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Scientist Calls Mars a Terraforming Target

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago

Mars 575

Raver32 writes "Mars will be transformed into a shirt-sleeve, habitable world for humanity before century's end, made livable by thawing out the coldish climes of the red planet and altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. How best to carry out a fast-paced, decade by decade planetary face lift of Mars — a technique called "terraforming" — has been outlined by Lowell Wood, a noted physicist and recent retiree of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a long-time Visiting Fellow of the Hoover Institution. Lowell presented his eye-opening Mars manifesto at Flight School, held here June 20-22 at the Aspen Institute, laying out a scientific plan to "experiment on a planet we're not living on.""

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575 comments

Planting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19634799)

altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere.
So who's going there to plant and water the trees?

Re:Planting? (4, Interesting)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634833)

actually, it'd probably start out with photosynthetic bacteria, or plants that not need to be "planted", so much as just allow their seeds sit on the soil for a while.

Still, the article is written by a physicist, I'd rather see a biologists perspective on this one, involving life and all.

Re:Planting? (1)

hoojus (935220) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634917)

We can send the unemployed as part of the work for the dole scheme in Australia

Re:Planting? (3, Insightful)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634965)

I was wondering the other day if Mars soil had the nutrients in it to support our plantlife.

Anyone know of any botany research on the subject? I know we analyzed a few samples of Mars soil in the 70s.

You'd almost certainly have to start with (2, Interesting)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635173)

anaerobic bacteria, the kinds of things that are used to living in very hostile environments.

I'm more curious about where they expect to get the water. Sure, there may be a lot of it around, but the vapor pressure is going to be so low it would be very hard for bacteria to keep their water inside and not just instantly dry up.

Pity that Saturn's rings turned out to be dust instead of ice bergs. I keep thinking about that old Isaac Asimov story...

Re:Planting? (1)

bluelip (123578) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634995)

I'm all for advancement and colonization, but I wish I was more optimistic.

We can't fully understand our own atmosphere, how to we figure we can create one somewehere else?

I understand that we'd be starting w/ a "clean slate" with less variables. I hope to hear more ideas about what species to migrate.

Re:Planting? (5, Insightful)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635269)

Are you guys kidding me? You talk about terraforming as if it's just another trick we have in our arsenal, which it isn't. But, the technology aside, there are other issues that will trump that. For example, what about the militant lobby of folks who will undoubtedly make this into 'the evil humans rushing out to screw up another planet after they can't even keep a grip on their own?' You think Eco Terrorism is bad now, wait until someone starts moralizing on the idea of just commandeering a whole planet for experimental purposes. I personally think that it's as good of a laboratory as any, but I really think this would make the alarmist triply so. Think about it, what about property rights, mineral rights, and political philosophy, the interaction of religious idiots, and the mass media distortion... It's all just a huge cluster fsck waiting to happen, which is why I think it will never happen. I'd hope it does, but I don't see anything able to surmount those socio-political issues any time in the next couple of centuries, let alone the next 93 years.

Within 100 years (1)

Mylakovich (1101285) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634801)

This seems highly unlikely.

Marshalled will (2, Funny)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634901)

It is not technology, nor money, he said, the pacing ingredient is marshaled will.

Obviously this "Marshaled will" stuff must be the key ingredient that he's discovered. Just a pinch of that and planets magically become habitable.

Go to Mars Quaid... (5, Funny)

teknopurge (199509) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634803)

These guys obviously haven't seen Total Recall.

Re:Go to Mars Quaid... (0, Troll)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634843)

Perhaps it's immoral to terraform Mars. I mean, shouldn't we be preserving it for future generations or something? :)

Re:Go to Mars Quaid... (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635117)

Yeah, why wait until we've actually surveyed it for an existing ecosystem or other signs of life, when we can ensure there is life on Mars, if that's all we care about?

I mean, what value could learning about extraterrestrial life have, when it's at the closest planet for several light years likely to have some similar to ours? We'll study the next one, even though that means interstellar travel.

We've proven how carefully we protect environments when we don't understand them, right here on Earth, right?

Re:Go to Mars Quaid... (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634907)

These guys obviously haven't seen Total Recall.
Would that I could say the same.

Re:Go to Mars Quaid... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19634951)

And you obviously never read "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" [wikipedia.org] or you'd look at that film differently ;-)

KSR wrote it first (3, Insightful)

jdray (645332) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634807)

Nope, haven't RTFA, but Kim Stanley Robinson laid out what at least one NASA guy has said was more or less a roadmap to terraforming Mars.

Re:KSR wrote it first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635003)

they weren't the only ones to discuss terraforming...
gundam wing FTW!

MARS! (0, Troll)

LordBafford (1087463) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634815)

Where the buggalo roam... and monkeys where hats.

