2, perhaps from comets (dry ice?)...
        • Better yet (Score:3, Interesting)

          by WindBourne (631190)
          First, the dry ice comments are out past saturn. But if you are going out there, then skip the CO2. Instead, go to ammonia. It is FAR better of a greenhouse gas. In addition, it breaks down to N2; simple nitrogen gas which is our buffer gas. In addition, is is through that the majority of ammonia asteroids contain a fair amount of water. The last thing Mars needs is more CO2.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tmack (593755)

        I haven't RTFA, but there was a show on Discovery Channel a while back where one of the guys who had designed a series of Mars missions for Lockheed/NASA back in the 80's (and he's still fighting for them) had proposed actually building a bunch of factories on Mars whose sole output would be greenhouse gases. Their entire purpose would be to just pump billions of tons of what we'd call pollutants on Earth into the Martian atmosphere. Supposedly you could raise the planet's temperature by 10 degrees over 100 years using this method, which would be enough to start releasing the water trapped in the ground as ice into the atmosphere, creating clouds and precipitation for plants. Then you could start planting forests, which would thrive in the CO2-rich Martian atmosphere and would begin to create the oxygen we need to breathe.

        Humans could live on Mars as the terraforming process was ongoing, but they would need to be in enclosed colonies until the process was complete. Eventually, though, they'd be able to venture out into an Earth-like world.

        I'm curious to see how the author of this article thinks the process could be sped up - the Discovery show said it would take thousands of years given current technology before the air would be both warm enough to live in and breathable for humans.

        Ever read the Mars trilogy [wikipedia.org] by Kim Stanley Robinson (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars)? One of its central themes is the terraforming of Mars, and specifically includes the use of greenhouse gas factories, along with bio-engineering of plants and algea to seed the soil, with human colonists living there during the process. Quite the good read if you are into sci-fi, though it starts a bit stronger than it ends.

        Tm

    • Re:Terraforming... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nanosquid (1074949) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:59AM (#19635185)
      You really just don't get how hostile Mars actually is. On average, at the summit of Mt. Everest, air pressure is several hundred times what it is on Mars, and it's 60F warmer than on Mars, and nothing grows there. Antarctica is even balmier than Mt. Everest, and still nothing significant grows there. And those places at least have plenty of clean water.
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:25AM (#19635517)
      I always wondered if terraforming could just be done my massive planting of hardy fauna.

      And I often wonder why I can't just take any type of plant and stick in some styrofoam in the closet and wait for it to turn the closet into a lush arboretum. Yet everytime I try this, everything just ends up dead...
    • Re:Terraforming... (Score:5, Informative)

      by halivar (535827) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:33AM (#19635651) Homepage
      I'm only a lay-man, and I only know what I read in textbooks. If any of this is wrong, please correct me.

      Some problems with this whole scheme.

      1) Rich in carbon-dioxide, but only relatively. The atmosphere is so thin that even if the CO2 were converted to a more human-friendly mix, it's still too thin, and too cold.
      2) The atmosphere can't be enriched with more material because Mars can't hold it. Too gravity, and not a strong enough magnetosphere (which is how Venus holds it atmosphere).
      3) No internal dynamo. Mars has a cold core, leading the aforementioned problems.
    • Flora. (Score:3, Funny)

      by C10H14N2 (640033)
      While certain varieties of FLORA [wikipedia.org] may be able to survive in a CO2 atmosphere at near vacuum, the FAUNA [wikipedia.org] would find it a tad more difficult.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Surt (22457)
      The near vacuum surface pressure combined with intense cold will kill cactus. Cactus lives in the desert. What you need to plant is something green that grows well in Antarctica. So go look at pictures of Antarctica, and pick your favorite plant from there.
  • "Will"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Phanatic1a (413374) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:34AM (#19634841)
    Seems a bit too declarative, doesn't it?

    Mars will be transformed into a shirt-sleeve, habitable world for humanity before century's end, made livable by thawing out the coldish climes of the red planet and altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere.


    Mars doesn't have a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. Mars doesn't have an anything-rich atmosphere. Yes, what atmosphere Mars has is mostly CO2, but what atmosphere Mars has is actually a pretty decent approximation of vacuum; the thickest parts of it are barely 1% of typical atmospheric pressure on earth.

