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Warming a Tiny Piece of Mars For Terraforming

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the ants-under-the-magnifying-glass dept.

Mars 205

dptalia writes "It's been a dream of science fiction writers everywhere that we would eventually terraform Mars. Now an engineering student has proposed a way to terraform only a kilometer of Mars. By building an array of space based mirrors to focus the sun's light, a small area of Mars could be warmed to about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) which would make it easier for explorers to work and live there. Since Mars' atmosphere is thin, the mirrors would have to be carefully designed to prevent them from reflecting harmful radiation as well as light and warmth."

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205 comments

Water? (4, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857074)

And the higher temperature would melt any water ice on the ground. This could make precious liquid water available for astronauts to drink, and the water could also be used as a raw material to produce rocket fuel for the journey home, Woida says.

Wouldn't the melted ice boil away at 68 some odd degress on Mars? Or do they plan on heating up a kilometer sized pressurized dome?

The extra warmth would mean the astronauts would not need heavily insulated suits or living quarters, allowing them to work more easily.

Maybe not "heavily insulated", but certainly pressurized. Working "more easily" is still not easy.

Re:Water? (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857358)

One is reminded of the opening chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars [amazon.com] . It takes place in a tent town where the tent is made out of a purely transparent fabric that blocks radiation while still letting light through to make it seem as if folks are living openly on the surface.

But then, what's the point of terraforming a tent town with these mirrors? You could get the same heat and light from a nuclear reactor powering strategically located lamps inside the structure. You can't terraform an open space on the surface, since any atmosphere you'd create would immediately flow into the near-vacuum that is most of the planet. I'm really scratching my head at while this idea is so clever.

Re:Water? (3, Interesting)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857578)

It's clever because you don't actualy have to pressurise the surface to live there: a simple bodysuit can give the pressure you need, with SCUBA-style gear to make sure you've got enough oxygen. So if it is warm enough to not require active heating in the suits, you can make a suit thin enough to be worn as part of everyday clothing, which can be worn both inside and out. Then you just put on a helmet with air when you walk outside. Instead of having to put on a full pressure/temperature/air suit everytime you walk through the airlock.

Re:Water? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857950)

Err, what? Why do you think that a space-suit (and it's still one) can be a simple thing just because you need no insulation? The only thing you will get rid of is a bit of insulation and probably you will have to care for cooling instead, because working in a sealed pressure suit without body cooling by transpiration will overheat your body very fast.

This is useless. The whole idea is just silly.

Re:Water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858300)

The point is that one can use a non-sealed suit, skin is airtight and the suit would just apply pressure to the skin. The point being that unlike current space suits this one lets sweat evaporate away so you don't overheat. Go google for the idea, I think it's called an activity space suit.

Granted the idea is still ludicrous, a little bit of insulation probably isn't all that much of a problem if you use such a suit. If you use a traditional suit then you'll probably need even bigger cooling units for the suit.

Plants (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858130)

Now, you can plant various plants. It will be a small selection, but if you can keep the temp above freezing, some plants may accept the lower pressure. Of course, the question is, what happens during the winter? Besides, this may be a lot cheaper than doing a nuke approach. As it is, it could be used to sublimate some of the CO2 at the poles and restart the warming. Of course, it would be better to send a few metorites into the planet.

Re:Water? (1)

kzinti (9651) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858288)

I just finished reading Red Mars. I enjoyed all the stuff about terraforming, building, and digging, but the best part *had* to be when they wrecked the Martian space elevator (including how they did it).

Re:Water? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858610)

Mirrors are small and light, and only have to be shipped to mars orbit.

Nuclear reactors are big and heavy, and have to be landed.

Re:Water? (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858894)

The explorers are going to need power no matter what, and nuclear reactors are the most efficient option, so they're going to be landed anyway.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858942)

S.A.D., of course. Without sunlight, all the colonists will kill themselves.

Re:clever? (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858984)

Because it uses mirrors!

Seems like the heated atmosphere would rise out and cold air would rush in making kinda like a air geiser. Eventually changing the temp of the whole planet. Or the atmosphere would just ignite.

Re:Water? (1)

Gogogoch (663730) | more than 7 years ago | (#16859320)

Ignite the atmosphere? Rubbish. It will blow out the bottom of the ocean and all the water will run through the hole. Then where will the terraformers get their H2O?

