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Terraforming Mars - How do we do it? Can it be 'fast'?

Posted by: zinfab - Tue Jul 27, 2004 5:52 pm
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Terraforming Mars - How do we do it? Can it be 'fast'? 
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Post    Posted on: Thu Aug 05, 2004 5:35 pm
If there is already some life form on a planet, this life form could be altered to accelerate things.
Otherwise, we have to look for fast reproducing microbes from earth and other elementary life forms suitable as "base of the food pyramid" and able to survive and to populate the planet.
If these microbes can create oxygen and greenhouse-gasses (if desirable) it is already an advantage. Anyway after those microbes the next likely organisms to import are plants, insects and worms. What we consider here on earth as pests (fast reproducing omnipresent opportunistic organisms) could be good candidates to help terraforming.
Anyway, unless we have a major breakthrough in genetic manipulation and environmental control, it would take hundreds of years to get Mars terraformed.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Aug 06, 2004 9:11 am
Yes, you're right in principle.

At Mars the detection of methane in the atmosphere might mean the existence of marsian microbes. If there are one day really microbes found they might be cultivated and so on - but they won't terraform the Mars of their own and they won't terraform the planet if cultivated because they are producing methane.

So they have to be genetically manipulated - and that planet-wide. That seems to be "Think big". But it might help in local terraforming within greenhouses for example. That might be realistic and "start small".

At Venus all this seems to be extremely difficult - may be in the lower hot and thick atmosphere and at the glowing surface there are archae-microbes as to be found at geysires and in submarine volcanos. Wether these archae-microbes are terraforming Venus if they exist seems to be a very difficult question. The atmosphere might destroy all products of these microbes that can have terraforming consequences and the archae-microbes will vanish from every point, where the atmosphere becoms to earth-like. Then that point will change to be venusian again because the natural atmosphere will float there.

To find an answer to these questions concerning Venus there first has to be research on the structures suspected to indicate microbes in the upper atmosphere and if microbes are found research on these microbes ("What meaning does the lower atmosphere have for their existence and why?").

I have to add an additional fact that is considered perhaps to indicate venusian microbes: There are found two gases in the venusian atmosphere that normally cannot exist together because they are reacting together. Because at Venus they are existing together they are suspected to be produced by microbes. But there might be an anorganic or physical mechanism producing them.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Jul 11, 2006 11:22 am
In The Space Flight Cafe Stefan Sigwarth initiated a thread bewcause he looked for data about plants enriching or recycling atmospheric oxygen. In that thread I mentioned Terraforming and the possibility that carrying food might be linked to return back to Earth something positive for the environemnet the ecology or anything else. The view is that a manned mission to Mars is nothing else than the temporary separation of a segment of the earthian ecology and environement and the temporary incorporation of it into the martian environment. I also say there that if it were not temporary but permanent this would mean that the earthian environemnet and ecology would become a part of a larger multi-planetary one.

I added also That I have thoughts in mind that are off-topic there and that I would post them in a thread like this one - so here they are:

I remember having read two points. The first one I've read about a longer time ago. Before there were the twin rovers and the recent insights into the martian environments therre was the idea or thoiught of scientists that "Flechten" (German), braid/lichen/plait/tress might survive in the martian environement because it is very frugal. The second one is that the twin rovers have found chemicals on Mars that are sometimes assumed to be toxic - there was an article about under www.space.com this year.

In the thread Stefan Sigwarth initiated algae have been mentioned - this reminded me to braid/.../tress - "Flechte". Now recently I read in the german journal GEO that that really is a hybrid being consisting of funguses and algae. These both are modified so that they can't survive without each other and thus are no symbionts but form that hybrid being.

The martian dust partially is made of acids - sulfur acid for example. And braid/.../tress partailly consist of acids as weapon against hostile plants and animals. This doesn't mean that I really think yet that they might survive on Mars - but since in the other thread it has been mentioned that algae are the best producers of oxygen tress/../braid might be a good plant for Mars, Mars missions Mars settlements, colonies etc.