    The whole article doesn't actually include any specifics, it's just handwaving of the "and then a miracle occurs" sort:

    Overall, Wood said that a workable plan can be scripted to raise the average temperature of Mars, rid the world of excess carbon dioxide, as well as generate soil to support agriculture.


    Right. We'll get right on that. We only have 93 years to go, according to this article.
    • by Orp (6583)
      Indeed. No specifics whatsoever. I mean, the scale of this is mind boggling. Consider the Earth's atmosphere is about 78% nitrogen, providing much of the mass that gives us comfortable pressures. What gas will fill this role on Mars? Also, where is all the water going to come from? There is a lot of evidence of lots of water having flowed on Mars in the past, but that was billions of years ago. And finally, where is the oxygen going to come from? How can you liberate all that breathable oxygen from the iron
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Aqua_boy17 (962670)

      Yes, what atmosphere Mars has is mostly CO2, but what atmosphere Mars has is actually a pretty decent approximation of vacuum; the thickest parts of it are barely 1% of typical atmospheric pressure on earth.
      I've often wondered about this. If you did manage to create an atmosphere on Mars, would there be sufficient gravity there to keep it in place, or would it simply drift off into space?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by digitig (1056110)

      Right. We'll get right on that. We only have 93 years to go, according to this article.
      Yep. Remind us in 93 years' time to check up on whether the article was true or not.
  • Then who owns Mars? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:35AM (#19634853) Journal
    This is an interesting question for property rights theorists. Many people adhere to some sort of Lockean view that by modifying this untouched land, the terraforming organization then owns all of Mars. But then some would say it's a sort of "common heritage" that can't be so privatized. It's also extremely difficult to just terraform "one part" of Mars. (Imagine keeping one part at 1 atm and the rest at Mars's regular atmospheric pressure.)

    Regardless, anyone who goes through the expense of terraforming Mars, even a government, is going to want some assurance that the rest of humanity won't leech off their work.
    • by MightyYar (622222) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:42AM (#19634947)
      Don't worry, we'll just fight wars for it. If there were native inhabitants, we'd already have a good ol' fashioned genocide underway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      But doesn't the idea of property at this level extend to only what you can control?

      If you can't stop people from using it, then it pretty much belongs to whoever holds the ground(or who ships them supplies).

      It's like a saying I heard: Air support can only deny territory. Infantry occupies it.

    • trace the evolution of the hudson bay company [wikipedia.org] into modern canada: i don't see the mass of canadian citizens as serfs of a corporation. the colonizaiton of mars under corporate provenance would probably have a similar uncontroversial and mundane development arc. in fact, any such corporate colonization of mars under government oversight would probably consult a historical study of the hudson bay company directly as a model for potential pitfalls to avoid

      i'm sorry, but in reailty, the balance between individual rights and corporate provenance isn't so difficult or immobile. there is no massive conflicts, and the hudson bay company still exists today: what was once the corporate master of much of north america is now simply a department store [hbc.com]. but of course, you read most science fiction, or talk to a paranoid schizophrenic, or even consult certain lowest common denominator youth subcultures, and you get the impression that corporations are these unstoppable sociopathic vampires out to turn you into an unthinking slave. hardly. reality is just not that interesting, sorry
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by smchris (464899)
        Yeah, well. Then the Dutch East India company obviously did a much better job controlling their colony in South Africa than Hudson Bay did in Canada. The solution in South Africa was to abandon the colony and take your chances on the frontier. Probably a little harder to independently live off the land on Mars though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by devnullkac (223246)

      As with anything else, property rights on Mars will go to those with the ability to enforce them. International "nobody owns this place" treaties like those governing Antarctica and the Moon are only useful as long as those places have nothing of value. In the end, if a region is worth occupying, only those with the weapons needed to keep others out will really "own" the land.

    • by muellerr1 (868578) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:19AM (#19635439) Homepage
      Regardless, anyone who goes through the expense ... even a government, is going to want some assurance that the rest of humanity won't leech off their work.

      Like those pesky Colonials. Give them some arable land really far away and suddenly they think they're a sovereign nation.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If only you'd learned the first rule of empire--never piss off a group of colonists with a shorter supply line than your own :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Control Group (105494) *
          ...while simultaneously being involved in a low-grade war against another superpower who has threatened and has the means to wipe you out if you spend too much time not keeping an eye on them.

          You forgot that part of the adage.
  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:36AM (#19634867) Journal

    RIPLEY: "How many colonists on LV426?"
    VAN LEUWEN: "Sixty, maybe seventy families."
    RIPLEY: "Families..."