Fuck up a perfectly good joke! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635263)

What kind of monkey is too dumb to spell a four letter word correctly? WTF???

It's wear, dumbass. "Where" refers to location.

Mods, this is a flame. That makes the parent flamebait. Pls mod accordingly. Semiliterate dyslexics should not be posting on a site with "news for nerds" in its masthead!

Go back to fark, kid. Come back when you reach puberty.

Gee, Wally (4, Funny)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634835)

Jeepers, what is this foreign concept called "terraforming [wikipedia.org] " [that's been discussed for at least 50 years] - I'll try looking for information on this new resource called the Inter-Net and report my findings as soon as possible.

Wish me luck.

Re:Gee, Wally (1)

stuntpope (19736) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634931)

Exactly. I recall Carl Sagan discussing it at least 25 years ago, possibly even on the Cosmos series.

Re:Gee, Wally (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634941)

Jeepers, what is this foreign concept called "terraforming [wikipedia.org]" [that's been discussed for at least 50 years] - I'll try looking for information on this new resource called the Inter-Net and report my findings as soon as possible.

Wish me luck.
Step away from the computer, Mr. President. Here, I have a nice shiny thing for you.

Re:Gee, Wally (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635169)

Plus ça change...in 1982 when the film Conan the Barbarian came out, excited movie reviewers announced the invention of a new fiction form called "sword and sorcery".

rj

Terraforming... (4, Interesting)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634837)

I always wondered if terraforming could just be done my massive planting of hardy fauna. A ton of trees (like a rainforest), should drastically change even weather patterns...I always thought that it would be an interesting experiment for a lander to plant - and tend - some cacti or something and see what would happen over time.

I do think that the time span is a bit idealistic, and doesn't account for the Law of Unintended Consequences, but the idea is sound.

Re:Terraforming... (2)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634937)

depends on the planet.

If the planet has little/no water or 'stuff-that-can-be-made-to-water', and/or little or little/no oxygen that can be put into the atmosphere (with respect to the size of the planet, not an absolute "little" here), then it'll take more than just tossing some hearty growing things on the planet.

As for 100 years, it depends on what they plant, but that seems fairly reasonable, if they can find something both (a) hearty enough, and (b) fast growing enough. I saw a project reling on Kudzu, but that stuff is not hearty to environmental extremes and probably couldn't be trivially made to survive the martian environment (it requires near-tropical environments).

The problem is that "hearty" does not fit well with the K type philosophy of reporduction (reproduce fast and wild, without a minimum expenditure of energy for any individual or offspring - short lives, lots of reproducing - example: a fly is K type, humans are not).

Re:Terraforming... (2, Funny)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635045)

If the planet has little/no water or 'stuff-that-can-be-made-to-water', and/or little or little/no oxygen that can be put into the atmosphere (with respect to the size of the planet, not an absolute "little" here), then it'll take more than just tossing some hearty growing things on the planet.
Maybe if they're lucky, they'll find a nuclear reactor left behind by an ancient alien civilization that would melt the vast quantities of ice hidden beneath Mars's surface, thereby giving the red planet an almost instantaneous atmosphere!

Re:Terraforming... (3, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635083)

call me nuts, but the idea of breating an atmosphere of water vapor leaves me breathless...

Re:Terraforming... (1)

svyyn (530783) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635215)

The problem is that "hearty" does not fit well with the K type philosophy of reporduction (reproduce fast and wild, without a minimum expenditure of energy for any individual or offspring - short lives, lots of reproducing - example: a fly is K type, humans are not).

Hearty fits very well with K strategists. I think you mean r-type.

Re:Terraforming... (4, Interesting)

badasscat (563442) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635067)

I always wondered if terraforming could just be done my massive planting of hardy fauna. A ton of trees (like a rainforest), should drastically change even weather patterns...I always thought that it would be an interesting experiment for a lander to plant - and tend - some cacti or something and see what would happen over time.

The problem is you need to raise the temperature of the atmosphere in order for most anything to grow, because there's no precipitation. The cycle can't begin until you've done that first step.

I haven't RTFA, but there was a show on Discovery Channel a while back where one of the guys who had designed a series of Mars missions for Lockheed/NASA back in the 80's (and he's still fighting for them) had proposed actually building a bunch of factories on Mars whose sole output would be greenhouse gases. Their entire purpose would be to just pump billions of tons of what we'd call pollutants on Earth into the Martian atmosphere. Supposedly you could raise the planet's temperature by 10 degrees over 100 years using this method, which would be enough to start releasing the water trapped in the ground as ice into the atmosphere, creating clouds and precipitation for plants. Then you could start planting forests, which would thrive in the CO2-rich Martian atmosphere and would begin to create the oxygen we need to breathe.

