Will humans ever live on Mars?
Mars - worth a trip soon?
Can you move to Mars anytime soon?
Could we "terraform" Mars? The answer is: It could probably be done. We now know that Mars was once warmer than it is today. There must have been rivers and large lakes. From our own experience, we now also know how to heat up a cool planet: by blowing enough greenhouse gases into its atmosphere. A large part of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that used to warm the red planet is still present - bound in the ice caps of the poles and in the ground. Frozen water was also detected. So it is technically feasible to let plants grow there again. You just need a lot of time and money.
“Most of the work,” says NASA planetary researcher Chris McKay, “will be done by life itself. We just have to raise the temperature a little and scatter a few seeds. ”To get the process going, perfluorocarbons (PFCs) can be extracted from the Martian surface. PFCs are effective greenhouse gases. As soon as the atmosphere heats up, frozen CO2 is released from the soil. An intensifying greenhouse effect arises. The air pressure rises, and at some point water will flow again. Human pioneers can “inoculate” the rocks with bacteria and lichens that thrive on Earth in Antarctica. Later, mosses are applied, then trees. Plants enrich the atmosphere with oxygen, but it will be many thousands of years before we can breathe them.
Robert Zubrin, the president of an organization for the colonization of Mars, is already dreaming of cities, but the NASA man Chris McKay sees the prospects more soberly: "We will live on Mars like the researchers do in Antarctica today" - in small stations without much comfort. But we could learn a lot from the experience of reshaping Mars in order to better preserve the earth in the future, he says. These are, of course, still mind games. First, NASA wants to land on the moon again, or on an asteroid. But even for that there is not enough money. What it would cost to green the Red Planet has not even been estimated.
The schedule for a potential settlement:
Arrivals:The 1000 year project could begin with a series of 18 month expeditions. Each team installs a small residential unit after their six-month flight to Mars.
100 years: the atmosphere becomes denser when the CO2 bound to the polar ice caps is released. To start the process, factories generate greenhouse gases; Sunlight concentrated with mirrors could also thaw ice.
200 years: Rain falls and water flows as soon as sufficient CO2 in the atmosphere has raised the mean temperature above freezing point. Bacteria, algae and lichens are beginning to colonize the stony desert.
600 years: Flowering plants are planted as soon as microbes have created a soil cover and produced enough oxygen. After all, earthly trees from northern latitudes could take root.
900 years:Energy for growing cities is initially produced by nuclear power plants and wind turbines. In the long run, the best electricity suppliers would be fusion reactors - if they can ever be built.
1000 years: Martians can only go outside with breathing equipment because the oxygen content of the air increases very slowly. In the long run, Mars will lose its atmosphere again and cool down again.
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