Still the possibility that the martian soil and dust is toxic, acidic and dangerous is a problem that must be got rid of first. To remove that already would be a starting point of Terraforming.

Now I remembered a special kind of Extremophiles found on Earth - Acidophiles. What about taking an amount of martian soil and dust, exposing it to earthian-like environmental conditions and putting Acidophiles to it? This could be an experiment to be done with a portion of a redturned sample if that sample would be large enough that a portion of it could be consumed this way. The idea would be to find out what the Acidophiles will make of the soil and dust and to find out if they modify it to a more Earth-like or simply a more friendly or less toxic environment.

If that works then locally soils and dust could be collected into huge containers or habitats - so that the collected amount is competely separated from the martian environment and isolated to it also. Then earthian pressure is created, water added perhaps and Acidophiles added. They would form an Earth-like environment then - "If that works" means that the experimental results would have said that this is the case.

Since the tress/... is frugal it wouldn't be required to provide normal earthian temperatures and perhaps even no increased oxygen levels are required - perhaps the Acidophiles would generate some oxygen. But the Acidophiles would have modified the collected amount of soil into a more Erath-like soil which the tress/... could thrive on.

This might be the base of growing plants on Mars and to get and keep oxygen by them - local Terraforming in habitats...



What about it?



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Post    Posted on: Tue Jul 11, 2006 12:38 pm
I think the English word for it is "lichen".
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flechte
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichen


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jul 11, 2006 1:52 pm
The idea is sound, Ekkehard, but i suspect that that strategy takes a wee bit too long. This would be fine if you would be experimenting this technique on Venus, using the planet as a laboratory to see if these tiny creatures have a lasting effect on the atmosphere/ecologic system.

In my opinion, i've read this on several websites, we should slowly colonize Mars, and once we're there, we should create an excess/surplus of heat/Carbon dioxide and other non-helpfull gasses/waste to humans themself. As you expand the colony, you're also increasing this surplus which you vent into the atmosphere and thus helping warming Mars.

If you use huge amounts of algae and other tiny creatures on the other side of Mars were no colony is, you may even get a sort of 'stable' and 'equal' relase in 'terraforming-gasses'.

Or another option maybe alongside normal colonization is to build small greenhouses (the real ones) and plant whatever you want in them. By also using Mars soil for this, the only things you need from earth would be water and the facilities to produce materials/tools. BUt i suppose this kind of thing would be simply part of a base.

One question. How much pressure is needed for algae and/or plants to grow?


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 12, 2006 8:29 am
Hello, Stefan,

to me it seems as if we are not that far from each other.

The thoughts of my previous post would mean much less earthian input than those you are mentioning. When there has been a large enough sample returned and examined by that sample which Acidophiles do best fit into that soil and dust the first manned Mars mission still is waiting some time for their launch.

Assumed MRO has already returned data sufficient to select a landing site and the selection is done around the time the right Acidophiles are found. Then nearly at once a vehicle could be launched to carry a container, a robot, some Acidophiles and some lichens to Mars. The robot could fill the container with soil and water and then first release the Acidophiles into it which then grow in that soil and modify it to more Earth-like soil. Then the lichen is released while the Acidophiles previously are moved to another separated sample of martian soil. If that lasts five years until the first manned mission arrives there might be sufficient Earth-like soil created this way to grow earthian plants on it.

After the first manned mission left again the process may go on as preparartion of a permanent Mars station, next a settllment and then a real colony.

This would avoid the efforst and expenses for carrying earthian soil to Mars.

It will be interesting to know the growth rate of Acidophiles - may be I#ll look for it later.

The Earth might get an advantage by all that. A share of all the soil plants for food are growing on is biological human waste. The waste of astronauts flying to the Mars isn't available for that but could be used to grow plants during the journey. This requires to carry more food initially. After the landing on Mars the waste should be added to the soil created there the way I described. That time the astronauts will start to live of the plants carried and put into that soil. But when they leave Mars for Earth then they can and must take with them some of that soil - and on Earth there are regions missing soil which this way can get good soil that is unpolluted etc.

