Terraforming

Terraforming

Science fiction fans are familiar with the idea of terraforming. Take a planet like Mars, which cannot support humans or the life forms we depend upon, and with the help of technology, we make it habitable. We’ve seen how humans can influence earth’s climate. Can we do the same sort of thing on Mars, but create conditions that would support life? I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Berman: “It’s easy to say, Okay. We’ll do something on Mars. After all, the soil has so much oxygen contained in it, you could just throw things on the soil, and the oxygen [shhhh] comes out. And come back a hundred years later, and maybe you have an atmosphere, and it becomes Earth-like.”

Astronomer Bob Berman is the author of the book The Sun’s Heartbeat.

“The problem with that is that is scale. Mars has the same surface area that Earth does when you exclude Earth’s oceans. Now imagine trying to cover every bit of Earth with some kind of machine that goes around extracting the oxygen. How many countless tons of equipment would have to be brought from Earth to Mars to do that? This would be more money than any project we could think of, and the results would be a century in the future and may not work because Martian gravity is so weak that the atmosphere we do create would some of it, at least – would leak into space. Plus, we don’t know how much oxygen would be reabsorbed by minerals as we did it.”

What about bioengineering, letting microbes do the work of terraforming for us?

“Mars right now is not a place where you could put organisms that would have a chance of living. First of all, there’s no water. There’s no rain. There is a radiation flux and a high ultraviolet flux from the sun that would be sterilizing. This is beyond the capability of even a microbe to do anything but go into a kind of a cyst form.”

Our thanks to astronomer Bob Berman. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Terraforming

It may work on Star Trek, but in real life Mar's thin atmosphere will be writing the script.
Air Date:07/02/2015
Scientist:
Transcript:

Terraforming

Science fiction fans are familiar with the idea of terraforming. Take a planet like Mars, which cannot support humans or the life forms we depend upon, and with the help of technology, we make it habitable. We've seen how humans can influence earth's climate. Can we do the same sort of thing on Mars, but create conditions that would support life? I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Berman: "It's easy to say, Okay. We'll do something on Mars. After all, the soil has so much oxygen contained in it, you could just throw things on the soil, and the oxygen [shhhh] comes out. And come back a hundred years later, and maybe you have an atmosphere, and it becomes Earth-like."

Astronomer Bob Berman is the author of the book The Sun's Heartbeat.

"The problem with that is that is scale. Mars has the same surface area that Earth does when you exclude Earth's oceans. Now imagine trying to cover every bit of Earth with some kind of machine that goes around extracting the oxygen. How many countless tons of equipment would have to be brought from Earth to Mars to do that? This would be more money than any project we could think of, and the results would be a century in the future and may not work because Martian gravity is so weak that the atmosphere we do create would some of it, at least - would leak into space. Plus, we don't know how much oxygen would be reabsorbed by minerals as we did it."

What about bioengineering, letting microbes do the work of terraforming for us?

"Mars right now is not a place where you could put organisms that would have a chance of living. First of all, there's no water. There's no rain. There is a radiation flux and a high ultraviolet flux from the sun that would be sterilizing. This is beyond the capability of even a microbe to do anything but go into a kind of a cyst form."

Our thanks to astronomer Bob Berman. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.