Re: teraforming mars

Anders Sandberg (
19 Aug 1999 20:09:36 +0200

Gregory Hather <> writes:

> Why mars won't be teraformed for a long time...
> 1. The atmasphere is to thin. If we tried to add more, it would just float off because
> mars's gravity is too weak. (surface gravety = .4*earth surface gravity)

Even if it would float away, the rate would be quite slow by human measures - calculations in suggest that even the moon could sustain a breathable atmosphere for 10,000 years. Mars would definitely have a much longer time constant, and I'm not even sure the equilibrium is near vacuum.

> 2. It would be cheaper to "teraform" the Aulstralian desert or
> build taller buildings.

Why are you terraforming? If you want living space, go for self-sufficient space colonies based on asteroid resources. If you want to make the grandest possible garden, then Australia might be a starting point (but the environmental changes brought about by the terraforming of australia might upset other people) but a planet would be even greater.

> 3. Space flight takes too long. Asuming you acellarate at 1 g, it would take at least
> 6 months to reach mars.

No, this is wrong. No doubt our spaceflight experts have the exact time for a standard orbit, but it is on the order of around a year - with no constant acceleration. If you could make a 1g constant thrust drive, then I could be there within a few days at most. Unfortunately there is no such drive on the horizon yet.

> 4. There is no infastructure, and no one to live with.

So? Terraforming is a group effort, and while you are setting things up you will by necessity have to set up an infrastructure. And after Mars have become livable (by whatever definitions people use - some might like the intermediate stages better than the finished ones) people will want to live there.

> 5. Everyone benifits from teraforming, no matter who pays.

So you think nobody would undertake the project due to free riders? Altruists might want to do it anyway, especially if it is a cheap project at a given (high) level of technology. And I guess the libertarian answer would be to privatize the planet and sell off real estate.

> 6. No one on earth will allow the transfer of oxygen.

Huh? No terraforming proposals have involved bringing oxygen from the Earth - that would be downright inefficient. Bring in water from the outer solar system, and use plants and/or nanotech to produce oxygen locally.

> 7. A teraformed planet may require matenance.

So? You already have the technology in place.

> 8. It is too big of a project for any corporation or nation to pay for it.

This assumes current technology and economics - today it isn't even physically feasible to terraform. But costs seem to decrease compared to wage buying power at a roughly exponential rate, meaning that a project that today is too expensive and infeasible might be quite cheap and practical a few centuries hence. Just look at the stuff ordinary people do today for fun that would in the past have required the wealth of a king.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y