Please (0, Offtopic)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857104)

Mod me up! This is completly OT, but hey, I say: M$ is teh suck all comrporations except Apple are teh suck linux rules even in my aquarium! Mod me up please! I'm cool too, you see?

I thought the problem was the geodynamic thing... (1)

mollog (841386) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857108)

I thought the problem with Mars was the geodynamic thing with the molten core that forms a magneosphere that would prevent solar winds from blowing away an atmosphere? Am I confused? Should we be thinking about how to warm up the core a la 'Total Recall'?

Re:I thought the problem was the geodynamic thing. (1)

RobertF (892444) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857456)

That's not a problem! We'll just use our phasers to drill through the crust, then we can send Data down to set up plasma injection units. It should keep the core molten for centuries!

Re:I thought the problem was the geodynamic thing. (2, Informative)

jonadab (583620) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858118)

> I thought the problem with Mars was the geodynamic thing with the molten core that forms
> a magneosphere that would prevent solar winds from blowing away an atmosphere?

There are several problems. Mars does not have enough mass to hold an Earth-like atmosphere, for one thing. The article title is misleading, because it's not really talking about terraforming in the traditional "you can take off your helmet and breathe freely" sense. It's just talking about a measure that would make exploration of the surface, by astronauts in pressure suits, a bit easier.

Start The Reactor (3, Funny)

Akvum (580456) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858162)

Another reason why Arnold should become president.

Re:Start The Reactor (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858684)

I know I may be accused of wearing a Tin Foil Hat like my cat did, but perhaps the reason there are electricity shortages in Caleeforneea is that it's being used by Arnold to teraform Mars?

Re:I thought the problem was the geodynamic thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858222)

We need to set off some nukes in the planets core to try to get that liquid iron in it flowing.

The nukes will add a tiny bit of heat, and the magnetic field the flowing iron generates will both shield colonists from deadly solar radiation, as well as protect the atmosphere from being blown away by the solar wind. Basically, the movie 'The Core'.

Re:I thought the problem was the geodynamic thing. (2, Insightful)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858636)

I thought the problem with Mars was the geodynamic thing with the molten core that forms a magneosphere that would prevent solar winds from blowing away an atmosphere?
That's not really an issue addressed by the article. But if we were to one day to add atmosphere to Mars, it would bleed away slowly over thousands/millions of years. So it's no necessarily impractical (if you have the means).

Whoa (5, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857116)

Now an engineering student has proposed a way to teraform only a kilometer of Mars.

...while technologically astounding, I fail to see the utility in being able to do this.

Now, if we're talking about a square kilometer of Mars, that'd be a different matter...

Re:Whoa (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857258)

Nope, just one likometer.
I'm raisin' me up a crop of dental floss, with my zircon encrusted tweezers glintin' in the moonlight...

Re:Whoa (1)

El Torico (732160) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857382)

That's why I'm moving to Cydonia!

Re:Whoa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858624)

There you can grow hyperdimensional superlettuce. Watch out when the temperature gets to 19.5 degrees though!

Re:Whoa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857560)

Heck, we might even get the third dimension involved and teraforming some sort of non-zero volume!

Monty Burns or Lex Luthor? (0, Offtopic)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857150)

One of them will get the blame when there is a slight miscalculation in the adjustment the aim of the solar concentrators and Cleveland is burnt off the map (leaving the rest of the country east of it to be brought the accompanying odor, not unlike burnt armpit hair).

Arizona State University is NOT in "Tuscon, US" (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857202)

The article erroneously claims ASU is in Tucson. The University of Arizona is in Tucson.

hmm (1)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857206)

so our intrepid martian pioneers would have two suns to look at...that could be interesting. quite a throwback to old asimov stories.

To prevent harmful radiations (2, Interesting)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857228)

To filter out UV and higher frequency things, like our ozone layer does, just use a prizm, or better, a diffraction grating (like a cd), but then you'd end up with a rainbow down on the surface - in some parts everything would be bright red, in some others, bright blue, etc. You'd have to rehomogenize it by sending it through a second prism or diffraction grating, which makes things complicated, especially if a meteor hits and things get misaligned. I guess they should just use TiO2 coatings on mirrors that are transparent in visible but very dark in UV (don't know xray region), to act like a mirror coating ozone layer. But because a lot of UV would be absorbed where rutile coatings are black, it would heat the mirrors a lot, as opposed to purely reflecting mirrors.

