Terraforming Mars - Introduction

At the rate that the human population is growing, it is already evident that we are overpopulating earth, and with no signs of the population increase slowing, it is obvious that we are going to need to find new living arrangements. Where are we to find more space? The logical answer it to look to the other planets in our solar system. The limits in choosing a second home are those features that are unchangeable. Since Mars is the only other planet that has a suitable landscape, tilt, and spin to maintain life as we know it on earth, it was really the only option available to us. With this in mind, scientists at NASA have looked into the idea of terraforming of Mars.

Terraforming Mars would basically mean changing the planet into a second earth, so that we could inhabit it without being confined by pressurized, regulated domes. The main things that Mars must have to support life are water, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and suitable temperature. Liquid water is extremely important, being it is the substance in which most biochemical processes of life occur. The nitrogen and carbon dioxide necessary as the building blocks for almost all biomolecules, and are needed to support plant life. We obviously need the oxygen to breathe. Water already exists on Mars in the form of ice, which could be melted with relative ease. Because of this, the key to terraforming Mars for human occupation thus lies in the fixing of the Martian atmosphere.

Because of the difference in mass of Mars and Earth, Mars would require an atmosphere about three times as dense as that of earth in order to be breathable by humans. This is a good thing, since the thicker atmosphere would also cause warming, and help compensate for the planetís more distant orbit from the sun. The first proposed step would be to discharge greenhouse gasses into the Martian atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, and chloroflorocarbons would be the necessary gases to achieve the needed warming affect. Direct transport of these gases in the necessary amounts would be impossible, we would have to rely on machinery on Mars to extract the gases from the soil, or synthesize them from elements found in the soil. Scientists have predicted that we can find everything necessary for terraforming in the soil, and all further research has been based on this prediction. We will not know for sure until the Mars lander sends data back to earth.

As the temperature on Mars rises, the polar caps will melt into liquid water and release even more carbon dioxide which is currently trapped in them. Once the the temperature is high enough, and the ice caps have been completely melted, the next stage of terraforming will begin. Plants would be moved to Mars to produce oxygen and reduce the carbon dioxide to a non-toxic level for humans.

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