By Michael Nguyen
In a couple billion years the Earth would become uninhabitable. We would need an alternate solution so we can possibly survive as a race. A common solution, mentioned by many, would be terraforming. Terraforming is turning a planet or moon into a livable habitat, with many conditions like Earth. This method might be able to provide the people of Earth a chance to live.
Terraforming can save lives and provide us with a new environment, but it would take a long time to do so. This is because you need many things to make the terrestrial planet or moon into an Earth-like habitat. You would need an atmosphere, that protects from solar storms and radiation, creates pressure and it keeps the planet warm via the green house effect. You would also need oxygen and many other elements for survival. Knowing what we need is necessary, but we need to find a good place to start.
A planet that is talked about in the world of science would be Mars. Mars, according to scientists, could soon be our new Earth because it has many qualities we need for survival. However, the most important thing that Mars currently lacks is a thick atmosphere. Not having this thick atmosphere causes it to be cold, as you can see from figure 1 the average temperature on Mars is -120 Celsius, which is -140 Fahrenheit. The warmest Mars ever gets (-20 Celsius, or – 4 Fahrenheit) is considered to be a cold day on Earth. Also because Mars has a thin atmosphere, the pressure is so low that the water would boil (which is a problem for people). The low pressure makes it hard for humans to live because all of your liquids would boil.
Figure 1: A description of Mars’ temperature to Earth’s temperature.
Though it lacks a thick atmosphere, Mars does have polar ice caps. These polar ice caps can help build a pressurized atmosphere. They contain carbonated water that that once melted, would form liquid water and also release carbon dioxide thus add pressure if we could trap it into a closed container or a bio-dome. This bio-dome can be turned into a man-made eco system. If the bio-dome was made out of glass it could also heat from the inside like a real greenhouse. The greenhouse effect is a natural way of keeping the Earth warm, it takes the heat from the sun and it traps the heat causing it to become warm.
Now that we can make warmth and pressure we only lack oxygen to breathe. The atmosphere that Mars does have is composed of 95% carbon dioxide. If we had plants, it could convert the carbon dioxide into oxygen. With the help of the Sun the plants could produce oxygen via photosynthesis. The equation used to convert sunlight to oxygen is: 6 CO2 + 6 H2O → C6H12O6 + 6 O2. Also, if the bio-dome succeeds we would have carbonated water. This water can help aquatic plants thrive. Having plants could also start a food web that could feed us. An example is an insect eats the plants, another animal eats the insect, and we eat the animal that eats the insect.
If the aquatic plants were to be placed in the bio-dome, they would produce oxygen that can build up and would produce a pressurized oxygen chamber in which we can breathe. Also, it would then push out the extra water inside of the bio-dome. See figure 2 for an example of a bio-dome.
Figure 2: How a bio-dome, on Mars, would work and look. The green spots are the aquatic plants and the bio-dome is filled with water from the melted polar ice caps.
Though Mars may seems like a really good option, there could be other places. Such a place could be on a moon, or more specifically Jupiter’s moon Europa (See other post: Europa by Zach Williams). In conclusion, the idea of terraforming other terrestrial places is great. It can only support our chance of survival, and will give us a chance to explore other planets.
1. How does temperature of Mars differ from Earth’s on a warm summer day, based on figure 1?
2. What makes Mars a really good option, and what does it lack, that the bio-dome provides?
3. What are some important aspects in having an atmosphere?