I know.... (2, Funny)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857272)

"To filter out UV and higher frequency things, like our ozone layer does, just use a prizm, or better, a diffraction grating (like a cd), but then you'd end up with a rainbow down on the surface"

Always looking for a way to make real that Martian rave you've always been planning, eh?

Re:I know.... (1)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857420)

Actually, I should have RTFA first, because they say everything I just said, except of course for the rave thing...

Re:To prevent harmful radiations (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857540)

I guess they should just use TiO2 coatings on mirrors that are transparent in visible but very dark in UV (don't know xray region)
What, like glass?

Not making fun, it's just that there's a reason we use quartz or NaCl sample jars for UV spectroscopy... but I don't think regular glass blocks xrays, though.

Re:To prevent harmful radiations (2, Informative)

bobdickgus (938017) | more than 7 years ago | (#16859232)

Regular glass only blocks about half of the UV that reaches the earths surface, it will absorb most of the higher energy UV though.

I think is to stupid... (1)

Ramsees (1007423) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857240)

Instead if trying to comeback to life a dead planet save ours first.

Re:I think is to stupid... (2, Insightful)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857332)

It could be a means of saving life on ours. It's called diversifying your portfolio instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. Mars could be a second basket to keep some eggs in. If either goes under, life from the other one can "come back to life a dead planet."

Re:I think is to stupid... (1)

krell (896769) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857454)

"It could be a means of saving life on ours. It's called diversifying your portfolio instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. Mars could be a second basket to keep some eggs in. If either goes under, life from the other one can "come back to life a dead planet."

There's probably a UFO/ancient astronauts/etc site that claims that we are in the middle of such a cycle, but don't know it yet.

Re:I think is to stupid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857928)

There definitely are. Didn't you know Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and other important figures were space aliens, and humans are probably alien offspring/genetic experiments? It's true, we didn't evolve here. After all, scientists SAY 60% of our DNA is shared with bananas, so why should we trust DNA science at all? (And so on.)

Therefore, there is strong evidence that humans ultimately aren't from earth.

Re:I think is to stupid... (1)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858742)

60% of our DNA is shared with bananas? It must be those porn queens messing around with bananas all the time .... What about, say, watermelons or, I don't know, cactuses? I bet you anything we share a lot less DNA with those than with bananas!

Re:I think is to stupid... (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857504)

Tell me that when you get your pet dinosaur. Oh wait - they were blasted into cosmic oblivion. Enjoy that target on your back.

Gamma radiation!? WTF? (4, Insightful)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857242)

From TFA:

> Woida points out another potential problem. If not carefully designed, the mirrors could focus harmful high-frequency radiation like gamma rays onto the surface.

Woida, if you've got a way to make mylar balloons capable of reflecting gamma rays onto a single focal point, there are some guys in the DoE and the DoD who would like to talk to you, and they pay way better than NASA.

Re:Gamma radiation!? WTF? (2, Interesting)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858228)

Woida, if you've got a way to make mylar balloons capable of reflecting gamma rays onto a single focal point, there are some guys in the DoE and the DoD who would like to talk to you, and they pay way better than NASA.

That's what makes me wonder why anyone took this guy seriously in the first place. Fortunately, NASA is only giving him a token amount:

He received $9000 to study the idea from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) in Atlanta, Georgia, US. [...] In his concept study, Woida will work out the structural details of the balloons and study how much extra light from the reflectors reaches the Martian surface.

Nine thousand bucks would buy a lot of ramen, but in this case, it's probably worth it to get the guy to quick knocking on the door at NIAC saying "Hey, look at my space mirror thingie... on MARS!!!!11!!one!`1~~"

Toast (2, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857280)

I'd be curious how hot the ground would need to be to warm the tenuous atmosphere continuously blowing over it to a comfortable temperature. And wouldn't you risk creating a huge localized dust storm from the strong convection currents? Maybe you could heat a ring of land around the point you are interested in and just wait until all the dust is blown away ... but I doubt it.

Re:Toast (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857410)

I doubt this would be a problem. The atmosphere is so thin that I suspect its cooling effects are minimal. IIRC, when a test chamber to model Martian dust storms was set up, the biggest hurdle they faced was trying to actually get any dust storms to form - even at hundreds of kph, there was so little atmosphere that no dust was being picked up.