In the end it might be that even humans themselves terraform Mars locally by releasing their biological waste there - and could trade the martian soil to Earth taht is Earth-like modified...

...



What thoughts about it?



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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 12, 2006 10:25 am
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
Hello, Stefan,

to me it seems as if we are not that far from each other.

The thoughts of my previous post would mean much less earthian input than those you are mentioning. When there has been a large enough sample returned and examined by that sample which Acidophiles do best fit into that soil and dust the first manned Mars mission still is waiting some time for their launch.

Assumed MRO has already returned data sufficient to select a landing site and the selection is done around the time the right Acidophiles are found. Then nearly at once a vehicle could be launched to carry a container, a robot, some Acidophiles and some lichens to Mars. The robot could fill the container with soil and water and then first release the Acidophiles into it which then grow in that soil and modify it to more Earth-like soil. Then the lichen is released while the Acidophiles previously are moved to another separated sample of martian soil. If that lasts five years until the first manned mission arrives there might be sufficient Earth-like soil created this way to grow earthian plants on it.


Very solid sound idea, Ekkehard. So i suppose you would only take a bit of water and oxygen and a large container for creating this mars-earthian soil. I think that you might have to go with 2 containers. One filled with water, oxygen and those algue to work on the soil and the other empty container to be the mixing-pot so to speak. But that would be to much weight for one flight and 2 flights will cost way to much. Gonna need some Bigelow inflatable technology right here.

Quote:
After the first manned mission left again the process may go on as preparartion of a permanent Mars station, next a settllment and then a real colony.


This is my personal opinion, but if you would have the intention to settle some place, would you plan on coming back. If you have a return-mission all the way from Mars, the costs would go up exponantial. If you are gonna send people, let them stay there, make a real colony. Obviously, this can only be done if there is the capability to grow a surplus of food. This one-way-trip makes it a whole lot easier and i doubt there will be problems for people/astronauts to sign-up for a mission like this. I know i would go in a heartbeat.

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This would avoid the efforst and expenses for carrying earthian soil to Mars.
It will be interesting to know the growth rate of Acidophiles - may be I#ll look for it later.

Yes, it's probably the best idea so far imo for starting an efficient colony. About the growth rate, i don't think that will be a problem. If you would have in a single liter of water a few billion of these creatures, imagine how a billion creatures would divide and spread. I think you would somehow have to control it.

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The Earth might get an advantage by all that. A share of all the soil plants for food are growing on is biological human waste. The waste of astronauts flying to the Mars isn't available for that but could be used to grow plants during the journey. This requires to carry more food initially.


True, but you can check with yourself how much kilo's food and water you consume in a month. If you would put the astronauts on a died and make sure they sleep a lot, the food and water would just be a fraction relative to the habitat they're gonna have to take with them. But using the waste for growing food inside a very tight spacecraft is a good idea, but only if they could do it in their habitat which they would also use on Mars. If you would have all the equipement there allready, they can use it. But it should be mixed with soil or other foodnutricious feeding grounds. Not to mention the smell ;)

Quote:
After the landing on Mars the waste should be added to the soil created there the way I described. That time the astronauts will start to live of the plants carried and put into that soil. But when they leave Mars for Earth then they can and must take with them some of that soil - and on Earth there are regions missing soil which this way can get good soil that is unpolluted etc.

Good point, and by that time, they could also have come up with the most efficient combination of waste and soil to grow food. When they're going, they should have the same amount of whatever resources they had on the trip to Mars as much as they used them. But, if you would create a permanent colony, and those people don't have to go, you would save huge amounts of energy and resources you could use to expand the colony big time.

Quote:
In the end it might be that even humans themselves terraform Mars locally by releasing their biological waste there - and could trade the martian soil to Earth taht is Earth-like modified...
...
What thoughts about it?

Yes, i agree. It would go slowly but eventually we wouldn't need the habitats per say, but we can create convential housing.


