View Full Version : Discussion: Zubrin On Terraforming Mars

2004-Jul-12, 04:48 PM
SUMMARY: When Robert Zubrin imagines the human colonization of Mars, he sees us eventually terraforming the planet to make it more earthlike. In this interview with Astrobiology Magazine, Zubrin details how terraforming the Red Planet might happen, and how long it could take before you can step outside your protective dome without being simultaneously flash frozen, irradiated, and asphyxiated.

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2004-Jul-12, 05:32 PM
Zubrin starts with a century to build up the industrial base. I guess the biggest question is when does that start? If we get men on the Mars by 2035, it will probably still be another fifty to a hundred years before we could begin the process of industiralization. Launching equipment there is going to be prohibitively expensive for a long time.

If we take Zubrin's schedule seriously [1200 years to terraform], I think the start date will be a few years after the space elevator is open for industrial scale business.

2004-Jul-12, 06:28 PM
How are we going to be able to make the atmosphere stay on Mars? How much will the radiation be reduced with a thick atmosphere? I love the idea but is it really feasible?

2004-Jul-12, 07:28 PM
Originally posted by Tinaa@Jul 12 2004, 06:28 PM
How much will the radiation be reduced with a thick atmosphere?
I wonder if Mars has enough Chlorine, Flourine, and Carbon to make a good thick rich atmosphere of CFCs. At first glance [radiation-size] you'd have to say Hey, with all those CFCs around, you'll never get an Ozone layer, but I'm sure we could make a UV absorber that CFC's don't destroy.

As to the gamma rays, xrays, and high-speed nuclei, the 0.3 Torr that Zubrin described should be enough to keep the people on the ground safe from that.

One of my big worries is that Mars would only keep its water for a short time. I suspect it would evaporate away over a few thousand years, so some care would be required. Perhaps it would work best to keep the water indoors and underground.

2004-Jul-13, 01:06 AM
Who/What gives anyone the right to terraform Mars?

IE; If its not OK to cut down the Amazon rainforest, who/what says it is OK to change somebody elses backyard.


2004-Jul-13, 01:28 AM
Who exactly is 'somebody'? You know something we don't?

2004-Jul-13, 03:41 AM
I don't think it can be done in 1200 years. That's a lot of equipment which would have to be maintained by people in protective suits for many centuries. Look at how little we can affect our own atmosphere when we try. Environmental regulations have done little to change the atmosphere. To try to change an entire planet with limited equipment, resources and people... that would take far longer in my opinion. I'm not saying it's impossible, just that the time line seems short.

Eric Vaxxine
2004-Jul-13, 08:40 AM
I agree with John M. Even if it is only inhabited by insects and underground bugs we do tend to take over without much consideration. ie Australia, USA.

Cro Magnon
2004-Jul-13, 09:48 AM
Here, I terraformed it for them.

Eric Vaxxine
2004-Jul-13, 11:52 AM
What are the fuzzy grey bits? :rolleyes:

2004-Jul-13, 11:56 AM
okay, how did you do that??? and can i have a copy emailed to please?

2004-Jul-13, 12:26 PM
Who/What gives anyone the right to terraform Mars?

Evolution equipped us with ability and, except for the enormous effort required, has provided neither discouragement nor prohibitions. If we don't, somebody or something else will modify it to their liking. Rights are not involved.

2004-Jul-13, 04:56 PM
The gray stuff has to be clouds,

2004-Jul-13, 05:17 PM
Besides the UV radiation problem from the sun there is also a potential problem with atmosphere being stripped away by solar storms. The problem stems from Mars's lack of a magnetic field. I am not sure that there will be any good way to generate an artificial magnetic field. There was a recent article modelling what would happen on Earth, however, during magnetic pole flips during which there is no magnetic field of appreciable strength for hundreds if not a few thousand years. Our atmosphere apparently performed well against solar storms according to their model, even without a protective magnetic field. If the water evaporation problem cannot be solved then Mars might end up covered in huge domes to keep it in. Most likely by the time we are actually able to begin to do this we would have found a practical solution to that one as well.
As far as the timeline, Zubin is betting that technological breakthroughs will make access to space cheap and affordable such that colonization can take place by then. If we are able to employ a space elevator 10 or 20 years from now as some now project, an idea that NASA is now seriously funding, then that would be a big step forward in that direction. If you imagine what any sane person 100 years ago would have said about our prospects of being able to fly in the air at supersonic speeds, then you would get a feel for how rapidly major changes in transportation can occur.
As far as our right to terraform, I think Zubin illustrates this concept brillantly when he says that if the rights of bacteria were paramount then Pasteur would have been tried in a world court and convicted for genocidal crimes against bacteria. Also all of us would be guilty of mass murder when we take an antibiotic to save us from misery and prolonged, painful and even fatal disease. I do think that we should make every effort to catalog and preserve any primitive species that we do find there.