Re:Toast (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858726)

Just my point: cooling effects are minimal. To warm the air, you have to have much warmer ground. Uncomfortably warm.

As for the test you reference, they couldn't figure out what was wrong at first. Mars most certainly has wicked dust storms. Then they added sand. Then the dust bounces right up. There's also an electrostatic effect from dust devils (created by localized heating) which is amplified by the thin atmosphere (nice article in Science News about it).

Of course the dust could reduce heating at ground level solving the first problem, but heating the atmosphere at ground level was the whole point.

The idea of heating a ring is to warm air before it moves to where you are, allow some flexibility in heating, overheat during the day, give the air some time to drop dust, and maybe create a very minor boost in local air pressure by using the inrush of surrounding air to compress the central pocket of air. Even then, still a sucky idea.

Re:Toast (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858922)

Ah - I somehow misread your post to mean pretty much the opposite of what it does. My fault, not yours; upon rereading, I have no idea what I was thinking.

Still, for the same reason you ask how much heating it would take to raise the temperature of the air, I wonder how much the air temperature really matters. The scant atmosphere on Mars just doesn't have the thermal capacity to be real problem or benefit, I wouldn't think (I could be wrong, of course).

Related (2, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857304)

Paul Birch has published [paulbirch.net] (in the Journal of the British interplanetary Society) a way to "quickly" terraform all of Mars quickly. (Don't get too mad at me if that article has long since become obsolete.)

Re:Related (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858218)

a way to "quickly" terraform all of Mars quickly.


Brought to you by The Department of Redundancy Department.

This and a big hole will get you a cup of coffee (2, Informative)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857314)

Combine this with Kim Stanley Robinson's* deep hole, and you might have a comparatively easily maintained environment on Mars: dig a big, deep hole for much of the atmosphere to fall into, thereby increasing atmospheric pressure; use this array of mirrors suggestion to heat it up, and you've "solved" a couple of the more pressing problems with trying to live on Mars. With sufficient "natural" pressure, heat, and light, building structures in which to grow things becomes easier. This doesn't really address the lack of water, of course...

*I call this Robinson's idea only because Red Mars is where I encountered it - I have no idea who actually came up with it.

Yikes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857326)

How does this 300-sphere reflective mirror keep the reflection targeted on the surface, while accounting for Mars' rotation?

Why not just put a giant fresnel lens on stilts?

Terraform Earth (2, Insightful)

weston (16146) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857336)

Aside from the difficulties with terraforming Mars mentioned in other comments, I sometimes wonder why there isn't a little more effort put into doing terraforming experiments where land and resources are a little more accessible: earth.

There's plenty of pretty hostile environments here we could start to practice on, but I rarely see anything indicating we're doing much beyond putting good air conditioning units in new houses in Lancaster so we can build layer 60 of suburbia around LA....

Genesis Effect? (1)

mbkennel (97636) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857446)

You mean like the Genesis Effect?

Like suppose we had this array that could heat up a Martian neighborhood from -80C to 20C.

Imagine what it could do if we pointed it at Earth city which were already at 30-35C!

Green Zone here we come!

Re:Terraform Earth (2, Insightful)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858458)

What hostile environments on earth do you think we should be terraforming? The Sahara? Nope, animals live there. Can't destory their habitats, even if it would mean thousands of acres of farmland to feed a starving continent. Gobi? Nope, animals live there too.

I never understood people who say we should "terraform" places on our planet. By the very definition, that's impossible. Our planet is already formed like terra.

Re:Terraform Earth (1)

triffid_98 (899609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858784)

What, you mean like Watts or East Oakland?

I believe we've already colonized those, check out our spacious new biodome / gated community [pulte.com] , now with a new fitness center and day spa!

There's plenty of pretty hostile environments here we could start to practice on, but I rarely see anything indicating we're doing much beyond putting good air conditioning units in new houses in Lancaster

Aran Islands (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858972)

We terraform Earth all the time. New Orleans is probably an example of a failed attempt; Holland is certainly sucessful. One of the most interesting "terraform" landscapes I've seen is the Aran Islands of the coast of Ireland. These are giant limestone (I think) slabs in the middle of the ocean. Prevailing winds and rain stripped any top soil away, leaving bare rock. The wind cut the rock into strange sort of brick shapes, leaving loose rock tens of feet deep. Then 4000 years ago some Celt gets the bright idea that it'd be a nice place to live. He takes all the natural bricks, builds thousands of kilometers of walls. These form natural wind breaks. Then he mixes seaweed with what passes for sand out out there and invents artificial soil and covers the island. Suddenly what used to be a barran lump of rock is capable of supporting human life. very cool.

