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Question:

Your essay should be written for a well informed but non-specialist audience. The style (not the format) used in popular science magazines such as Scientific American or New Scientist would be a suitable guide. Remember, you are not writing for experts, so if you use technical jargon you will need to explain it.topic of the essay is Terraforming MarsIs it feasible to turn Mars into a habitable planet, as described, for example, in KimStanley Robinson’s science fiction trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars? Ifso, is this a goal we should pursue?

 

 

Answer:

Abstract

Mars is long lasting attraction for habitation. Similarities in several issues like rotational times, gravitational forces, axial tilt etc made the option of considering mars for habitation. However there are still difficulties like not existence of the magnetic field, no proper atmosphere etc. The present essay review several features in presenting an overview of terraforming mars.

Preface

Terraforming of Mars is a process of making the planet habituated. It is nothing but transforming the hostile atmosphere on the planet mars to the one that is habitable. The process of changing the planet involves colonization of the total space on the mars hospitable to the human beings. This will make the atmosphere more comfortable and safer for living on. Terraforming is actually conceptualized by considering the increased global population and the problems with the life basic necessities. There are several challenges in making the planet habituated (J, 1992) (Haynes et al, 1992) (McKay et al, 1991) (Fogg, 1995).

Problems and challenges in terraforming

Gravitational force on Mars is very less when compared with the gravitational force on earth. Gravitation on Mars is only 38% of the gravitational force on the planet Earth. Weightlessness is one of the specific conditions, which are detrimental to the human beings wellbeing. However 38% of the earth’s gravitational force may not be sufficient to make the people on Mars for leading a life without health problems. When compared with the atmosphere of the earth the atmosphere on the planet mars is not thick. Even though the solar wind effect is higher on the earth when compared with Mars, the lower volatility is still not compensating the low gravity effect of the planet Mars. Hence it is very much needed to keep up the sources of the atmospheric gases to keep the environment sufficiently dense for the human beings to lead a comfortable life. There is no magnetosphere on the mars, this is a reason for the low dense atmosphere on the planet. Also this is contributing factor for the loss of water from the Mars. Apart from these issues protection of Ozone layer to prevent UV rays is not there on mars, which makes the people vulnerable to the x-ray exposure and the subsequent diseases. There is need for atleast 31µT of magnetic field on the planet Mars to keep the effects of the solar wind at its distance from the Sun. However still the Mars is diagnosed like containing life habitable conditions which make it fit for in the zone nearer to the extendable habitable zone. Mars does not possess nay magnetic field and hence is a major obligation to maintain preferable conditions like on the Earth. But the good issue is that it has key elements in the soil which are very much required for leading a comfortable life on the Mars, like sulfur, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous as well as carbon. Large amount of water ice exist below the Martian surface as well as on the surface at the poles where it is mixed with dry ice. As per the estimations, there is large quantity of water presence on the mars, if all the water vapor mixed with the dry ice and that stored at the poles if melted will result in an ocean bed of 11m height over the entire mars surface. Another attractive feature for terraforming the mars surface is that the existence of oxygen in the mars atmosphere in the form of the liquid water, in the form of the metal oxides, as well in the form of CO2, the major constituent in the mars environment. Oxygen extraction from all these sources will be sufficient to make the plant habitable on the Mars (Fogg, 1993) (McKay et al, 2001) (Mole, 1995) (Thomas, 1995) (Zubrin, 1995).

Strategies for making the Mars habitable

Mars can be habituated by performing a sequence of activities that makes it good for the human habitation. The most important steps are like building up the atmosphere on the mars surface, keeping the surface of Mars warm as well as keeping the atmosphere from being lost to the outer space from the Mars surface. Once the mars is heated the abundant CO2 present on the surface of the Mars will result in keeping warm the surface of the warm, At the same time more CO2 will generated at the frozen poles of the planet and will result in enhancement of the atmospheric gases on the planet. Hence contribute to the atmosphere build up. So heating the planet and building of the atmosphere are both mutually augmenting processes on the planet (McKay, 2009) (Fogg, 2000) (Graham, 2003) (Zubrin 2011) (Zubrin, 1992).