Humans could live on Mars as the terraforming process was ongoing, but they would need to be in enclosed colonies until the process was complete. Eventually, though, they'd be able to venture out into an Earth-like world.

I'm curious to see how the author of this article thinks the process could be sped up - the Discovery show said it would take thousands of years given current technology before the air would be both warm enough to live in and breathable for humans.

Re:Terraforming... (5, Insightful)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635185)

You really just don't get how hostile Mars actually is. On average, at the summit of Mt. Everest, air pressure is several hundred times what it is on Mars, and it's 60F warmer than on Mars, and nothing grows there. Antarctica is even balmier than Mt. Everest, and still nothing significant grows there. And those places at least have plenty of clean water.

No need to tend... (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635241)

Just send some hardy plants/seeds/spores on a probe.

All you need to do to plant them is to hire the right caliber contractor to handle the landing...
There is plenty of experience in this area already.

"Will"? (5, Insightful)

Phanatic1a (413374) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634841)

Seems a bit too declarative, doesn't it?

Mars will be transformed into a shirt-sleeve, habitable world for humanity before century's end, made livable by thawing out the coldish climes of the red planet and altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere.


Mars doesn't have a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere. Mars doesn't have an anything-rich atmosphere. Yes, what atmosphere Mars has is mostly CO2, but what atmosphere Mars has is actually a pretty decent approximation of vacuum; the thickest parts of it are barely 1% of typical atmospheric pressure on earth.

The whole article doesn't actually include any specifics, it's just handwaving of the "and then a miracle occurs" sort:

Overall, Wood said that a workable plan can be scripted to raise the average temperature of Mars, rid the world of excess carbon dioxide, as well as generate soil to support agriculture.


Right. We'll get right on that. We only have 93 years to go, according to this article.

Re:"Will"? (1)

jimmyfrank (1106681) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634927)

The specifics are out there, we have to get there first. Some people think we have everything we need to get there now.

Re:"Will"? (5, Insightful)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635155)

"The specifics are out there"

What does that mean? Mars doesn't have enough gravity to hold enough gas at its current temperature. If we warm it up, that problem increases. You can't just wish that problem away. Mars doesn't need heat or oxygen to be Earth-like. Mars needs mass.

Re:"Will"? (2, Insightful)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635233)

+1 Absolutely correct

If Mars doesn't have the gravity to hold a viable atmosphere, then we'll have to build enclosures that contain their own atmosphere. If we're doing that, then there's no real difference between colonizing Mars vs colonizing the moon.

Re:"Will"? (1)

Orp (6583) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635011)

Indeed. No specifics whatsoever. I mean, the scale of this is mind boggling. Consider the Earth's atmosphere is about 78% nitrogen, providing much of the mass that gives us comfortable pressures. What gas will fill this role on Mars? Also, where is all the water going to come from? There is a lot of evidence of lots of water having flowed on Mars in the past, but that was billions of years ago. And finally, where is the oxygen going to come from? How can you liberate all that breathable oxygen from the iron oxide soil, which I would imagine where it would come from? The amount of energy required to to these things is absolutely mind boggling.

Finally consider the fact that Mars' mass is considerably less than that of the Earth, and that being able to gravitationally bind a terrestrial atmosphere may not be feasible in the long run.

Without any specifics, I put this guy in the loony-bin category.

Re:"Will"? (2, Interesting)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635145)

Yes, what atmosphere Mars has is mostly CO2, but what atmosphere Mars has is actually a pretty decent approximation of vacuum; the thickest parts of it are barely 1% of typical atmospheric pressure on earth.
I've often wondered about this. If you did manage to create an atmosphere on Mars, would there be sufficient gravity there to keep it in place, or would it simply drift off into space?

Then who owns Mars? (5, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634853)

This is an interesting question for property rights theorists. Many people adhere to some sort of Lockean view that by modifying this untouched land, the terraforming organization then owns all of Mars. But then some would say it's a sort of "common heritage" that can't be so privatized. It's also extremely difficult to just terraform "one part" of Mars. (Imagine keeping one part at 1 atm and the rest at Mars's regular atmospheric pressure.)

Regardless, anyone who goes through the expense of terraforming Mars, even a government, is going to want some assurance that the rest of humanity won't leech off their work.

Re:Then who owns Mars? (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634947)

Don't worry, we'll just fight wars for it. If there were native inhabitants, we'd already have a good ol' fashioned genocide underway.

Re:Then who owns Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19634979)

Easy, property of the U.S. government.

Re:Then who owns Mars? (2, Interesting)

not-quite-rite (232445) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635029)

But doesn't the idea of property at this level extend to only what you can control?

If you can't stop people from using it, then it pretty much belongs to whoever holds the ground(or who ships them supplies).