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:37AM (#19634881)
    First, Mars does not have a magnetosphere. This helps fend off the worst of the cosmic radiation here on Earth. What does he propose to replace it? The article is light on the details. Second, isn't the understanding still that Mars has insufficient gravity to preserve its atmosphere and so the solar wind strips the atoms and molecules right off the top, thus explaining the low pressure we see today? How do you counter that?
    • by ekasteng (683332) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:54AM (#19635111)
      If I had mod points I'd give you one. If my memory is correct, Earth's spinning liquid metal core is what gives us our magnetosphere, and protects our upper atmosphere from getting "sandblasted" away by the solar wind. Mars doesn't have a magnetoshpere, which is the reason why some astronomers think its core has cooled and is solid. Without that magnetosphere, the solar wind will just blast whatever atmosphere we put on it away.
    • by ciroknight (601098) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:55AM (#19635123)
      Which brings us to the question of why we're looking at Mars at all, and instead we don't turn our cameras to Venus.

      Venus is nearly the same mass as Earth so it has roughly the same gravity. The surface is a lot hotter and the atmosphere is a lot denser, but it seems to me it'd be much more feasible to scrub an atmosphere than invent a new one, all someone needs to do is come up with a solution (or multitude of solutions) for turning the bulk CO2 of the Venusian atmosphere into something else (perhaps hydrocarbons, carbon nanotubes, hell it could be graphite or diamonds for whatever reason).

      Venus doesn't have a magnetosphere either, but it at least maintains its atmosphere and perhaps if it were left at least more dense than our atmosphere it would protect people from the radiation of space (or perhaps with the same machines we invent to do CO2 scrubbing we can make an Ozone layer too?)

      Hell, if we were so bold as to do it, we could ship the gasses off Venus and onto Mars and inhabit both. Venus should still have plenty of atmosphere after we've bled off the excess junk within it to remain habitable. (I guess the only real question left is water, which we'd have to convert from whatever trace we could pull out of the atmosphere).
      • by R2.0 (532027) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:18AM (#19635427)
        You are thinking way to small. We need to move Mars and Venus to the trailing Lagrange points in Earth's orbit. That will put them both in the water zone. Then, send a stream of comets from the Oort cloud to crash into Mars - just need to be careful not to miss. Venus just gets the good old fashioned algae/plants method of atmospheric reduction.

        By the time we use up Earth, Mars will be ready for wholesale migration, and by the time Mars is used up, Venus will be done simmering. By that time we will be assembling new planets from scratch with asteroids, Mercury, Pluto, Sedna, and whatever other junk we can find.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Himring (646324)
      Second, isn't the understanding still that Mars has insufficient gravity to preserve its atmosphere and so the solar wind strips the atoms and molecules right off the top, thus explaining the low pressure we see today? How do you counter that?

      plastic wrap

  • by Brad1138 (590148) * <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:37AM (#19634885)
    If you see any egg shaped pods, run away.
  • As a bonus, we can just use the huge underground alien terraforming equipment that is already installed!!

    Whilst terraforming a nearby planet seems interesting, I would like to see more investment of both research and cash into either orbital habitats or preferably mobile space habitats. The idea of living on a large space station seems to me to be more interesting than settling a different planet... Oh whilst Im on the subject,- a FTL drive, I'd like one of those, plus a teleportation device, oh and a repl
    • We don't even know 100% for certain (political and environ-assertions aside) if we're capable of modifying temperatures on Earth by a couple of degrees over 200+ years of industrialization... and this guy suggests that we can jack up an atmosphere 100x thinner, w/ 100x the CO2, by at least 100+ degrees Fahrenheit, in less than 100 years?

      We're not even counting the gravity well penalties of getting back and forth that'll be present, at least within the next 100 years.

