JUL 30, 2018 6:00 PM PDT

Terraforming Mars Not Possible With Current Technology, Study Suggests

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

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
AUG 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Human Spaceflight Returns to the US with SpaceX's Success
AUG 09, 2020
Human Spaceflight Returns to the US with SpaceX's Success
On August 7, A SpaceX recovery vessel called GO Navigator brought the Crew Dragon capsule back to its home port.
AUG 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What Will the End of the Universe Look Like?
AUG 16, 2020
What Will the End of the Universe Look Like?
Matt Caplan, a theoretical physicist at Illinois State University, has calculated when the last supernova will happen in ...
AUG 25, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Carbon Foam Spacecraft Could Travel 4.37 Light Years in 185 Years
AUG 25, 2020
Carbon Foam Spacecraft Could Travel 4.37 Light Years in 185 Years
A new study has found that carbon-foam spacecraft could fly between Earth and Alpha Centauri, the closest planetary syst ...
OCT 23, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Merge AI and Photonics to Find New Earths
OCT 23, 2020
Astronomers Merge AI and Photonics to Find New Earths
Researchers from the University of Sydney have developed a new type of sensor capable of measuring and correcting starli ...
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Discover Planet with Atmosphere of Vaporized Rock
Researchers have identified an exoplanet that appears to have an atmosphere composed of vaporized rock and oceans runnin ...
NOV 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
NOV 20, 2020
The Universe is Getting Hotter, not Cooler, as it Expands
Up until now, scientists have theorized that as the Universe expands, its temperature has gradually declined. New resear ...
Loading Comments...