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Thread: Zubrin: Technological Requirements for Terraforming Mars

  1. #1 Zubrin: Technological Requirements for Terraforming Mars 
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    Abstract

    The planet Mars, while cold and arid today, once possessed a warm and wet climate, as evidenced by extensive fluvial features observable on its surface. It is believed that the warm climate of the primitive Mars was created by a strong greenhouse effect caused by a thick CO2 atmosphere. Mars lost its warm climate when most of the available volatile CO2 was fixed into the form of carbonate rock due to the action of cycling water. It is believed, however, that sufficient CO2 to form a 300 to 600 mb atmosphere may still exist in volatile form, either adsorbed into the regolith or frozen out at the south pole. This CO2 may be released by planetary warming, and as the CO2 atmosphere thickens, positive feedback is produced which can accelerate the warming trend. Thus it is conceivable, that by taking advantage of the positive feedback inherent in Mars' atmosphere/regolith CO2 system, that engineering efforts can produce drastic changes in climate and pressure on a planetary scale.

    In this paper we propose a mathematical model of the Martian CO2 system, and use it to produce analysis which clarifies the potential of positive feedback to accelerate planetary engineering efforts. It is shown that by taking advantage of the feedback, the requirements for planetary engineering can be reduced by about 2 orders of magnitude relative to previous estimates. We examine the potential of various schemes for producing the initial warming to drive the process, including the stationing of orbiting mirrors, the importation of natural volatiles with high greenhouse capacity from the outer solar system, and the production of artificial halocarbon greenhouse gases on the Martian surface through in-situ industry.

    If the orbital mirror scheme is adopted, mirrors with dimension on the order or 100 km radius are required to vaporize the CO2 in the south polar cap. If manufactured of solar sail like material, such mirrors would have a mass on the order of 200,000 tonnes. If manufactured in space out of asteroidal or Martian moon material, about 120 MWe-years of energy would be needed to produce the required aluminum. This amount of power can be provided by near-term multi-megawatt nuclear power units, such as the 5 MWe modules now under consideration for NEP spacecraft.

    Orbital transfer of very massive bodies from the outer solar system can be accomplished using nuclear thermal rocket engines using the asteroid's volatile material as propellant. Using major planets for gravity assists, the rocket DV required to move an outer solar system asteroid onto a collision trajectory with Mars can be as little as 300 m/s. If the asteroid is made of NH3, specific impulses of about 400 s can be attained, and as little as 10% of the asteroid will be required for propellant. Four 5000 MWt NTR engines would require a 10 year burn time to push a 10 billion tonne asteroid through a DV of 300 m/s. About 4 such objects would be sufficient to greenhouse Mars.

    Greenhousing Mars via the manufacture of halocarbon gases on the planet's surface may well be the most practical option. Total surface power requirements to drive planetary warming using this method are calculated and found to be on the order of 1000 MWe, and the required times scale for climate and atmosphere modification is on the order of 50 years.

    It is concluded that a drastic modification of Martian conditions can be achieved using 21st century technology. The Mars so produced will closely resemble the conditions existing on the primitive Mars. Humans operating on the surface of such a Mars would require breathing gear, but pressure suits would be unnecessary. With outside atmospheric pressures raised, it will be possible to create large dwelling areas by means of very large inflatable structures. Average temperatures could be above the freezing point of water for significant regions during portions of the year, enabling the growth of plant life in the open. The spread of plants could produce enough oxygen to make Mars habitable for animals in several millennia. More rapid oxygenation would require engineering efforts supported by multi-terrawatt power sources. It is speculated that the desire to speed the terraforming of Mars will be a driver for developing such technologies, which in turn will define a leap in human power over nature as dramatic as that which accompanied the creation of post-Renaissance industrial civilization.
    http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~mfogg/zubrin.htm


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  3. #2  
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    Zubrin has gone from the realm of practical problem solver as a NASA engineer to futurist with offerings like this suggestion.