      Personally, I prefer what Parent is s

  • by Malc (1751) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:38AM (#19634893)
    If that's so easy, then I expect they'll be applying the same principles on Earth. No need to worry about global warming at home then?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:40AM (#19634909)
    So we are hesitant to raise the temperature of our own planet, but its the first thing we want to do to the new one!
  • Hands off (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lurker2288 (995635)
    I hate to be the Luddite in the room, but given our track record on this planet, I'm not really sure I want us to be inflicting our particular brand of 'progress' on another world. At least not until we know a little bit more about what we'd be losing in terms of the current Martian environment (such as it is). Until then, maybe we should just stick to the planet we're already monkeying around with.
  • Erm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rumith (983060) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:42AM (#19634957)
    Why Mars? Why not Antarctic glaciers, Gobi desert, Kazakh wastelands, Belarus swamps and Alaskan tundra? Hey, the good old Earth has places that model the conditions of pretty much every planet you can imagine [hazardous included], except perhaps gas giants. Now, where do I go to have the illusion of being on the ancient Foth of Avalars...
  • Getting off the rock (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_kanzure (1100087) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:43AM (#19634975) Homepage
    Copied from my notes [heybryan.org]:
    • The Artemis Project [asi.org] - The project is a private venture to establish a permanent, self-supporting community on the Moon. Brief overview of the Artemis project [asi.org].
    • The Mars Society [marssociety.org] - To further the goal of the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.
    • The Moon Society [moonsociety.org] - An international nonprofit educational and scientific foundation formed to further the creation of communities on the Moon involving large-scale industrialization and private enterprise.
    • National Space Society [nss.org] - grassroots organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Magazine [space.com].
    • Stanford on the Moon [spaceagepub.com] (by 2015?) And yes, Stanford as in the university.
    • Space Frontier Foundation [space-frontier.org] - seems to have projects for space colonization, missions to the Earth's moon, and so on. Looks like a large scale organization.
    • The Space Settlement Initiative [spacesettlement.org]
    • Space Access Society [space-access.org] - activism for getting out of the NASA-only paradigm/reality.
    • Students for the Exploration and Development of Space [seds.org] - `... is dedicated to expanding the role of human exploration and development of space. We also seek to educate the public in such a way as to attain this goal. `
    • Space Studies Institute [ssi.org] - `SSI's stated mission is: Opening the energy and material resources of space for human benefit by completing the missing technological links to make possible the productive use of the abundant resources in space.`
    • International Space University [isunet.edu] - `The International Space University provides graduate-level training to the future leaders of the emerging global space community at its Central Campus in Strasbourg, France, and at locations around the world. ` (mentions 'systems engineering' on the About page)
    • Space Settlement Institute [space-sett...titute.org] - `The Space Settlement Institute is a non-profit association founded to help promote the human colonization and settlement of outer space. `
    • Cygo's Space Initiative [cygo.com] - plan and conduct exploration missions to minor planets, build and mass produce (while in space) a multi-purpose interconnectable module, and to offer products and services using space and the materials therefrom.
    • Freeluna [freeluna.com] - `Freeluna.com is dedicated to the proposition that the colonization of outer space is critical for the long term survival of the human species, and that colonization of the moon and the exploitation of the moon's natural resources is one of the very best first steps in that incredible journey off planet.` ... and when I first visited this page, I was visitor #3371. Yikes. Contact: Bill Clawson, wclawson@freeluna.com
    • Island One Society [islandone.org] - associated with the Artemis society, seems to be mostly a resource-help site.
    • The Living Universe Foundation [luf.org] - `The Living Universe Foundation seeks to bring the galaxy alive with life from Earth, while healing the damage that humanity has already inflicted upon the Earth. We believe that expansion into space in the immediate future is a step towards accomplishing this aim.` turmith@yahoo.com --- This organization was inspired by the publication of a certain book. This is heavily related to Project Atlantis or Oceania [oceania.org] (artifical floatin
  • Wow! (Score:2, Funny)

    by no-body (127863)
    Impressive! Almost done messing up one planet & on to the next one.


    Excellent priorities!

  • two things (Score:4, Insightful)

    1. a century? maybe 500-1,000 years, even with a massive economic and political commitment and AFTER the miraculous technological breakthroughs

    2. why does venus get such short thrift? i'm thinking along the lines of energy investment and simple entropy: in my mind, to precipitate matter out of an atmosphere, and to dissipate heat, seems to be an easier task than accumulating atmospheric mass and stoking atmospheric heat. yes, even with runaway, geometric catalyst-driven processes, i think it is easier to destroy than it is to create. of course, to do this to venus will be excedingly difficult. but why do you think mars would be easier?

    but we should terraform mars and venus as soon as we can, regardless
  • here's an idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:47AM (#19635021)
    Why don't we "terraform" the Sahara desert, the Gobi desert, Antarctica, and the various dust bowls around the world before trying to tackle Mars.

