JUL 30, 2018 06:00 PM PDT

Terraforming Mars Not Possible With Current Technology, Study Suggests

Mars is a bleak and lifeless place today, at least when compared to Earth’s standards. With that in mind, it’d take significant efforts to make the red planet even partially habitable by humans.

Mars isn't habitable in its current form, but could we ever change that?

Image Credit: NASA

Several ambitious plans to colonize Mars have surfaced in recent years, with one suggesting that we terraform it by exploiting the greenhouse gasses available there to warm the planet up and make it more habitable. But would this idea actually work?

Citing a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy this week, perhaps not; at least not with the limitations imposed by modern technology.

While the concept seems brilliant at first glance, the single most significant issue with it is that Mars probably doesn’t have enough easily-reachable carbon dioxide to induce a global warming effect akin to the Earth’s.

Data accrued by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft helped the researchers formulate a “clean inventory” of Mars’ carbon dioxide stores and reach their conclusion.

“These data have provided substantial new information on the history of easily vaporized (volatile) materials like CO2 and H2O on the planet, the abundance of volatiles locked up on and below the surface, and the loss of gas from the atmosphere to space,” explained study co-author Christopher Edwards from Northern Arizona University.

Related: This is how Elon Musk wants to colonize Mars

The point of warming Mars up would be to increase its atmospheric pressure so that liquid water could exist on its surface. Mars’ current atmospheric pressure is only 0.6% that of Earths, and harnessing accessible stockpiles of carbon dioxide would only bring that atmospheric pressure to a fraction of Earth’s, which isn’t enough to keep liquid water from evaporating.

“Our results suggest that there is not enough CO2 remaining on Mars to provide significant greenhouse warming were the gas to be put into the atmosphere; in addition, most of the CO2 gas is not accessible and could not be readily mobilized,” added study lead author Bruce Jakosky from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“As a result, terraforming Mars is not possible using present-day technology.”

The researchers admit that there could be additional resources deeper below the Martian surface, but the abundance there isn’t entirely known, and current technology would struggle to reach it without requiring unrealistic amounts of energy to do so.

As it would seem, terraforming Mars may not be an option for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean astronauts couldn’t visit the red planet in person with the help of protective space suits and pressurized habitation modules.

Source: University of Colorado, Boulder

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 10, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 10, 2018
OnSight Lets Scientists Study the Martian Surface with Virtual Reality
NASA’s Curiosity rover has been physically exploring the surface of Mars since 2012, but as it rolls along, it sends surface data back to scientists...
OCT 28, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 28, 2018
Hayabusa2 Scientists Prepare to Collect Asteroid Samples and Return Them to Earth
Near the end of September, JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission deployed two bouncing rovers on the surface of asteroid 162173 Ryugu to capture photographs and s...
NOV 26, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 26, 2018
NASA's InSight Lander Safely Touches Down on Mars
If you’ve been paying any attention to NASA lately, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the space agency’s InSight mission for Mars. NASA...
JAN 02, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 02, 2019
International Space Station's 'Mystery Hole' was Made From the Inside
Just a couple weeks ago, Russian cosmonauts performed a spacewalk at the International Space Station to investigate the mysterious two-millimeter hole that...
JAN 09, 2019
Microbiology
JAN 09, 2019
Space Bacteria Are Adapting to Survive
Microorganisms that end up on the International Space Station just do their best to survive, researchers have found....
JAN 08, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 08, 2019
Learn About the Advanced Technologies Packed Into the Mars 2020 Rover
NASA has sent a lot of spacecraft to Mars to explore the red planet for clues about its formation and suitability for life, but the upcoming Mars 2020 rove...
Loading Comments...