It's like a saying I heard: Air support can only deny territory. Infantry occupies it.

Re:Then who owns Mars? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635043)

I've been having this debate on a forum I started (link in sig). I hold that in order to have territory, one has to have a common set of rules among interested parties, and a means to enforce those rules.

Without the common set of rules, territory becomes a matter of who can enforce their claims.

Re:Then who owns Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635099)

Yeah? Well, just wait until one of those two little robots we have there now gets eaten by a giant worm [wikipedia.org] . Possesion or sale of worm shit [wikipedia.org] will surely be a felony resulting in a prison term, just like some other beneficial natural substances [wikipedia.org] .

really not so complicated (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635153)

trace the evolution of the hudson bay company [wikipedia.org] into modern canada: i don't see the mass of canadian citizens as serfs of a corporation. the colonizaiton of mars under corporate provenance would probably have a similar uncontroversial and mundane development arc. in fact, any such corporate colonization of mars under government oversight would probably consult a historical study of the hudson bay company directly as a model for potential pitfalls to avoid

i'm sorry, but in reailty, the balance between individual rights and corporate provenance isn't so difficult or immobile. there is no massive conflicts, and the hudson bay company still exists today: what was once the corporate master of much of north america is now simply a department store [hbc.com] . but of course, you read most science fiction, or talk to a paranoid schizophrenic, or even consult certain lowest common denominator youth subcultures, and you get the impression that corporations are these unstoppable sociopathic vampires out to turn you into an unthinking slave. hardly. reality is just not that interesting, sorry

Re:Then who owns Mars? (2, Insightful)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635159)

As with anything else, property rights on Mars will go to those with the ability to enforce them. International "nobody owns this place" treaties like those governing Antarctica and the Moon are only useful as long as those places have nothing of value. In the end, if a region is worth occupying, only those with the weapons needed to keep others out will really "own" the land.

Free Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19634857)

The sand will be colored red with the blood of Earther scum!

Necessity Breeds Invention (1)

ma11achy (150206) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634859)

Only when the political will to do so is required, say population explosion
is causing massive food/energy shortages will something like this possibly
be considered.

It is a wonderful dream, but currently only a dream.

Unless, of course - private investment decides to leap on the bandwagon.
How about corporate rights to an entire planet?

Re:Necessity Breeds Invention (2, Informative)

grub (11606) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634921)


Only when the political will to do so is required, say population explosion is causing massive food/energy shortages will something like this possibly be considered.

It costs huge amounts of money to send every kilogram to orbit let alone Mars. If they do get Mars to a colonizable state anytime soon they won't be sending millions of Average Joe's to live there anytime soon.

Obligatory (2, Funny)

inviolet (797804) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634867)

RIPLEY: "How many colonists on LV426?"
VAN LEUWEN: "Sixty, maybe seventy families."
RIPLEY: "Families..."

Ooooh (0)

McNihil (612243) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634869)

'Join the off-world colonies. A chance to begin again in a new
exciting world of opportunity and adventure!'

an oh mods... that would be Bladerunner.

Must we Meddle? (1, Insightful)

EchoD (1031614) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634873)

I understand the urge to better our environment. Technology is my passion, vocation, and hobby. I just have one question... do we need to change everything we set our eyes upon? (Let's not get into some of the more bizarre sides of Quantum Theory here).

Let's face it, some of the more remote — thus, undeveloped — regions of Earth remain the most beautiful. We still can't match nature's own ability to take care of itself — not that Nature doesn't destroy environments, but there's no one species to blame.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea, I might actually enjoy life on Mars... if I live to see it happen. I'm just wondering if we really need to try to make everything we see "better".

Re:Must we Meddle? (1)

Overd0g (232552) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635195)

"Beautiful" is subjective, survival isn't. Just change what you think "beautiful" is, and the problem goes away. There is plenty of beauty in the universe, just don't obsess on some arbitrary region of the earth.

Re:Must we Meddle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635271)

please, just shut up. that's all i ask of you, for you to never open your stupid cakehole again.

Two problems I'm not seeing addressed here (5, Informative)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634881)

First, Mars does not have a magnetosphere. This helps fend off the worst of the cosmic radiation here on Earth. What does he propose to replace it? The article is light on the details. Second, isn't the understanding still that Mars has insufficient gravity to preserve its atmosphere and so the solar wind strips the atoms and molecules right off the top, thus explaining the low pressure we see today? How do you counter that?

Re:Two problems I'm not seeing addressed here (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635095)

How strong a magnetic field is required to deflect radiation over a dome of, say, 1km?

While I wouldn't try doing it with an electromagnet, a strong enough permanent magnet might protect individual settlements.

