Terraforming Mars Possibility

  • #1
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 like to ask:

1. Do you think it is possible to terraform Mars?

2. If so, what method would you propose to do so?

I'd appreciate any help y'all can give me. I look forward to reading your responses in search for new ideas.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Ryan_m_b
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Have you discussed whether or not this is an appropriate topic with your tutor? The terraforming of a planet is an incredibly speculative mega-mega-project, how does it relate to "Unifying Concepts"?

Also if this is a technical writing assignment then surveys asking people if X is possible isn't the best dataset for a physics paper. Hard data detailing the geological, climatic and ecological differences between the worlds and the quantity of resources needed to decrease that disparity would seem more appropriate. Have you been told you specifically need a survey?
 
  • #4
phyzguy
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Whenever discussions of terraforming come up, I like to point out that it took over 1 billion years to oxygenate the Earth's atmosphere. Imagine the Earth's oceans full of green algae cranking out oxygen as fast as they can, and it still took a billion years. When you ask if it is possible to terraform Mars, how long are you willing to wait.? A billion years? No? OK, let's speed it up by a factor of 1000. A million years? Still too long? Generating a planetary quantity of a gas like oxygen in a humanly reasonable time scale looks all but impossible.
 
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  • #5
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The algae didn't have "creating an oxygen atmosphere" as goal. They produced some oxygen as by-product. Terraforming would design bacteria to release as much oxygen as possible, a completely different situation.
 
  • #6
phyzguy
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The algae didn't have "creating an oxygen atmosphere" as goal. They produced some oxygen as by-product. Terraforming would design bacteria to release as much oxygen as possible, a completely different situation.
Sure. But if you wanted to do it in, say 1000 years, you would have to design algae that were 1 million times better at producing oxygen. This seems very unlikely.
 
  • #7
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Sure. But if you wanted to do it in, say 1000 years, you would have to design algae that were 1 million times better at producing oxygen. This seems very unlikely.
We produce insulin in E.coli, a bacterium with a natural insulin production rate of exactly zero. The increase rate is undefined.

The algae did not have any evolutionary advantage from emitting oxygen - "better" does not make sense in that context. Oxygen was simply a waste product.
 
  • #8
Integral
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A great place to start in leaning to teraform Mars would be to learn to maintain the system we have. As long as we cannot even maintain a working eco system how in the world could we ever expect to create one?
 
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  • #9
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We produce insulin in E.coli, a bacterium with a natural insulin production rate of exactly zero. The increase rate is undefined.
Even an infinite oxygen production rate could be insufficient. Is there enough water on Mars to produce the required amount of oxygen for a breathable atmosphere? If not, than photosynthesis is no option at all.

[edit]I just answered the question by myself: With 5770 kg/m² oxygen in Mars the O2 partial pressure would be the same as on Earth. The bioproduction of this amount of oxygen would require at least 3250 kg/m² water. According to current estimations there are 11000 kg/m² water available on the surface of Mars. That means it could work in principle (assuming we have the required organisms).[/edit]
 
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  • #10
BillTre
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Whenever discussions of terraforming come up, I like to point out that it took over 1 billion years to oxygenate the Earth's atmosphere. Imagine the Earth's oceans full of green algae cranking out oxygen as fast as they can, and it still took a billion years. When you ask if it is possible to terraform Mars, how long are you willing to wait.? A billion years? No? OK, let's speed it up by a factor of 1000. A million years? Still too long? Generating a planetary quantity of a gas like oxygen in a humanly reasonable time scale looks all but impossible.
Sounds like this also includes the origin of life and evolution of the organisms that generated the oxygen.
Without the initial steps it could be much faster.
 
  • #11
phyzguy
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Sounds like this also includes the origin of life and evolution of the organisms that generated the oxygen.
Without the initial steps it could be much faster.
I don't think so. Even after the appearance of photosynthesizing organisms, it took several billion years for oxygen to accumulate to current levels. See this wiki article. I'm sure it could be sped up with engineering and so on, I just doubt it could be sped up enough to happen on a human time scale of hundreds to thousands of years.
 
  • #12
BillTre
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OK.
Seems filling the oxygen sinks took a while before the atmosphere was much affected.
 
  • #13
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Like the oceans?

Rough estimate: Splitting water to oxygen and hydrogen (which is not what algae do, but I don't care about a factor 2 here) need 16 kJ per gram H2O, or 18 kJ per gram of O2. This old paper has algae that can use ~10% of the input light for oxygen production (table 2).

Total sunlight hitting Mars is 20 PW, if we can use it fully for algae we get 22 million tons of oxygen per second. 5770 kg/m² multiplied by the surface area of Mars is 8.3*1014 tons. At the calculated rate, we need ...

... 1.2 years.

We don't have a method to cover the whole surface in a thick layer of algae and the surface will absorb some oxygen, but the 10% of the 1969 paper is certainly not the best possible result, and no plan wants to be done in 1.2 years.

Edit: Here is an article from a planetary scientist with a 100-year estimate for temperature and a bit more for oxygen.
 
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  • #14
Ryan_m_b
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Closed pending moderation
 
  • #15
berkeman
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Well, it looks like this 1-post newbie was looking for help cheating on his homework and we obliged. Doh! Thread will remain closed.
 

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