Terraforming Mars

So, where from here? In 1986, when I first realized that, if global warming turns out as bad as it might, the only option is getting off the planet. Getting off the planet, though, is not as easy as the science fictionists seem to think. First of all, nothing about it is “natural.” Waiting for it to happen is not an option. It will not just happen, Elon Musk and what’s his name Diamantes notwithstanding. At the very least, terraforming somewhere to go to would be required. No artificial enclosure, such as an enclosed area on Mars or a spaceship, will suffice for the long term. Any such abode would suffer from needing an unlimited supply of a sealant to keep the harshness of outer space outside. Getting an infinite supply of anything without a home planet to use as a resupply source is, for practical purposes, impossible. Unfortunately, so is the expectation that the home planet will always be there.

Working on the scaled down version of terraforming, in which a place is considered terraformed as soon as it is habitable by some species from Earth, the question appears much more tractable. There are, likely, many places that naturally meet this criterion, and several within the solar system. Take, for example, Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. Or maybe even Titan, also a moon of Saturn, if you consider methane as a possible sustainer of life. Distance, outside the solar system, would certainly be a problem. In any case, though, working with this scaled down version of the definition sounds a bit unrealistic, as humankind would have to pay the bill, and that seems unlikely, given the circumstances. Still, if presented with their own extinction as an unavoidable future, who knows what mankind might be capable of. There’s even a note of nobility here. Maybe even a new religion lies just beyond the horizon. But who needs a new religion? What would Christ do?

Terraforming, though, is hard. As already mentioned, it would take about three hundred years to do it on Mars, which is almost certainly the place to terraform. The process, as currently envisioned, and as I currently understand it, would begin by populating the target planet with oxygen-producing microbes using one of numerous non-oxygen gases to survive. On Earth this is how our own atmosphere came about, and the microbes still exist today. Obviously water would have to be liberated from the Martian regolith and the ambient temperature and air pressure would have to be raised substantially. The magnetosphere of Mars also needs substantial modification, and this may be the hardest obstacle.  I am no expert, however, so I leave the details to them. Suffice it to say that terraforming is hard.

No wonder so many scientists just throw up their hands.

Meanwhile, the evidence mounts. Scientists around the world are united in their belief that climate change is real, manmade, here, and more expensive to adjust to than it would have been to avoid had we attempted to avoid it back when it was avoidable.They have been for many years. But they have not given up!

Ironically, not giving up is exactly the wrong thing to do. At least it is in the form it has taken. Scientists are becoming an unwitting ally of the climate deniers. It its virtually impossible to get a discussion of what to do if climate change is really much better described as global warming. The very adoption of the term “climate change” is illustrative. You can think “climate change” has “climate” as its upper limit.  But the limit of “global warming” is the whole thing. That much better describes the sweetmeat, as Monty Python might say.

Without the scientific community at liberty to discuss the extremes, how is the general public to know anything?

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3 Responses to Terraforming Mars

  1. Dallas Smith says:

    George, Your description of the difficulties and longterm challenges of actually terraforming Mars or any other celestial destination within reach becomes a strong argument for engaging with the (comparatively lesser) challenge of global warming/climate change her on our unique home planet.

  2. Hank Raymond says:

    Glad to see the problem with the Martian magnetosphere is on your radar these days.

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