What is Terraforming: Definition and 19 Discussions

Terraforming or terraformation (literally, "Earth-shaping") is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology of a planet, moon, or other body to be similar to the environment of Earth to make it habitable by Earth-like life.
The concept of terraforming developed from both science fiction and actual science. Carl Sagan, an astronomer, proposed the planetary engineering of Venus in 1961, which is considered one of the first accounts of the concept. The term was coined by Jack Williamson in a science-fiction short story ("Collision Orbit") published in 1942 in Astounding Science Fiction, although terraforming in popular culture may predate this work.
Even if the environment of a planet could be altered deliberately, the feasibility of creating an unconstrained planetary environment that mimics Earth on another planet has yet to be verified. While Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and even the Moon have been studied in relation to the subject, Mars is usually considered to be the most likely candidate for terraforming. Much study has been done concerning the possibility of heating the planet and altering its atmosphere, and NASA has even hosted debates on the subject. Several potential methods for the terraforming of Mars may be within humanity's technological capabilities, but at present, the economic resources required to do so are far beyond that which any government or society is willing to allocate to it.
The long timescales and practicality of terraforming are also the subject of debate. As the subject has gained traction, research has expanded to other possibilities including biological terraforming, paraterraforming, and modifying humans to better suit the environments of planets and moons. Despite this, questions still remain in areas relating to the ethics, logistics, economics, politics, and methodology of altering the environment of an extraterrestrial world, presenting issues to the implementation of the concept.

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  1. .Scott

    Adding CF4 to the Martian Atmosphere (terraforming)

    There are several possible goals related to terraforming Mars. In the short term, Earthling visitors will need to stay indoors or venture out only in pressure suits. But there would be enormous convenience and safety benefits in raising the Martian atmospheric surface pressure from it current...
  2. Algr

    Terraforming the Pre-Earth? (Algol's video)

    I find this video absolutely amazing, and have watched it over a dozen times now. It helps if you can use the spacebar to pause it and read the text, and arrow keys to back up 5 seconds. - This is NOT phone friendly! Big monitor and 1440p recommended. So two different questions for...
  3. G

    B Mars Terraforming: NASA & Beyond - Plans & Prospects

    What are NASA's or any other space agency's current plans at terraforming Mars? I know we have a sequence of rover missions lined up, but are they aimed at anywhere? Before heading to college, I came to the conclusion that Mars ultimately lacked provenance because it had oddly shaped moons...
  4. Rubidium_71

    Could Terraforming Ceres with a Smart Diamond Shell Be Possible?

    In an ebook I read recently, the author has a future society construct a shell around Ceres consisting of transparent orbital panels that are joined together into a solid sphere. They are made from a smart material of some kind, referred to as "Smart Diamond" that allows in sunlight but blocks...
  5. B

    How far are we from these milestones/technologies?

    I am in the process of writing a book, or at least attempting to, and I would like feedback regarding a couple of aspects of what I am writing about, such as your opinion how long until these technologies exist (or if they ever can or not,) difficulties needing to be overcome, etc., or if you...
  6. T

    I Where in our solar system are asteroids that contain ammonia

    Hi! I'm doing a research project titled "Is it possible to colonise Mars?" I'm currently researching how to raise the temperature and pressure - and I've discovered to do this that re-directing asteroids towards Mars containing Ammonia would be vital. However, where do these asteroids that...
  7. J

    I Terraforming Mars by using Europa

    Hi, Do you think there is any feasibility at all to terraform Mars be crashing Europa into it? Of course, you have the near impossible task of knocking Europa out of Jupiter's orbit and guiding into Mars without ruining its orbit...but if it worked maybe this would give Mars the extra mass...
  8. J

    I Terraforming Mars: Possibility or Pipe Dream?

    Hey guys, I am doing a project for two of my classes, technical writing and Unifying Concepts in Physics. I am researching the feasibility of terraforming Mars to present for my final presentation. I need to present some quantitative data by putting out a survey, so here are two questions I'd...
  9. N

    Can UV Light be the Key to Changing Venus' Atmosphere?

    I thought a bit about the prospect of terraforming other worlds starting with the ones closest to us, Mars and Venus. Personally even though I don't mind the hype over Mars, I prefer thinking of Venus as the main target for terraforming. it's just a lot more tempting. for example: It's surface...
  10. Stephanus

    B Terraforming Venus: Why Nobody Discusses It?

    Dear PF Forum, Why nobody ever thinks of terraforming Venus? Many propose Mars, even as far as Europa (not the continent!) or Titan. Mars has very little atmosphere compared to Earth. Titan has thick atmosphere but too cold. I once read that Carl Sagan proposed the idea by spreading bacterias in...
  11. J

    Is Terraforming Uranus And Neptune Possible?

    According to this website, it might be possible, by blasting off layers and leaving the rocky cores, turning them into rocky planets like the Earth, instead of the gas planets that they are now. http://terraforming.wikia.com/wiki/Uranus http://terraforming.wikia.com/wiki/Neptune
  12. S

    How to change the earth's atmosphere to chlorine based?

    Hi, I'm working on a commissioned story, the basic jist of it is aliens colonize earth, begin a lengthy process of terraforming it to fit their toxic homeworld atmosphere. I read somewhere chlorine is the most viable alternative to oxygen in terms of energy production and it's fairly common in...
  13. F

    Could SF6, Photosynthetic Bacteria, Hydrogen, and Ozone Make Mars Habitable?

    could it be possible to use sf6 (sulfur hexafluoride) + photosynthetic bactera + hydrogen to transform mars's atmosphere into a breathable atmosphere that is also warm enough for survival? If somone could produce ozone efficiently, would it be possible to create some kind of radiation shield on...
  14. N

    Challenges of Terraforming Mars: Temperature, Air Pressure, and Radiation

    Hi. So what'ya think? I've always been fascinated by this! The main problems are: Temperature Air Pressure Air composition Very weak magnetosphere The temperature and air-pressure problems are linked and could be solved by a heating up the planet. Any good ideas? But, the main obstacle is...
  15. S

    What Are the Challenges and Proposed Solutions for Terraforming Mars?

    So now that the Phoenix Land has all but confirmed to us that there's plenty of water on Mars, this will then spark increased interest in colonizing it. So the main obstacles to Mars being habitable are: 1) Low atmospheric pressure 2) Low temperature 3) poisonous atmosphere 4) absence/scarcity...
  16. Beer w/Straw

    Mars Terraforming: Possibilities and Limitations

    I've always wondered if Venus, which has many similarities to the Earth, would have had an Earth like habitat if/when it was further away from the sun like the Earth is. I also don't know if or how orbits and day length are affected by distance from the sun as well. On the assumption that Mars...
  17. A

    Terraforming Ganymede: Making Life Possible?

    a great posibility for a planet to spread life to is ganymede. i mean, its got the basics for life; water oxygen and light ( not that much for days are are about 3.2 Earth days). the only problem is its darn cold and its atmosphere is so dense that for a human it would be like brathing on top...
  18. D

    Terraforming Mars: Strange Ideas and Possibilities

    Mars is likely to be the first planet that we might decide to terraforum. Problems with Mars is its low atmosphere and cold temperatures. I have seen many strange concepts for terraforuming Mars. Like nuking Mars (not a good idea) to building factories to pump out green house gases...
  19. B

    Terraforming Mars? Pros, Cons and Implications

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/news/story/0,12976,1179710,00.html personally, i think we need to wait until we have a more conclusive look at what current life there is (if any) on Mars and then decide if this is an ethical idea...even then, it may be absolutely impracticle...