Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Is Terraforming Mars A Bad Idea? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas

(Image Credit: Popular Science, Aviation Space)

Of all the worlds ever graced by science fiction, Mars is second to only Earth in honorable mentions. Previously imagined in the past to harbor advanced civilizations, many space enthusiasts today now seek to not only visit Mars, but to transform this rusty world into a second Earth.

Although having a second home world (if not more) in our solar system is probably a wise idea, terraforming Mars into a miniature Earth could present new challenges making it very difficult into calling the red planet home.

Despite their similarities, Martian weather seems to be much more violent than its larger terrestrial brother Earth. Having less than 1% of the air pressure of Earth, Martian gusts seem to be able to generate wind speeds of up to 375 miles per hour.

Although Earth is no stranger when it comes to fierce storms, our planet has yet to encounter one on a global scale, an experience Mars seems to be very familiar with. If our species were ever to raise the air pressure to Earth levels, future colonists may end up finding themselves trapped on a world whose weather would put category five hurricanes to shame.

If raising the air pressure on Mars was not bad, raising the temperatures may be worse. Lacking major oceans, future colonists would be able to establish outposts throughout the red planet's surface, which area wise is roughly equal (in size) to all of the dry land on planet Earth.

With a large portion of water potentially lying beneath half of the Martian soil, (hat tip: Posthuman blues) as well as the polar ice caps, raising current temperatures on our future home world could end up flooding the planet. Although Martian oceans would definitely compliment this barren world (at least from space), they may provide little "land room" for colonists desiring to set up shop on Earth's distant neighbor.

Last but not least, a terraformed Mars may not be as "wildlife friendly" as planet Earth, enabling only humans and certain pets to dwell upon the surface. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field which many animals such as birds, bats and certain insects depend upon for migration and navigation.

Although humans could easily navigate via an artificial GPS system, our animal friends may not be as fortunate. Unless an artificial magnetic field could be constructed, humanity will be unable to create the large ecosystems necessary to recreate the red desert into a thriving oasis.

Despite being a far cry from Earth like conditions, Mars may prove to be more livable in its current state than as a terraformed world. Humanities understanding of weather (especially global warming) is still in its infancy, and if we are not careful, our attempts at turning a world into an oasis may end up turning the world against ourselves.

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  1. Humanities understanding of weather (especially global warming) is still in its infancy, and if we are not careful, our attempts at turning a world into an oasis may end up turning the world against ourselves.

    This is why we should terraform Mars. Because practice makes perfect and it's wise to have a knowledge base for taking care of our own world.

  2. The hurricane hobgoblin you are raising is Hollywood science. Martian winds are so fast precisely because the air is so thin--there is little viscosity to slow them down. In a denser atmosphere, the dynamics of the air masses will change. Supposing that the wind speed will stay the same after all other atmospheric parameters--density, composition, condensation, insolation--have changed, is naive.

    As for magnetic sense--are you proposing that we abandon Mars because pigeons would feel lost there? Few species rely on magnetic navigation, and even fewer rely on it exclusively. Mars is not likely to have a full complement of Earth species to begin with. We can do without pigeons, but if you insist on having them: plants will have to be specially bred or genetically engineeered anyway to take on Mars, so there's litle additional trouble with breeding a non-magnetic-sense-reliant pigeon or beetle.

  3. @ Freederick: First off, thanks for commenting!

    As far as the few species that rely on magnetic fields, many of them are critical, such as bees and certain insects that plants need in order to breed (and in some cases survive).

    Genetic engineering may have its benefits, but it can only go so far. A magnetic field will be critical if we are to terraform the red planet, assuming such a feat is even possible (or worth doing so financially).


You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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