Tornado (4, Interesting)

jamie (78724) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857348)

I know Mars' atmosphere is thin. But wouldn't having a patch of dirt heated 120 deg C warmer than the rest of the planet force the air to rise over that spot, basically forming a permanent tornado?

Re:Tornado (2, Interesting)

sillybilly (668960) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857610)

A permanent tornado going up a turbine tower [wikipedia.org] installed could be tamed and turned into a neat way to harness solar energy. You can't directly do that down here on Earth, because there are no permanent tornados, but it might be an interesting idea to try to make a permanent tornado somwhere in the middle of the Sahara, with a solar tower collector even. Of course the danger or mirrors getting misaligned and cooking up Cairo or Lagos, or even Rome have to be taken into consideration, and a SCRAM needs to be implemented that without a constant signal received from a station down on sahara saying I'm getting the light okay relative to that sensor out of the circle, the mirrors should go pitch black. I don't think LCD's can withstand space radiation enough to instantly flip off mirroring properties. How do you make a mirror go instantly nonmirror? Is mechanical shutters the simplest answer? A solar-tower coupled greenhouse made of molten mars-rock-glass might actually help in keeping things warm if the central tower is shut, or cool but a lot of energy tapped by allowing the turbines to spin.

Huricane (1)

maddogsparky (202296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857684)

Right idea, wrong phenomenon. Tornadoes are powered by mezocyclones found in supercells. Hurricanes are powered by a rising column of warm air centered in the eye (warm ocean water is the heat source).

Learning to control planetary temperature, (1)

genegeek (548040) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857510)

even on Mars, might teach us plenty about how to control temperature on Earth. Such information could be invaluable in averting the upcoming global warming. Can we, for example, reflect light away from our planet to reduce temperature?

Re:Learning to control planetary temperature, (1)

hcob$ (766699) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858178)

Sure can, but then you'll get all the hippies worrying about global cooling in 20 years. Again....

Terraformed stories (1)

vermox (877880) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857520)

-Oh the mirrors? They were fine until some fucker started playing baseball near one of them and crooked one. Now I've got a freaking mutant baby guy named Kuato glued to my side. On the plus side, we've got three breasted hookers now.

Earth II (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857552)

Yes, of course we should start terraforming Mars before we've even really begun to look for existing life there that we'd destroy. Why worry about exterminating an entire planet when there's condos to be built?

Re:Earth II (2, Insightful)

nasch (598556) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858164)

Yes, of course we should start terraforming Mars before we've even really begun to look for existing life there that we'd destroy.
If it's us or them, I vote us. Now it may not be us or them. But if at some point we have to choose between saving Earth life and saving Mars life (should there be any), guess which way that's going?

Re:Earth II (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858404)

Riiiight, we're of course locked in a life or death struggle with Martians. Who show no real evidence yet of even existing. Or possibility of existing above the complexity of bacteria.

Watching Tom Cruise movies doesn't entitle your opinion on interplanetary relations to be taken seriously.

Re:Earth II (1)

nasch (598556) | more than 7 years ago | (#16859120)

OK, I realize this is /. but come on - you didn't think I was suggesting we could be at war with Martians at some point, did you? Really? Instead, maybe I was saying that it's possible that Earth could become much less hospitable to human life, possibly even uninhabitable. At that point (before that point actually), we could be faced with a decision to terraform and colonize Mars, thereby wiping out any life there, or stay on Earth and die out. Please keep in mind this is a huge chain of ifs - I am NOT saying any of this is going to happen, so replies to the effect of "that's not going to happen" will be ignored. My only point is that if we have to choose between our species and some other species, be it Terran or Martian, we will always choose ours.

scientific error (4, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857568)

There's at least one scientific error in the article, which is that it talks about the risk of inadvertently focusing gamma rays with a mirror. You can't focus gamma rays with a mirror. A typical gamma, with an energy of 1 MeV, interacts with matter mainly via Compton scattering. At the low-energy end of the gamma spectrum (say 10 keV) it's mostly the photoelectric effect, while at the high end (10 MeV) it's pair production. None of these process obey the law of specular reflection. This would be a more legitimate concern with UV.