But regarding my point of a one-way-mission. In combination with the Direct Mars plan. every one-way-mission would haul one habitat for 3 to 5 people and bring along 3 people if the first step created sufficient food and supplies. The newcomers would also haul up new inflatable structures for plantgrow along with energy generating equipement. Actually, they would haul up exactly the same things as the first mission did.

In the first few missions, they would establish an agricultural base, supplying a surplus of food and stockpiling the surplus for future comers. In these first few mission, only surveying would be done for the best mining spots and what materials they could get out of it. This could also be done by an orbiting satelite if this is possible or not even done by that time.

When the agricultural base is up and running and food is no concern and water is recycled for at least 50%, earth could send some basic tools plus one heatoven to melt whatever metallics they can find and use. This way, they could create there own tools and materials and start constructing bases themselves perhaps in time.

In this way, in just a few missions, you could have a few dozen people and a decent colony on Mars. If they even could get water to get out of the ground or from the poles, it would be self-sufficient concerning the most basic things.

This could be done in the course of 5 years imo. Technology is not the problem. If you would have several private companies doing this with a small profit margin, the launch costs would be the most. If you use more then half of the materials for habitats and tools from off the shell parts, the hardware itself could be created for 500 milion euros. 1 billion maximum. If you would take the Falcon 9 - S9 and say it could haul up to 5,000 kg to Mars (it lifts almost 10,000 kg into GTO, so the half would get to Mars?), and use this amount of mass you could use for one trip/mission, the launches wouldn't cost that much. Hell, a few rich men on earth could pay for this themselves.

But, for real, 5,000 KG of cargo. I'm not sure what they are planning to use to construct any habitat for Mars, but a 7,0 M x 4,0 M x 2,5 M (5,2 m fairing of the S9 Falcon with plenty of room to spare) habitat/spacecraft would be huge to live in. I mean, 28 square meters, bigger then my living room ;)

Why won't the Universities plan a competition for the best idea/mission with these constrains?

I know i am oversimplifying it here big time, but sometimes i find it hard to imagine why it all has to be so expensive.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 12, 2006 10:43 am
Hello, Stefan,

may be both the approaches can be combined to a new one.

If the acidic components of the martian soil and dust can be processed by Acidophiles really then one of the results might be water since there is the theory that those acidic components formed when because of eruptions of the volcanos sulfur and other volcanic chemicals filled the water and reacted to it resulting in the present dust and soil. Since Sulfur acid is H2SO4 it two of the molecules can be split into 2 H2O, 2 SO2 and 1 O2. The Acidophiles perhaps produce other outputs because they internally consume some of the molecules or even sulfur in particular.

So it might be that the approach can enhance the water ressource. Of course - there is another thread in this section in which I am asking if the dust and soil can be cracked and modified a way similar to one of the methods that it is tested fro getting oxygen out of lunar Regolith.

I am still interested in the growth rate of Acidophiles - because that rate is interesting for doing calculations.

May be I will look for the costs in the Financial Barriers section - but not yet.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 12, 2006 4:02 pm
Hello,

I was under the impression that because of the lack of a magnetic field, and because of the low gravity, that any nitrogen or oxygen in the martian atmosphere would be lost into space. If that is the case, such terraforming would be futile.

In addition, we aren't really sure of what kind of resources are on Mars that might provide oxygen, water, or nitrogen. (I believe nitrogen will be necessary for terraforming.) There may not be enough water or oxygen-containing material to form a proper atmosphere.