 

Other major attractive feature is the sublimation of the Co2 into the atmosphere. The rich quantity of Co2 existing at the poles of the planet if heated by the atmospheric heating process, it will result in the pressure built up and it is possible to reach high pressures as high as 30kPa it is comparable with the lowest pressures at high altitudes like Mount Everest. Other possible atmospheric built up activity is bringing and keeping the Nitrogen on the planet Mars. This can be imported from any one of the other planets existing in the solar system. Such transfer of Nitrogen on to the planet will keep the surface of the atmosphere sufficiently dense and comfortable. Other build up process will include importing of the hydrocarbons as well as methane gas into the Martian atmosphere. All these processes do have impact on the pressure levels on the surface of the mars and will make the atmosphere comfortable for human beings to lead a comfortable life. Importing hydrogen into the Martian atmosphere will result in the formation of the water vapor as well as the necessary heat, water, and graphite to the atmosphere via the reaction called Bosch reaction. Use of fluorine compounds is another preferable import process to keep the climate conditions comfortable for the human habitation. Other techniques involves usage of the orbital mirrors round the surface of the mars will result in increase in the insolation of the mars and will result in the increase in the temperature of the mars surface. Other procedures for efficient usage of the Mars surface include spreading of the dark dust from the Mars moon. Introduction of the dark extremophile type of microbial life forms such as lichens, algae, bacteria etc. will make it absorb more amount of the sunlight and will keep the atmosphere warm. Making impact using asteroids is another popular technique where in the impact of the asteroids as well as the nitrogen collected from the asteroids will result in increasing the temperature of the planet as well will also result in the nitrogen addition to the atmosphere.

Is it feasible?

 Referring to the ideas presented in the fiction like Red mars, Green Mars and Blue mars novel collections, there is a great deal of work presented. Even though the novel is complete fiction, the ideas in the novel exhibit more a possible situation on Mars in the coming centuries. Even though the greater parts of the novel works on to present the responses of different human groups on earth and their fight against the autocracy by various multinational organizations with varying objectives, inherently the scientific back drop and the fiction presented in the novel has potential to become reality in the coming future. One of the great number of happenings in the novel are customizing the Mars planet as habitable, the techniques described are more probable to be realistic. Out of several techniques proposed in the literature, hitting the with asteroids to increase the temperature as well as the nitrogen content on the atmosphere is one of the most likely possible technique for terraforming the Martian surface as habitable.  Even though at the outset, the planet mars has nothing attractive to offer to the human beings, the continuous increase in the population of the planet Earth promoted a favorable condition to terraform the Mars surface to remain habitable. The option of the selecting the Mars has several underlying reasons, like Mars is the nearer planet to the earth as well it has number of ingredients sufficient to live on the planet mars. Water is abundantly available at the polar ice caps, Carbon and nitrogen which are primary requiements of the human beings living is abundantly available in the form of carbon dioxide in the martian atmosphere. Also present is Nitrogen which can be further imported or extracted by several means to keep up the atmpheric pressures on the martian surface. The present atmospheric concentration of the Mars surface contain 95.3% of carbon dioxide, 2.7% of nitrogen as well as 1.6% of Argon on the surface, 0.2% of oxygen. Considering the conditions on the other nearer planets, Mars proves to be an attractive planet for terraforming. Even though Venus is much nearer to the Earth, the average temperature on the surface of Venus is quite higher. Also Mars bears almost similar day – night cycle timings (Rotational time) as well as the tilt of the mars also resemble much similar attributes like the Earth, gravitational pull one third that on the Earth’s surface.

 

Possible technique of terraforming the Mars is setting up gigantic mirrors at a distance of few hundreds of miles of distance from the mars surface and re transforming the solar radiation on to the mars surface to keep the temperature of the mars surface to rise by few degress. The most important feature is to rise the temperature of the polar ice caps and to let the water solidified there to release carbon dioxide, believed to got trapped in. With few years of continuous heating, it is also possible to get CFC’s on to the surface to make the environment more feasible for adaptation by the human beings and this inturn will result is sufficiently denser atmosphere for the human beings to live on. Even though considering the current traction effort required to reach mars from the earth, the hundreds of thousands of tons weight of the mirror panels are difficult to transport to the mars surface as of today, however it will be possible to carry out the construction of the mirrors on the mars surface itself, this will make the strategy more practicable (Sparrow, 1992) (Otto, 2003) (Bonsor, 2014) (Ardelean et al, 2008) (Cockell, 2002)

Other views of habitation

An estimation of 200years is proposed in the literature for making the creation of the hard plant and microbial growth. After that it is possible to create conditions tolerable for human beings in a time of about 21000 years (J, 1992). Hayes et al (1992) proposed a practicable ecopoiesis on the mars environment, the process consist of planting hard microbes on the planet of the Mars to start grooming the biosphere on the mars surface. However the actual human habitation can happen a number of years after the evolution of the same. One approach as proposed by McKay et al (1991), considered that the release of the CHG and CFC’s will warm up the planet by about 20K and this in turn will result in large quantities of the H2O from the polar caps, this water along with the large quantities of the CO2 present on the surface of the Mars will result in an atmosphere feasible for the plants to grow on. The pressurizing the planet do happen If there are sufficient Co2 reservoirs in the ice caps, if they are not present in additional Co2 would have to be released from the carbonate materials to make the atmosphere sufficiently dense for the growth of the human beings. This will take up a large number of years to yield desirable environment. More intensive research is required into the possibilities of studying the issues like availability of N2, warming Mars, methods of releasing Co2, Photochemistry and O2 mixing ration of 2 bar Co2, photo chemistry of O3 mixing, long term stability etc (Mckay et al, 1993) to completely understand the mars climatic conditions and to create a habitable life on the mars(McKay et al, 1998)(Moss,2006)(Hue et al 2014)(McKay, 2003)(Tomblin et al, 1998).

