Re: Right Stuff for the Red Planet

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2000 - 23:38:13 MST

James Swayze wrote:
> John Thomas wrote:
> >
> > From today's "Salon" newsfeed:
> > >The right stuff for the Red Planet: At 35, Dava Newman's an MIT engineer
> A little off the subject but can someone explain to me why people promoting the
> terraforming of Mars still think it will hold a man made atmosphere despite the
> believed theory that it lost it's atmosphere in the first place due to it's
> diminutive size and thus lack of sufficient gravity? Don't get me wrong I want
> us to go there and I feel we could live there. I believe, though, we can only
> live there under a man made roof to hold in the atmosphere. I asked R. Zubrin
> this question. All he said was go read his book. Geez, was a straight answer so
> difficult? Perhaps he's only in it for the money as he was more interested in my
> buying his book than answering a question that couldn't have taken but a few
> words.

There are good reasons why:
a) it took at least a few hundred million years for Mars to become
uninhabitable. Plenty of time to found and refound many civilizations if
we start the process over again.
b) the original state did not have an intelligent race (us) to maintain
and keep it habitable.
c) the original atmosphere did not have a few guided comets helping to
get to a high enough pressure level to sustain a greenhouse effect.
d) the atmosphere is still there, its just locked in the rocks and under
the surface. If a moon like Titan, which is smaller than Mars, can have
a denser atmosphere, while being around five times farther away from the
sun than Mars, then its possible to do the same with Mars.

Zubrin's research suggests that there is enough CO2, O2, and nitrogen
locked away in the rocks and ice to create an atmosphere somewhere
between 300-800 millibars. Adding a few comets at the north pole should
add enough more energy and gases to boost the levels up to earth normal.
Then its just a matter of introducing plant/algae species to convert CO2
to O2, while building huge aerosol and methane manufacturing and
evaporating plants to boost the greenhouse effect.

It would take a few hundred years to get an earthlike world, but a
livable world could be had in several decades, if the data is right and
people invest with a vengance. Its not a matter of CAN it be done, but
do we WANT to do it? I do.

Mike Lorrey

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