You may say that there is oxygen in the rocks, and it is true; but it's very hard to extract chemically, and no life forms we know of can do it.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea, I just think there might be some fundamental problems that would prevent terraforming from suceeding, and that we ought to have a look at those before we talk about what kind of bacteria to use.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 12, 2006 7:25 pm
LukeSkywalker wrote:
I was under the impression that because of the lack of a magnetic field, and because of the low gravity, that any nitrogen or oxygen in the martian atmosphere would be lost into space.
The low gravity does allow more gas to escape to space, but that would be all gasses, not just nitrogen and oxygen. I have read that the lack of a magnetic field may have allowed the solar wind to blow away most of Mars' atmosphere, but Venus also has no magnetic field and is much closer to the Sun where it experiences a much stronger solar wind, yet it has an atmosphere 90 times as dense as Earth. So I am not sure I agree that lack of a magnetic field is the real reason Mars' atmosphere is so thin. I don't think our knowledge is yet good enough to say why Mars has such a thin atmosphere. I do think we are being a bit arrogant in thinking that we can make such big changes in Mars' atmosphere when we can't even manage to remove (or keep from adding) the tiny amount of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere that is causing global warming.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:49 am
campbelp2002 wrote:
LukeSkywalker wrote:
...

I do think we are being a bit arrogant in thinking that we can make such big changes in Mars' atmosphere when we can't even manage to remove (or keep from adding) the tiny amount of CO2 in Earth's atmosphere that is causing global warming.


We can do it, we just don't do it because of economical reasons ;) But that's another topic.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Jul 13, 2006 7:34 am
Hello, LukeSkywalker,

techniques and technologies to extract oxygen out of rocks already are under development at competitors for the Centennial Challenges Prize for a method to get oxygen out of lunar regolith.

The last informations I read regarding the martian atmosphere is that during a period of increased volcanism the atmosphere as well as the water on Mars have been enriched by sulfur and other oxydating chemicals to such a degree that the atmosphere and the water reacted to them and the result was the present environment.

That's a theory of course and might be wrong.

But thos can be removed locally at least and what you are supposing might be prevented by covering craters etc. so that nothing can evaportae into space and/or is protected against the solar wind.

Oh - the nitrogen would be introduced via the lichen, algae and/or other plants brought from Earth and biological waste.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:12 pm
Stefan Sigwarth wrote:
We can do it, we just don't do it because of economical reasons ;) But that's another topic.
Maybe, maybe not. Mars is not the way it is now by accident. There must be mechanisms at work, which we probably are not even aware of, that are keeping Mars the way it is. I think is arrogant of us to think that we can alter the balance of a whole planet with a few tons of cargo brought from Earth when we are unable to alter the balance on Earth itself with basically unlimited tons of cargo available. If it really is so easy to alter an entire planet's balance with a few tons of stuff, why don't we just identify which stuff is needed, prepare a few tons of it, and let it loose on Earth to alter then whole planet's atmospheric balance? How much can a few tons of stuff cost?


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Post    Posted on: Sun Feb 04, 2007 4:14 pm
In between it obviously has been found out that Mars lost neither its atmosphere nor its water by the solar wind. By simulations and calculations it turned out that the amount lost during billions of years by the solar particles is neglegible.

In so far Mars seems to be able to keep a lot of water as well as a significantly denser atmosphere.

So the question is interesting again how to create, generate or carry there an atmosphere perhaps since the former one seems to be gone. The same holds for water.

What ideas do you have about it?



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EDIT: There were articles about it recently - I will look for the english ones and insert them here. I am not sure if there was one under www.space.com .

Article found: "Mars' Missing Air Might Just be Hiding" ( www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070125_m ... phere.html )


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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 08, 2007 12:39 pm
Regarding local terraforming the article "Death-Defying Mars Rovers: Riders in the Storm
" ( http://www.space.com/includes/iab.html? ... pdate.html ) is reporting an interesting aspect:
Quote:
It turns out -- given all that dust flittering about in Mars' atmosphere -- the temperatures don't get nearly as cold at night. And that means that nighttime survival for a rover becomes much easier than it is when the skies are clear, Squyres advised
.

To me this is sounding as the dust in the atmosphere during the present dust storm has asignificant greenhouse effect.

So if craters would be covered to do local terraforming it might be interesting to keep the "roof" transparent to let sunlight in but cover that transparent roof by sufficient amounts of dust - as a layer - to provide a greenhouse effect for keeping or achieving certain temperatures below the roof.

This thought could be modified so that there are areas or zones that are NOT covered by dust and others that really ARE covered by dust. Or the dust layers might be removable or throttable or so.

...



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