View Full Version : Is the idea of terraforming considered BA?

2004-Sep-26, 12:48 PM
Disclaimer #1: I'm a newbie here, so a bit confused...

In the "Gung Ho for Mars" topic, Cugel suggested terraforming is not possible...

I did a quick search on the board but didn't find a conclusive answer cq the errr... opinion about the terraforming idea.

Disclaimer #2: I'm a New Mars regular, (Mars Society Message Boards,) and there are lots of -sometimes pretty wild-discussions about terraforming there, but I'm prepared to accept that 'their' opinions might be non-objective...
Some sceptical people brought good reasons to those boards why it was not possible, but 'we' could always come up with 'countermeasures'...

So my question: is terraforming pseudoscience or not?

(edited out typo..)

Bounced Check
2004-Sep-26, 03:10 PM
I believe it is considered more of a theory waiting someplace to test. We can't terraform anything yet because we lack a "lab" large enough to try out the various methods.

Step one is trying to get someplace to try terraforming.

Step two is being long ranged enough in our vision and dedication to actually let the process take hold.

2004-Sep-26, 09:14 PM
The basic concept is sound, but we have no idea how well it will work. It might fizzle out, or it might lead to an environment that's less hospitable than the original state.

2004-Sep-26, 09:44 PM
Admin, mods: It just occurred to me this subject might be not suitable to the BA boards... If so, I apologize, and you can lock this topic...

If suitable: I too, think the 'worse than before' scenarios don't get enough limelight...
If terraforming efforts would be able to change the climate, we're bound to see some pretty severe errr... storms, no? Right now Mars has some kind of equibrilum, climate-wize, but raising the atm. pressure or temp, leading to the possibility of massive outgassing... Phoowee... :o

2004-Sep-26, 10:23 PM
I would agree than in floating the idea not enough thought is given to the worst case possibilities, nor to the long turn stability of the new system. It would be rather sand we we spent a thousand years terraforming Mars and then the new atmosphere leaked away in a few more thousand years.

Also, seeing we don't really understand the changes we are doing to the earth's climate that well, I think it is rather premature to think we can manage it on Mars. Let's hsow we can understand and then manage global warming for starters.

So I don't think we know whether or not it is feasible, let alone practical. Then there is the question as to whether or not it is desirable. But it is an interesting thought experiment, so long as people don't think that it is neccessary or inevitable.



2004-Sep-28, 02:17 PM
It would take considerably longer than a few thousand years to lose a martian atmosphere if we made one; according to recent estimates Mars loses 1kg of atmosphere per second because of the solar wind; at that rate it would take ten billion years to lose an atmosphere as dense as Earth's.

But of course the hypothetical atmosphere would lose mass at a much faster rate than 1kg per second, simply because it would be thicker and warmer that the Martian atmosphere is now; several hundred times thicker and perhaps a hundred degrees warmer.

if the loss rate was (say) a thousand times faster, the hypothetical Terraformed Martian atmosphere would last ten million years; during this time we could top it up.

But in the long run Mars could not have a permanently self sustaining atmosphere; the term 'Caeliforming' has been suggested for the process of adding an atmosphere which is not self-sustaining.

2004-Sep-29, 12:06 AM
Jon and others,

Thanks for the remarks! I will try to add to the discussion here...
Answering some questions:

Yes, I have been (an early) member of the Mars society in Holland. I am still participating in their Dutch BB and know most of the members on a personal level. (All intelligent, kind and interesting people BTW).

What is terraforming? My personal definition: to be able to sit on the gras outdoors, in your swimsuit, for at least 1 hour without risking once health.
(I agree, some places on Earth don't qualify. However, nobody wants to colonize these places either. And 'they' do want to colonize Mars...)

I do not believe terraforming Mars is feasible from a technical point of view. The main reason for this is because I do not believe that anyone can actually predict (and thus control) what the result of such an attempt would be. Remember, we cannot predict the wheather on our own planet for more than a few days ahead. I also remember Biosphere-2, which was big, but not really on the same scale as Mars.

So, what we need is a complete mathematical model of the planet Mars that can be used to calculate what reactions will follow after certain changes. (I think you agree with that) We do not have such a model now and will not have it within the next 100 years (or so). Of course, I cannot predict the progress of science and engineering, but I somehow have the idea that there is a limit to what we can do. (Although not completely on topic, I would like to know other peoples ideas on this...)

Now, do I have to proof that terraforming is not feasible? Or do people who claim that such an extraordinairy (and rather expensive) idea is feasible need to come up with some sort of solid model that supports their claim? Just throwing some equations on the internet about greenhouse effects won't do. That is what I consider to be the pseudo-science part of this phenomena.

If only someone like Chris McKay, who is a respected scientist, would start his presentations about terraforming with something like: "Look, what a funny idea this is..." instead of starting with: "This is what we can do....". I heard him do that and found it irritatingly arrogant.

ps. Looking out of the window just now I realize my definition of terraforming might need some tweaking... or Holland badly needs to be terraformed!

2004-Sep-29, 12:54 AM
Are we discussing the difference between feasible and possible?
Terraforming Mars is possible; but whether it will ever be feasible is another thing altogether.

Expending vast amounts of energy would allow any environment to be set up on Mars, at least on a temporary basis, but it could easily exceed the budget of the whole Earth by a million, or a billion-fold.