I also wondered about the idea of melting water to form lakes on the surface. Mars's atmosphere is so thin that it would be considered a pretty decent vacuum by Earth standards. Won't the water boil off pretty rapidly in a near-vacuum at 30 degrees C?

Wait for it ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857686)

So in essence, these are just giant space heaters?

Better make sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16857758)

They'd better make sure no wily Asian men stow away on the rocket. That will lead to a separatist movement among the colonists.

How low can we go? (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857812)

I know people can live at higher pressures if given time for their bodies to adjust. Does anyone know how much of a low pressure environment a human body can acclimate to?

Re:How low can we go? (1)

SlashGeO (237191) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857984)

I see a fart joke forming here :) Something in the lines of: My body is able to live at low pressure for only a few minutes before releasing high pressure. I'm sure one of you can do better?

Putting this idea into good use on Earth (2, Interesting)

JimBobJoe (2758) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857866)

I've actually been wanting to explore this idea for warming winter temperatures for those of us who live in the Northern Latitudes.

In addition to the general comfort provided by more warmth and sunlight, there is actually a huge environmental benefit. A 20 degree increase in temperatures for a large metro area would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve plenty of fuel that would have been used for heating.

The money spent heating homes and businesses in the north are not insignificant, the last numbers I saw for Ohio indicated that statewide yearly natural gas expenses are about $1.5-$2 billion. (To be fair, you can reduce those costs in other ways as well, but using a solar array to redistribute/magnify solar light during winter has secondary benefits that geothermal heating do not. :-)

Keep in mind, I'd only propose this for the urban areas, and not the rural areas, where I understand agricultural fields might need time to chill during winter.

Re:Putting this idea into good use on Earth (1)

DrKyle (818035) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858320)

If your idea of a northern latitude is Ohio I think you should unfold the top of your map because you're not even halfway up from the equator to the pole. Heck, I live at 53 degrees north and I don't consider it a northern latitude.

Re:Putting this idea into good use on Earth (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858518)

yea that's a good idea. You do realize you would screw up the entire northen hemisphere right? A better solution would be to simply update all buildings to modern insulation levels, and stop building giant mansion sized houses. Those two steps by themselves would save each person hundreds per year, paying for them selves in just a few years of time.

Living and growing up in NY I know one other fact. Winter is the most dangerous, when the temperatures hover around freezing. That is when Ice storms and massive snow storms are more common. The colder you go the less snow you get.

Re:Putting this idea into good use on Earth (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858632)

Have you heard of Global Warming? While it may not be true now (as more people are debating it), what you propose is to do it on purpose.

warmer doesn't help a space suit (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857930)

Given the low pressure, a visitor will still need a space suit. Keeping warm in a space suit is not a problem. It's getting rid of the heat produced by the person. This is typically done with a sublimator that uses a water to ice transition to remove heat. This only works well if there is a hard vacuum. The alternative of a closed loop refrigerant system adds weight. This presents interesting design problems given the probable weakened state of an astronaut after a trip to Mars.

Welcome to Mars City (1)

Sneakernets (1026296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16857936)

Upgrades are complete on the geothermic reactor at the Mars colony. Increased energy demands from quantum mechanics research now being met. Thanks, Union Aerospace Corporation

BZZZT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858346)

Like ants under a magnafying glass

"A Dream?" (1)

ExileOnHoth (53325) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858392)

"It's been a dream of science fiction writers everywhere"

Not really. Unless by "dream" you mean "surreal nightmare." (Or, to be fair, unless by "science fiction writers everywhere" you mean "some science fiction writers in some places.")

Not being a scientist, I've always found Kim Stanley Robinson a bit, um, stupifyingly dull. Doesn't anyone remember Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles? [raybradbury.com] The man had a healthy respect for / terror of these ideas.

Waste of time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858602)

With the amount of stuff we keep losing over mars this isn't the brightest idea.

