Could we terraform Mars?

Far into the future, could we turn the Red Planet into the second Blue Planet?


An artist's impression of a terraformed Mars. Credit: Daein Ballard

Asked by Janine Bruce

If there was a planet that scientists would try and terraform, Mars would win hands down. Why? Because it is the most Earth-like of all of the planets in our Solar System and, according to experts, there was once a time that this rocky world was very much like how our planet appears today, with a thicker atmosphere and an abundance of water. Of course this has all changed, with Mars being a seemingly barren place with a thin atmosphere, no geological activity and no substantial magnetic field.

Unfortunately, while the Red Planet is argued to be the easiest planet in our Solar System to turn into another habitable world, it is still a pretty difficult thing to do with so many hurdles to jump over. Terraforming Mars requires three very important changes – building up its atmosphere, keeping it warm and keeping the atmosphere from being ripped from it and lost to outer space. So in short, and in practice, terraforming Mars is impossible, but that doesn’t mean that some scientists haven’t thought about it!

Some scientists argue that the main elements for life can already be found in the soil and atmosphere of Mars and believe that there are large amounts of water ice existing below the Martian surface, on the south pole and on the north pole where it is mixed with frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice). However, with the need to import ammonia and hydrogen amongst other elements and compounds, it would indeed be very difficult to terraform Mars.

Answered by science journalist Gemma Lavender

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