Terra-forming – From Earthlings to Martians

Opinion, Science — By on October 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm

By Raya Bidshahri, 1 Oct 2012

When astronomer Christian Hyugens’ observations first provided evidence of Mars being a planet, never did he or anyone else during his era imagine that a rover would, one day, wander about its surfaces. In addition to extending our sense of sight to the planet’s surfaces, little did they know that the human beings of their future would be speculating about colonizing the planet altogether.

It’s a good thing we live in such a colossal universe because we humans tend to be as destructive as we are intelligent. We are clearly not going to let Earth, our one and only home, last in peace. Global climate change, rising populations, and pressure on resources are no news to any of us. Sooner or later, we’re going to have to move to somewhere else and till date, there doesn’t seem to be any better back-up plan than our neighboring red planet.

This may sound startling at first because Mars is a fairly hostile region in the solar system. However, recent evidence seems to imply that is was once much more earth-like, with warmer climates and flowing rivers of water. Today, an increasing number of astronauts are beginning to believe that perhaps we will one day be able to transform the planet to suit our needs and then colonize it. With many planetary scientists like NASA’s Chris Mckay, “You just warm it up and throw some seeds” is the mentality with how exactly we’re going to do this.

One of the first steps with the red planet would be to warm it up to a suitable temperature and as seen with the global climate change, we human beings are pretty good at that. Releasing carbon dioxide, which is currently frozen in dirt and polar ice caps of the red planet, can make an atmosphere. This can be done perhaps with the use of space mirrors focusing sunlight on the ice. Along with increasing temperatures, it would also raise atmospheric pressure to a more suitable level.

Once this carbon dioxide has been released, rain would fall and water would flow once again creating the potential for premature life forms such as microbes, algae and lichen to grow. The next step would be to introduce flowering plants but only after the microbes have had time to make the soil as organic as possible. This will also lead to more oxygen content in the atmosphere.

It all sounds relatively simple and pretty achievable right? Unfortunately this entire plan is a thousand year project. It will take about a hundred years for an adequate amount of carbon dioxide to collect and before it starts raining. From there we can only introduce flowering plants about four hundred years later and will have to wait another three hundred years before we can build the first power stations. It would take even longer if we wish to have adequate oxygen in the atmosphere that allows us to walk around without breathing gear.

However, if human beings were to achieve such a wonderful thing, it would mean that our species have an even greater chance of survival in this seemingly endless and unpredictable universe. We would create a wonderful world for future human generations (who knows if they’ll even be ‘human’ by then).

I think it’s a thrilling prospect; that a species that was no different from any other animal would evolve to one day spread their existence across the universe. If we achieved this, it would mean that we truly no longer depend on the natural and biological processes that root us to this planet. Some may argue that the distance between Earth and Mars is nothing to show-off in the context of a universe as large as ours. But, it is after all a perfect first step. And who knows; with the rapid exponential growth of technology, this thousand-year-old project may soon be even easier to achieve in a lesser amount of time.

After all, we may not be the generation that would be officially termed “Martians”, but at least we’d be the generation that led to it.

 

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