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Colonizing and Terraforming Mars - An Overview

Note to fellow admins: this article is a work in progress and will be fully edited and completed over a couple of days

The History of The Idea of Colonizing Mars

A century ago, human beings had only only just discovered how to fly high in the sky. This discovery of the plane came from the effort of the Wright brothers. During that time, there were only just a few people working in what could be called the early aerospace field. Then, a few decades after the successful invention of aeroplanes, the idea of venturing outside the Earth’s atmosphere came closer to reality due to the rocket science of Germany’s scientists in World War II. The test to launch a V2 rocket into space went better than expected, with the rocket successfully entering space. Based on that successful mission, Russia lead the exploration of space with the first ever successful manned space mission: Vostok 1. Ushering in a new paradigm for all of humanity. The Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to break free of the Earth’s atmosphere. During that time, people went crazy when they heard Yuri Gagarin had successfully ventured into space and returned to Earth without harm. The study of astronomy and aerospace became the primary focal point for many people; especially the younger generation who felt that anything was possible. For the first time in human history, previous fantasies such as the idea of colonizing Mars, seemed within our grasp.

First of all, the definition of colonizing Mars should be made. To colonize Mars means that humans live, work and play on the red planet. There are many contemporary scientists who believe that Mars is the most suitable planet for colonization. A big factor is because Mars has the shortest distance from Earth of about 56 million kilometres. Mars also has many of the human necessities like water (confirmed frozen water has been discovered on Mars), oxygen and sunlight. Mars gravity is also very close to Earth's; at 62% of Earth gravity. At present, the atmosphere is unbreathable for humans, but many proposals have been made for terraforming Mars and adjusting the atmospheric composition to one which is amenable to humans.

In order to protect humanity from existential risks such as an unforeseen asteroid collision, many prominent thinkers such as Steven Hawking are proponents of humanity becoming a two planet (or more) civilization as soon as possible.

To make this mega project successful a huge amount of funding is definitely required. All countries from all parts of the world could join in a committed effort to gather as much funds as needed. Moreover, we should be patient about this unprecedented endeavour because it is not easy to colonize a whole planet. There are many factors (funding / reason for going / technological capabilities) and many aspects to be thought through like technology, life support, terraforming and much more. Less traditional sources of funding also exist: such as the project Mars One which has over 100 000 applicants, and is planning to send humans to Mars by 2020 to participate in an extraplanetary version of Big Brother. Private enterprise, such as that behind space tourism companies like Virgin Galactic and asteroid mining company Planetary Resources may also provide the resources necessary to colonize the red planet. With the current Bitcoin and digital currency boom, it is not unthinkable that perhaps a Mars colonization mission may one day be funded by a Bitcoin billionare, or even a Devcoin bounty. In a nutshell, there is definitely hope to colonize planets like Mars in the future because history has shown us time and time again that nothing is impossible. In fact, if the Mars One mission is successful, there will already be humans living and working on Mars by 2020.

Terraforming Mars: An Introduction

Terraforming can be defined as shaping the characteristics (such as atmospheric composition) of any particular place, including a planet, to sustain life with the same needs as those intrinsic to life on Earth. These characteristics include topology, ecology, temperature, atmosphere, biosphere and many more conditions. All these should be similar to those found on Earth in order to sustain life which has originated on Earth. (including humans). Therefore, the primary objective of terraforming Mars is to make Mars habitable for humans. Researching is the most important preparation to be made before colonizing any planet, including Mars. Especially when it comes to terraforming Mars: this is because terraforming Mars is the first step before any large scale colonization can be made (without humans living in domed cities and / or other hermetically sealed environments which provide a breathable atmosphere). Much research has been done, and many ideas proposed, for how we might go about terraforming Mars.

The History of The Idea of Terraforming Mars

Now, in order to recognize the history of the idea of terraforming Mars, we should know the very first person who conceived this idea. That person is an intelligent astronomer, Carl Sagan. He advised that in order to make Venus habitable, algae should be widely planted on the surface of Venus. Algae is well known for its ability to convert common substances that exist on many planets, like water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide into organic compounds. Sagan's first contribution to the idea of terraforming Mars was an article he penned entitled Planetary Engineering on Mars. This article covered how to create the best environment for humans on Mars. We are now moving towards the point where some of these ideas can become a reality. After the publication of Sagan's seminal article, the idea of terraforming Mars became much more widespread and popular. More and more experts in astronomy came forward to speak their ideas about terraforming Mars. One of them was James Oberg, an author and also an engineer at NASA. He was responsible for explaining the idea of terraforming Mars to the public at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, United States. Great scientists like James Lovelock, Michael Allaby, Robert Haynes and Martyn J. Fogg have also contributed to this idea over time.

So Much To Do To Terraform Mars

Even though we know that Mars can be colonized, there are many preparations to be made before we can live there. According to the latest findings, the atmosphere of Mars is 95% Carbon Dioxide and 3% Nitrogen. Recently, water has been discovered on the planet; existing in a sub surface layer of permafrost. The planet also has two permanent polar ice caps. The surface of Mars also contains some extreme geological formations. There is a giant mountain called Olympus Mons that is almost three times taller than Mount Everest - reaching a height of 22 kilometers above the planet's surface. There is hope for humans to live on Mars by terraforming Mars; especially as water is present, gravity is similar to Earth's, and a days length is remarkably similar, at 24.62 Earth hours. Armed with knowledge, modern technologies, and patience, humans can change conditions on Mars to be similar to those on earth.

Proposals to Terraform Mars

It is highly possible, and indeed probable, that in the future, we may be able to make Mars our second home, our playground and even perhaps our workplace. Many preparations have been made including researching and funds. Scientists have outlined several steps which need to be taken as proposals to terraform Mars. Those proposals are interrelated with the steps to change the atmosphere of Mars, especially the temperature. As Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, compared to Earth which is the third planet - the temperature of Mars is much cooler than the temperature on Earth.

Astronomy


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