Re:Two problems I'm not seeing addressed here (5, Informative)

ekasteng (683332) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635111)

If I had mod points I'd give you one. If my memory is correct, Earth's spinning liquid metal core is what gives us our magnetosphere, and protects our upper atmosphere from getting "sandblasted" away by the solar wind. Mars doesn't have a magnetoshpere, which is the reason why some astronomers think its core has cooled and is solid. Without that magnetosphere, the solar wind will just blast whatever atmosphere we put on it away.

Re:Two problems I'm not seeing addressed here (3, Interesting)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635123)

Which brings us to the question of why we're looking at Mars at all, and instead we don't turn our cameras to Venus.

Venus is nearly the same mass as Earth so it has roughly the same gravity. The surface is a lot hotter and the atmosphere is a lot denser, but it seems to me it'd be much more feasible to scrub an atmosphere than invent a new one, all someone needs to do is come up with a solution (or multitude of solutions) for turning the bulk CO2 of the Venusian atmosphere into something else (perhaps hydrocarbons, carbon nanotubes, hell it could be graphite or diamonds for whatever reason).

Venus doesn't have a magnetosphere either, but it at least maintains its atmosphere and perhaps if it were left at least more dense than our atmosphere it would protect people from the radiation of space (or perhaps with the same machines we invent to do CO2 scrubbing we can make an Ozone layer too?)

Hell, if we were so bold as to do it, we could ship the gasses off Venus and onto Mars and inhabit both. Venus should still have plenty of atmosphere after we've bled off the excess junk within it to remain habitable. (I guess the only real question left is water, which we'd have to convert from whatever trace we could pull out of the atmosphere).

Re:Two problems I'm not seeing addressed here (1)

Enrique1218 (603187) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635299)

The magnetosphere is suppose to protect the atmosphere from being blown away by the solar wind.

Re:Two problems I'm not seeing addressed here (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635367)

Finally somebody brought this up. If I had mod points, you'd get one.

Presumably if we could create enough of an atmosphere, we could produce a small magnetosphere like the one on Venus to help protect the surface from radiation. We would have to keep replenishing it though, since as you said the solar wind will continuously strip it away.

I would think that Venus would be a better target for terraforming in the long run.

A warning to early terraformers... (2, Funny)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634885)

If you see any egg shaped pods, run away.

Re:A warning to early terraformers... (4, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634989)

If you see any egg shaped pods, run away.
Yeah, not sure if I could stomach any more seasons of Mork and Mindy either.

Not if we could, but should we (0)

dgr73 (1055610) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634889)

Sure, terraforming isn't going to be that difficult considering the technology we have. Methinks the biggest hurdle will be getting enough Ford Super-Duty's transported to Mars.

The question is why should we mess up Mars, we're just barely starting on the road to fix the damage we've done to our own planet.

Re:Not if we could, but should we (3, Insightful)

Liquidrage (640463) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635197)

The question is why should we mess up Mars, we're just barely starting on the road to fix the damage we've done to our own planet.

Yes, I'd hate to ruin all that prinstine forest over there on the red planet.
I couldn't care less about "ruining" currently lifeless worlds. Even if we found something similar to bacteria I wouldn't care if we went in there and "ruined" it by putting life on the same planet.
Only worlds like Europa where there's a least the potential for some multi-cellular life as we know it would I proceed with caution.
Life is special and we should put it everywhere we can. While potentially we might be messing with some Martian nano-scale bacteria and the like, the risks are far outweighed by the gains.

Oh, and as far as "ruining" Earth goes. We are a product of the Earth. Humans are natural. We're life and evolved from the same process that gave us sharks and walnuts and horses. We're probably Earth's most precious resource because we're the lone form of life that can get to other planets, that can spread out beyond Earth. The Earth is far from ruined, it still supports trillons and trillons of individual life forms. And one form of life, us, is just getting capable of one of the greatest achievements possible. Spreading life out beyond the planet it formed on.

ISS But bigger (1)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634891)

As a bonus, we can just use the huge underground alien terraforming equipment that is already installed!!

Whilst terraforming a nearby planet seems interesting, I would like to see more investment of both research and cash into either orbital habitats or preferably mobile space habitats. The idea of living on a large space station seems to me to be more interesting than settling a different planet... Oh whilst Im on the subject,- a FTL drive, I'd like one of those, plus a teleportation device, oh and a replicator, a light saber, a rocket pack, some sort of time machine....

Mod Parent Up, plz... here's why: (2, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635275)

We don't even know 100% for certain (political and environ-assertions aside) if we're capable of modifying temperatures on Earth by a couple of degrees over 200+ years of industrialization... and this guy suggests that we can jack up an atmosphere 100x thinner, w/ 100x the CO2, by at least 100+ degrees Fahrenheit, in less than 100 years?

We're not even counting the gravity well penalties of getting back and forth that'll be present, at least within the next 100 years.