Conclusion

There are two things that actually promoted the interest in the mars habitation, one is the growing population on the earth and the other admiration in the similarities of the Martian environment and the Earth’s basic environment. The presence several mandatory ingredients on the earth like Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, water, phosphorous etc making it a viable option to be considered for habitation. Apart from these issues there are several other issues like similarity in the planetary rotational times, axis tilt of the planet as well as the similar but low gravitational forces etc made to consider the option of mars habitation as a favorable option. Infact the selection of the right strategy and the exact time it takes for habitation are still not clear and do require further intensive investigation of several issues to make an exact assessment.

References

Ardelean, I. I., Moisescu, C., & Popoviciu, D. R. 2008. Magnetotactic bacteria and their potential for terraformation. In From Fossils to Astrobiology (pp. 335-350). Springer Netherlands.

Bonsor, K. 2014. How Terraforming Mars Will Work. Howstuffworks, nd Web,

Cockell, C. 2002., Mars is an awful place to live. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 27(1), 32-38.

Fogg, M. J. 1995. Terraforming Mars: conceptual solutions to the problem of plant growth in low concentrations of oxygen. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 48(10), 427-434

 

Fogg, M. J. 1993, Terraforming: A review for environmentalists. Environmentalist, 13(1), 7-17.

Fogg, M. J. 1995, Terraforming Mars: a review of research. HTTP:< www. users. globalnet. co. uk/~ mfogg/paper1.

Fogg, M. J. 2000. The ethical dimensions of space settlement. Space Policy,16(3), 205-211.

Graham, J. M. 2003. January, Stages in the terraforming of Mars: The transition to flowering plants. In SPACE TECHNOLOGY AND APPLICATIONS INT. FORUM-STAIF 2003: Conf. on Thermophysics in Microgravity; Commercial/Civil Next Generation Space Transportation; Human Space Exploration; Symps. on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion (20th); Space Colonization (1st) (Vol. 654, No. 1, pp. 1284-1291). AIP Publishing.

Hue, J., Farrow, J. A., Checklin, C., & Miller, R. 2014. A2_3 Terraforming Mars: Creating a Magnetic Field. Physics Special Topics, 1(1).

Haynes, R. H., & McKay, C. P. ,1992. The implantation of life on Mars: Feasibility and motivation. Advances in Space Research, Volume 12 Issue4,pp. 133-140.

J, F. M., 1992. A synergic approach to terraforming Mars. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Volume 45, pp. 315-329.

McKay, C. P. 1988 . Living and morking on Mars. In The NASA Mars Conference (Vol. 1, pp. 511-522).

McKay, C., & DeVincenzi, D. L. 2003. Life on Mars: past, present, and future. Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, 48(3), 132-137.

McKay, C. P., Toon, O. B., & Kasting, J. F. ,1991 . Making Mars habitable. Nature, 352(6335), 489-496

McKay, C. P. 2009. Planetary ecosynthesis on Mars: restoration ecology and environmental ethics. Exploring the origin, extent, and future of life: philosophical, ethical, and theological perspectives, 245-260.

McKay, C. P., & Marinova, M. M., 2001. The physics, biology, and environmental ethics of making Mars habitable. Astrobiology, 1(1), 89-109.

Mole, R. A., 1995. Terraforming Mars with four war-surplus bombs. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 48(7), 321.

Otto, E., 2003. Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy and the Leopoldian Land Ethic. Utopian Studies, 118-135.

Sparrow, R. 1999. The ethics of terraforming. Environmental Ethics, 21(3), 227-245.

Tomblin, D. C., & Bentley, M. L. ,1998. Colonizing the Red Planet: An Interdisciplinary Activity. Science Activities: Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, 35(2), 28-34.

Thomas, D. J, 1995. Biological aspects of the ecopoeisis and terraformation of Mars: Current perspectives and research. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 48(10), 415-418.

Zubrin, R., 1995. The economic viability of Mars colonization. Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, 48(10), 407-414.

Zubrin, R. ,2011. The case for Mars: The plan to settle the Red Planet and why we must. Simon and Schuster.

Zubrin, R. M., & Baker, D. A., 1992. Mars direct: humans to the red planet by 1999. Acta Astronautica, 26(12), 899-912.

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