For those rough nights. [snickets.net]

Greenhouse! (1)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858740)

This seems like a cool idea (obvious now, in retrospect). The green house effect is valid nearly anywhere you can create an enclosed environment. It's harder on Mars, since there isn't that much light to begin with to heat up your 1km radius greenhouse. But if ya got your solar collectors, etc., it could work.

forget Mars... (1)

bigpat (158134) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858828)

Mars seems very likely never to be able to be self sustaining for very long. Which isn't to say it isn't worth a try, but I think Venus would have a much longer payback period for the effort and could see a sustainable biosphere developed to take advantage of Venus's plentiful Oxygen and Carbon.

With all its CO2 all it requires is a bit of Hydrogen to start making water. The best way to get sustainable hydrogen is to get the planet spinning so that it can form its own magnetic field which would start trapping hydrogen from solar winds. I bet if we started nudging comets towards Venus, hitting it just right and seeded the atmosphere with wee beasties, then we could accelerate the process and have a second planet to call home in a matter of centuries not millennium.

or alternately... (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858830)

The mirror idea has been discussed before and is nothing new...however, what about doing the opposite for other planets? Say you want to cool down Venus. Just stick a giant coin in an orbit somewhere between the sun and Venus. Voila, instant permanent eclipse. Might not be a bad idea to start looking into similar technology for earth. Say, manufacture a variable opacity lens, or even just some controllable slats which could be turned to different angles in order to let more or less sunlight through. That way if Global Warming really does get as bad as is being predicted, we can give ourselves a couple decades of twilight to try and sort out the environment.

Another Half-Baked Idea..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#16858906)

Why only a square kilometer? Again, some idiot had missed the forest for hte trees.

The polar caps on Mars are composed almost ENTIRELY out of carbon dioxide, with a little bit of water mixed in. Why don't they focus the mirrors onto the polar caps and vaporize the solid CO2? Not only will they be able to build up the atmosphere, but the CO2 will create a "greenhouse effect" and WARM THE ENTIRE PLANET. Possibly, this CO2atmosphere may be able to help absorb some of the massive amounts of radiation that bombards Mars. Further more, they could set aside a small area and use more mirrors to super-heat the ground and try to free some of the oxygen that is trapped in the iron oxide 'soil' and possibly create a (somewhat) breathable atmosphere.

So:

Mirrors on the polar caps would vaporize CO2 to create a 'greenhouse'-type atmosphere.

Mirrors on designated areas would super-heat iron oxide in the ground for oxygen (possibly).

Theoretically, you could create weather 'patterns' on Mars so that the cold polar areas and super-hot areas would interact with each other to produce wind patterns that would behave much the same way as on Earth. The continued addition of C02 to the atmosphere would be helped in part to warming of Mars by the release of CO2. The outside acceleration of CO2 vaporization by the mirrors could be stopped when the planet becomes warm enough to cause the release of CO2 to be self-sustaining. Outside intervention could be eliminated when the deposition of CO2 at the polar areas become equal to the vaporization by climatic action.

End Result: AN ENTIRE PLANET WARMED, instead of one lousy square kilometer.

Cost Comparison:
Multply the article's cost of warming 1 square kilometer by the number of square kilometers of surface area that Mars has. You get the idea.

Now, you would most likely probably need (for basic terraforming), say, 5 square kilometers for polar cap vaporization and 5 square kilometers for oxygen evaporization/atmospheric warming to get proces started. The speed of terraforming would depend on how may mirros are allotted to polar cap vaporization and surface heating. But it would happen eventually.

(INSERT FUTURAMA QUOTE HERE)

-----
Another half-baked engineering student on his way to getting a 'degree'. Hopefully, the other half of his brain will come into being and he will finally be (remotely) worthy of the title "Engineer". If you are going to propose an idea to the mass media, THINK IT THROUGH FIRST!

Keep in mind, I am only throwing this out there as a rough idea, so don't think it has been thought out for months or anything.

We should first venusform Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16858934)

Luckily, that process has began some time ago and is, due to the many positive feedback loops, unstoppable.

When I was a kid, I didn't think I'll see the surface of Venus in my lifetime, so, of course, I'm overjoyed.

Gamma Rays (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 7 years ago | (#16859288)

Who in the world is worried about thin inflatable mirrors reflecting Gamma Rays!? If there were easy and cheap ways to reflect gamma rays, it would be a lot easier to build antimatter fueled photon rockets. Unfortunately, it's quite hard to reflect high energy photons except at very shallow angles of indicence. Either the person being interviewed is half-clued or the writer got something seriously wrong.
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