Personally, I prefer what Parent is suggesting - let's concentrate (for now) on putting large orbital colonies in nearby space within this century, plus a couple on the moon (where the gravity isn't so much of a hassle).

We can explore Mars in the interim, and once we manage to overcome gravity easily enough later, then we can start parking folks there in large numbers.

/P

Altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere (4, Insightful)

Malc (1751) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634893)

If that's so easy, then I expect they'll be applying the same principles on Earth. No need to worry about global warming at home then?

Too late for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19634905)

I'm already 55, I won't be alive anywhere near the century's end. And my youngest daughter won't likely even be around, as she'll be 113 in the year 2100. =(

In fact, it's doubtful any of us will see Mars terraformed. If you're ten years old now, you'll be 103 in 2100.

That is, unless they find a cure for old age and death, in which case we're really really going to need a few extra planets.

-mcgrew

Re:Too late for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635211)

It won't happen anyway. Hillary will cancel the space program as soon as she's elected, and the money will go to social programs. The Russians have no resources left, China is all bluster, Europe is not interested in manned exploration, only money.

The dream of space has died. Deal with it. We're bound forever to this planet, to extinction.

Global Warming (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19634909)

So we are hesitant to raise the temperature of our own planet, but its the first thing we want to do to the new one!

Uhm... (1, Insightful)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634911)

...we can't seem to do a good job of controlling problems with climate, etc. in our own world - shouldn't we focus on that first?

The United States Must Claim Mars (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634919)

I think it is obvious that the USA should claim the planet Mars and militarize it. Adding that much real estate to the USA would provide a huge amount of national wealth. Imagine, the first interplanetary empire! :-)

Re:The United States Must Claim Mars (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635061)

And leave the moon to the Chinese? I don't think that will play well with the neo-Roman crowd at home.

In all seriousness. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635331)

We really need to claim both. The idea, really, is that people are stupid and compete to get anything. If you say, we all get to share the planet, its essentially worthless. However, if the USA says "we're claiming the moon and mars", then, the Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Indians will all start to spend enormous amounts of money on space hardware as well. The USA will then respond by drawing down its own traditional, but gargantuan military, to match the combined spending of all of them. This will fuel an enormous space race, getting the things like nuclear rockets, bigger ships, orbiting construction facilities, that we really need to get people off of earth and onto other planets, with the added benefit that wars would be fought in space, and not on earth, sparing those of us who would prefer to live in peace at home.

Re:The United States Must Claim Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635329)

Oh, that's not gonna happen anytime soon. Americans aren't just smart enough to terraform anything else but anything they do not want to.

Hands off (1, Interesting)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634953)

I hate to be the Luddite in the room, but given our track record on this planet, I'm not really sure I want us to be inflicting our particular brand of 'progress' on another world. At least not until we know a little bit more about what we'd be losing in terms of the current Martian environment (such as it is). Until then, maybe we should just stick to the planet we're already monkeying around with.

Erm... (4, Insightful)

rumith (983060) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634957)

Why Mars? Why not Antarctic glaciers, Gobi desert, Kazakh wastelands, Belarus swamps and Alaskan tundra? Hey, the good old Earth has places that model the conditions of pretty much every planet you can imagine [hazardous included], except perhaps gas giants. Now, where do I go to have the illusion of being on the ancient Foth of Avalars...

Re:Erm... (2, Insightful)

LuxMaker (996734) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635251)

Any place on Earth is subject to mass extinction by Nuclear Biological Chemical attack, as well as the unlikely asteroid collision.

insurance (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635319)

if a killer asteroid or supervolcano or osama bin laden with a bunch of nukes/ viruses/ nasty nanotech threatens to kill civilization on earth, the other inhabitted orb will survive. of course, mars or venus won't survive a cosmic event like the sun going red giant or a neighboring star going supernova, or a wayward blackhole moving through the neighborhood,

but just as it would be easier to colonize the marianas trench than mars as you point out, it also would easier to colonize mars than some far off star system. so it's a good first step to give us a junior level insurance policy before we get the gold star insurance policy by colonizing another the solar system

and furthermore, we probably will terraform our own planet earth... just to counteract global warming. some people like to play blame games about global warming, but a real engineer just wants to get the job done of fixing the problem. such as seeding dead areas of the ocean with iron to cause plankton blooms to sequester CO2 to the deep in the form of dead microorganisms

Getting off the rock (5, Informative)

the_kanzure (1100087) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634975)