    Right now, we can't even keep existing, fertile land from turning into desert right here on earth, with plenty of water and air around.
  • by Progman3K (515744) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:51AM (#19635063)
    Mars will NEVER be habitable.
    We'd have to find a way to get its dead core molten and spinning again. Otherwise solar radiation will just flay off any atmosphere we try to put there.

    Maybe we could live on Mars in domes or sealed caves but I doubt we'll ever be walking about in the open on its surface.
  • Just be sure not to piss off the local, crystalline, computer-like life-forms [wikipedia.org] inhabiting the crust, you ugly bags of mostly water.

  • by Zobeid (314469) on Monday June 25, 2007 @08:59AM (#19635181)
    Terraforming Mars is neither necessary nor desirable. Within perhaps 50 years we could easily have human-level AI and advanced robotics. Such robots could be designed for the Martian environment as it exists now. It will prove much easier to adapt our descendants -- our mind children -- to Mars (and many other environments that are hostile to humans) than it would ever be to adapt Mars to us.

    In fact, the more optimistic transhumanists would tend to assume that people alive today may see a time when they can upload or upgrade into an advanced robotic form themselves -- so it wouldn't even necessarily be our remote sort-of-descendants who colonize Mars, it could be us, suitably transformed.

    Conventional wisdom is that Mars will be explored by robots, then colonized by humans. I turn that idea on it's head. Humans will explore Mars -- today's robotic probes are too crude and limited, so that a single manned expedition could do scientific work that would take decades, maybe centuries, with robots. The other side of that coin is that 50-100 years from now humans will become obsolete for space travel and colonization. The people who actually live on Mars and build a society there will be synthetic people, not homo sapiens.
  • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:05AM (#19635261)
    "Scientist Calls Mars a Terrorism Target"
  • has been outlined... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Fun Guy (21791) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:21AM (#19635463) Homepage Journal
    ... by Lowell Wood, a noted physicist and recent retiree of the

    This is the point at which I stopped reading TFA.

    A physicist talking about chemistry and biology, and a retiree talking about how easy/cheap/fast/simple it would be for you young people to do, if you only had the kind of vision we had back in the day.

    Sorry, I've known too many physicists. (and too many retirees...)
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:23AM (#19635493)
    I'm all for eventually terraforming Mars once we've determined that there's no existing life there, but to do so before then would be a scientific loss on an unimaginable scale.

    Given that we're still discovering new species (microscopic ones by the gazillion, and still finding occasional large ones too) on earth, despite a huge exploratory effort that's been underway for hundreds of years, I think it's a bit early (massive understament) to think we've determined that mars is lacking any life at all
  • by kisrael (134664) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:24AM (#19635505) Homepage
    What's that old line? Something like "why are we all into terraforming other worlds while we're busy venusforming earth?"

    I love the idea of massive engineering projects making useful changes, but also understand that there is going to be a HUGE heap of the law of unintended consequences because these systems are so difficult to model accurately.
  • Weak Magnetosphere (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PorkNutz (730601) on Monday June 25, 2007 @09:32AM (#19635625) Homepage
    With Mars weak magnetosphere, it would be a constant battle to generate the gases needed to sustain life VS. Solar wind that strips those gases of the planet and into space.

    The magnetosphere is the magnetic field generated by the planet. It essentially creates a shield around the planet that protects it from various kinds of solar radiation and the ill effects caused by said radiation.

    Mars is, on a planetary scale,.... dead. There is no longer a mechanism within the planet itself to generate the magnetic field needed to protect the atmosphere (even if we could create one).

    -----
    Übergeek Necktie T-Shirt [prostoner.com]
    Funny Shirts @ ProStoner.com

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Monday June 25, 2007 @11:40AM (#19637403) Homepage Journal
    Mars does not have enough mass to hold an Earth-like atmosphere (Nitrogen and Oxygen mostly) that has enough energy (warm enough) with enough pressure to sustain Earth-like life.

    If we took the atmosphere as it is on this planet and actually brought it to Mars, it would have been gone from that planet in the matter of weeks, most of free N and O2 at the molecule speeds that we see on Earth would just jump out of the Mars gravitaty well, and it would happen extremely fast.
  • by Skapare (16644) on Monday June 25, 2007 @12:13PM (#19637851) Homepage

    ... getting high speed internet there. Damn, those packets are sure taking a long time.

Many people are unenthusiastic about their work.

Working...