Colonizing Mars has for long being a much-cherished dream of mankind ever since human beings started exploring space. However, a new paper seems to quash such hopes as it says that terraforming Mars might just be impossible.
Terraforming basically means the modification of a planet’s temperature, surface, and atmosphere to make it suitable for human habitation. Scientists have been betting on the possibility of CO2 on Mars for terraforming the red planet. But according to the paper, CO2 levels are pretty low.
“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. As a result, terraforming Mars is not possible using present-day technology”, a NASA article quotes Bruce Jakosky, co-author of the paper.
The vast majority of CO2 has been lost into space. A tiny amount of CO2 is locked into the ice caps, deep carbonates, and minerals. Even if all the CO2 trapped in them were to be magically unlocked and spread into the atmosphere, it still wouldn’t be sufficient to warm the planet and terraform it for human habitation. According to Jakosky’s estimates, the polar caps on the red planet would yield about 15 mbar of CO2, with the carbonates adding in 150 mbar and the surface dirt contributing 40 mbar.
Despite the disappointing findings, pioneer of terraforming Christopher McKay remains positive on the possibility of terraforming Mars. “The key question for terraforming is the amount of CO2, N2, and H2O on Mars. Unfortunately, there is nothing new here to resolve this question… We are still highly uncertain as to the amount of CO2 below the surface. We don’t have good data and we need to drill deeply to get it”, he says in an interview with Wired.
Not being able to terraform Mars does not rule out the possibility of colonizing it. Humans can still set up their own climate-controlled units on the surface and blissfully live inside them. In fact, NASA itself is planning to establish a human colony on the red planet by the 2030s using 3D printing and modular architecture technologies.
“Efforts made today and in the next decade will lay the foundation for an Earth Independent, sustained presence in deep space. Living and working in space require accepting risk and the journey is worth the risk”, The Telegraph quotes a NASA report.
Please watch this video of Elon Musk’s update of SpaceX’s efforts for a Mars landing by 2024.
Using 3D technology to print the necessary tools will definitely prove useful during the Mars colonization. After all, the agency will simply have to ship in the 3D printer and it can build anything it wants provided the raw materials are available on the planet. In fact, one could argue that it will be 3D printing technology that will play a major role in the colonization projects of the future.
In addition to NASA, entrepreneur and visionary Elon Musk is also laying down plans for setting up a human colony on Mars through his company SpaceX. And according to his plans, almost 1 million people can be shipped off to Mars within the next 100 years. The United Arab Emirates also seems to want a share of the Mars colonization race and has announced that it will put up 600,000 people on the planet within a century.
And while plans are aplenty, it remains to be seen if any of them will actually produce immediate results or whether the human race will have to wait for several centuries before it can actually set up a colony on the red planet.