Copied from my notes [heybryan.org] :
  • The Artemis Project [asi.org] - The project is a private venture to establish a permanent, self-supporting community on the Moon. Brief overview of the Artemis project [asi.org] .
  • The Mars Society [marssociety.org] - To further the goal of the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.
  • The Moon Society [moonsociety.org] - An international nonprofit educational and scientific foundation formed to further the creation of communities on the Moon involving large-scale industrialization and private enterprise.
  • National Space Society [nss.org] - grassroots organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Magazine [space.com] .
  • Stanford on the Moon [spaceagepub.com] (by 2015?) And yes, Stanford as in the university.
  • Space Frontier Foundation [space-frontier.org] - seems to have projects for space colonization, missions to the Earth's moon, and so on. Looks like a large scale organization.
  • The Space Settlement Initiative [spacesettlement.org]
  • Space Access Society [space-access.org] - activism for getting out of the NASA-only paradigm/reality.
  • Students for the Exploration and Development of Space [seds.org] - `... is dedicated to expanding the role of human exploration and development of space. We also seek to educate the public in such a way as to attain this goal. `
  • Space Studies Institute [ssi.org] - `SSI's stated mission is: Opening the energy and material resources of space for human benefit by completing the missing technological links to make possible the productive use of the abundant resources in space.`
  • International Space University [isunet.edu] - `The International Space University provides graduate-level training to the future leaders of the emerging global space community at its Central Campus in Strasbourg, France, and at locations around the world. ` (mentions 'systems engineering' on the About page)
  • Space Settlement Institute [space-sett...titute.org] - `The Space Settlement Institute is a non-profit association founded to help promote the human colonization and settlement of outer space. `
  • Cygo's Space Initiative [cygo.com] - plan and conduct exploration missions to minor planets, build and mass produce (while in space) a multi-purpose interconnectable module, and to offer products and services using space and the materials therefrom.
  • Freeluna [freeluna.com] - `Freeluna.com is dedicated to the proposition that the colonization of outer space is critical for the long term survival of the human species, and that colonization of the moon and the exploitation of the moon's natural resources is one of the very best first steps in that incredible journey off planet.` ... and when I first visited this page, I was visitor #3371. Yikes. Contact: Bill Clawson, wclawson@freeluna.com
  • Island One Society [islandone.org] - associated with the Artemis society, seems to be mostly a resource-help site.
  • The Living Universe Foundation [luf.org] - `The Living Universe Foundation seeks to bring the galaxy alive with life from Earth, while healing the damage that humanity has already inflicted upon the Earth. We believe that expansion into space in the immediate future is a step towards accomplishing this aim.` turmith@yahoo.com --- This organization was inspired by the publication of a certain book. This is heavily related to Project Atlantis or Oceania [oceania.org] (artifical floating city out in the sea) which is now defunct.
  • NASA [nasa.gov] , but certainly not activism.
  • European Space Agency [esa.int]
  • American Lunar Society [amlunsoc.org] - for the study of the Earth's moon
  • And while I am at it, there are some more links here [orionsarm.com] though they are not all directly practical.

Genesis? (1)

skitle (555418) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634981)

Why not just shoot a Genesis torpedo at it....Bingo Bango...instant habital planet! Until it explodes from the inside-out!

Wow! (1, Funny)

no-body (127863) | more than 6 years ago | (#19634999)

Impressive! Almost done messing up one planet & on to the next one.


Excellent priorities!

Re:Wow! (1)

Overd0g (232552) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635277)

Messed up in what way? When earth wasn't "messed up", the human species was a fraction of what it is today. All life strives to maximize it's biological footprint, and we're no different. We're so successful, we need more planets. Presumably a perfectly "unmessed up planet" would be devoid of humans, most notably you.

what's the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635005)

it is not like we are running into a land shortage over here - heck there will hardly be anyone left in 93 years - thank to short term government policies and that friends sitcom hmmm yeah 'friends' nuked the planet with all that selfish acceptability garbage.

now where are my pecan sandies?

two things (3, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635009)

1. a century? maybe 500-1,000 years, even with a massive economic and political commitment and AFTER the miraculous technological breakthroughs

2. why does venus get such short thrift? i'm thinking along the lines of energy investment and simple entropy: in my mind, to precipitate matter out of an atmosphere, and to dissipate heat, seems to be an easier task than accumulating atmospheric mass and stoking atmospheric heat. yes, even with runaway, geometric catalyst-driven processes, i think it is easier to destroy than it is to create. of course, to do this to venus will be excedingly difficult. but why do you think mars would be easier?

but we should terraform mars and venus as soon as we can, regardless

here's an idea (4, Insightful)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635021)

Why don't we "terraform" the Sahara desert, the Gobi desert, Antarctica, and the various dust bowls around the world before trying to tackle Mars.

Right now, we can't even keep existing, fertile land from turning into desert right here on earth, with plenty of water and air around.

Re:here's an idea (1)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635213)

No no, that's much too practical. I propose we colonize Jupiter next!!

