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Life On Mars?

With the recent scientific expedition to Mars by NASA’s ‘Curiosity’ rover, many new questions and theories on future missions have been brought forth by experts in the field.

Since human colonization of our closest planetary neighbor is imminent, the steps to achieve this monumental production will need to be finalized soon.

One unanswered question is the topic of creating a permanent habitat, with the idea of adapting Mars into a “Second Earth”.

Since the Martian atmosphere is 95.3% carbon-dioxide, and only 0.2% oxygen, compared to Earth’s 0.1% carbon-dioxide and 20.9% oxygen, future colonization efforts will face some obstacles before achieving a near Earth-likeness.

This is where the idea of Terraforming comes into play.

The concept is simple: modifying a planet’s atmosphere, temperature, and terrain to mimic the biosphere of the Earth. Scientists have debated amongst themselves which method of transformation would be the most efficient to execute this plan, and have decided upon several ideas. Chief among them is the implementation of massive machines to pump out oxygen and suck in carbon.

These solar-powered mammoths would begin the lengthy task of cleaning up the Martian atmosphere and making it livable for long-term human colonization. The oxygenation process could take upwards of 100 years, which means that early human colonizers will still need space suits for surface activities.

Another mentionable plan is the creation of massive solar mirrors that will direct sunlight to the planet, thus increasing the temperature and burning carbon. The third most popular idea, and also likely the most difficult, would be to drag an asteroid towards the planet, with the idea of forcing an impact on the planet’s surface. This would create a mega-explosion that would release tons of gases necessary for an atmosphere, but would also leave the surface unlivable for up to 1,000 years.

It will be many hundreds or thousands of years until complete Mars’ terraformation by today’s standards, but as technology increases, so to do efficient means of accomplishing tasks in ways previously thought impossible.

Sources:

http://www.howstuffworks.com/terraforming.htm

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