Re:here's an idea (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635287)

Yes, I know humans have made several of those much larger. On a more serious note, something tells me that the climate on mars would be much easier to simulate for the time being. It would actually be a more controlled environment than the earth could ever be.

Re:here's an idea (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635325)

[insert random "what gives us the right to change something natural comment here"]

Yes, I know humans have made several of those much larger.

On a more serious note, something tells me that the climate on mars would be much easier to simulate for the time being. It would actually be a more controlled environment than the earth could ever be.

My stupid post was messed up.

Re:here's an idea (1)

leehwtsohg (618675) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635353)

Because if we release killer bacteria into the atmosphere to create oxygen and everything goes horribly wrong we haven't lost the only planet we still have...

I hate to be negative, but (4, Informative)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635063)

Mars will NEVER be habitable.
We'd have to find a way to get its dead core molten and spinning again. Otherwise solar radiation will just flay off any atmosphere we try to put there.

Maybe we could live on Mars in domes or sealed caves but I doubt we'll ever be walking about in the open on its surface.

Re:I hate to be negative, but (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635217)

Don't you dare terraform Mars. My family lives there. We'd hate you all. if it weren't for these all-natural body suits we wear here on Earth, we'd be unable to stand your awful hot moist planet. Unfortunately, the suits degrade after a few years and we have to change them for new fresh ones.

Home soil? (1)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635133)

Just be sure not to piss off the local, crystalline, computer-like life-forms [wikipedia.org] inhabiting the crust, you ugly bags of mostly water.

A short movie outlining the terraforming process (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19635163)

Two weeks ago I found a short movie that outlines the exact terraforming process that is mentioned in TFA. It's rather short, but it has many fascinating details I don't usually find in non-acdemic reviews of the terraforming process and its dangers. Mars=>Earth: The Movie [tinyurl.com]

Robots Will Colonize Mars (5, Interesting)

Zobeid (314469) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635181)

Terraforming Mars is neither necessary nor desirable. Within perhaps 50 years we could easily have human-level AI and advanced robotics. Such robots could be designed for the Martian environment as it exists now. It will prove much easier to adapt our descendants -- our mind children -- to Mars (and many other environments that are hostile to humans) than it would ever be to adapt Mars to us.

In fact, the more optimistic transhumanists would tend to assume that people alive today may see a time when they can upload or upgrade into an advanced robotic form themselves -- so it wouldn't even necessarily be our remote sort-of-descendants who colonize Mars, it could be us, suitably transformed.

Conventional wisdom is that Mars will be explored by robots, then colonized by humans. I turn that idea on it's head. Humans will explore Mars -- today's robotic probes are too crude and limited, so that a single manned expedition could do scientific work that would take decades, maybe centuries, with robots. The other side of that coin is that 50-100 years from now humans will become obsolete for space travel and colonization. The people who actually live on Mars and build a society there will be synthetic people, not homo sapiens.

What about the Earth? (1, Redundant)

lbmouse (473316) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635205)

Shouldn't we worry about fixing our own planet before worrying about another one?

Quite the opposite! (1)

archeopterix (594938) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635311)

Shouldn't we worry about fixing our own planet before worrying about another one?
You've got it all backwards - the whole point of terraforming Mars is ditch this stupid planet once and for good. Yay for SUVs and whaleskin trousers!

Misread that.. (2, Funny)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635261)

"Scientist Calls Mars a Terrorism Target"

Forget it... (1)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635273)

Unless they have a way to re-create the Martian magnetic field they can forget the terraforming...

Cue the exo-evironmentalists. (1)

pragma_x (644215) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635313)

Every time I see a story about terraformimg mars, by radically altering the global atmosphere and environment there, I wonder about what might be lost in the process, and who might blow that out of proportion.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for turning the place into an offworld paradise if it's at all possible. But what about those that will oppose such actions on the basis of loosing billions of years of geologic history in the process*. Better yet, how about those that simply believe in the perservation of things as they are, without human intervention, simply on principle.

If there's one thing that Slashdot has taught me: never underestimate the power of a mob of self-righteous "environmentalists" with entirely too much money and free time on their hands. The idea of an ugly mob of "Protect Mars" activists protesting a rocket launch almost seems like a possible outcome from all this.

(* assuming that changing the atmosphere will alter how erosion and Martian weather works)

Re:Cue the exo-evironmentalists. (1)

aldousd666 (640240) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635363)

lol, you must have been posting this as I was posting mine on basically the same subject. Those crazy slashdotters.

The pessimistic view (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 6 years ago | (#19635315)

Mars will be transformed into a shirt-sleeve, habitable world for humanity before century's end, made livable by thawing out the coldish climes of the red planet and altering its now carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere.

And then we'll go there with our SUVs and crap the whole place up again.
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