    His Mars Direct plans are still worth a good read that NASA should probably take a good look at. Terra-forming Mars is sci-fi that none of us will see in our lifetimes even if it's fun to think about how humanity will spread through the solar system.


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    Just because I plant an oak tree in my back yard that will only be large and beautiful for my grandchildren doesn't make it (science) fiction. Indeed, (negative) terraformation is already happening (on Earth). Its called climate change.
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    we could use something like that which will cost billions of dollars, be risky, and potentially have a cost in human life. or we could use new breakthroughs in engineering synthetic life to create microorganisms that can survive in a mars-like environment. if a synthetic cell could produce protiens that are catalysts to turning the mars rocks into carbon dioxide. these synthetic cells could have genes built in that make them easy to kill off later on. that would solve the co2 problem on mars.
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    Quote Originally Posted by saul
    we could use something like that which will cost billions of dollars, be risky, and potentially have a cost in human life. or we could use new breakthroughs in engineering synthetic life to create microorganisms that can survive in a mars-like environment. if a synthetic cell could produce protiens that are catalysts to turning the mars rocks into carbon dioxide. these synthetic cells could have genes built in that make them easy to kill off later on. that would solve the co2 problem on mars.
    The CO2 on mars is just frozen, you need just heat.
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    Mars is outside a narrow zone that allows the earth to be habitable. I'm pretty sure the energy requirements or technology is not in our foreseeable future to terraform such a planet.

    Think about it. Mars only gets 43% of the solar radiation per giving area that the Earth does. Just how are we going to maintain a habitable temperature? You might be able to have somewhat of a livable equatorial zone, but it would still be damn cold by our standards. then there would be the storms originating from deadly cold regions, moving across this areas, probably so frequently, it's still unlivable.

    I think it would be great to terraform Mars or Venus. But how? Venus has the opposite effect. Not only too hot, but too dense of an atmosphere. Granted, the atmosphere would likely be a livable density if the planet cooled, how would we do that to a planet that gets. Venus has almost twice the solar radiation per area as the Earth. Now it has a very small inclination, so maybe the polar regions can become habitable?
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    Venus has no water.

    Think about it. Mars only gets 43% of the solar radiation per giving area that the Earth does. Just how are we going to maintain a habitable temperature?
    Ironically, with greenhouse gasses like CO2. :wink:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra
    Just how are we going to maintain a habitable temperature?
    greenhouse gasses
    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra
    Venus has almost twice the solar radiation per area as the Earth. Now it has a very small inclination, so maybe the polar regions can become habitable?
    Actually because of it's highly reflective upper atmosphere it's surface receives slightly less energy than on Earth. The main problem probably would be Venus's extremely slow rotation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Venus has no water.

    Think about it. Mars only gets 43% of the solar radiation per giving area that the Earth does. Just how are we going to maintain a habitable temperature?
    Ironically, with greenhouse gasses like CO2. :wink:
    Greenhouse gasses cannot supply that much insulation. that is effectively what the greenhouse effect is, isolating the heat in the atmosphere. You would have to make the atmospheric window to IR exceptionally small to get that much warming. Now i was thinking, maybe we can find a non toxic gas that would stay in the atmosphere and blocks spectra of IR that H2O and C2o do not.

    The only reason why Venus has greater heat than if earth were in its orbit is that it has more than 90 times of am atmosphere, and it is mostly CO2. To increase an atmosphere to the dame sea level pressure would make it uninhabitable alone.

    As for the water, I'll bet Venus has plenty. It's just all in vapor form.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    Actually because of it's highly reflective upper atmosphere it's surface receives slightly less energy than on Earth. The main problem probably would be Venus's extremely slow rotation.
    It still ends up with a greater heat than earth because of the density of the atmosphere.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    Venus has no water.
    Well, according to NASA, Venus has 0.002% H2O in it's atmosphere. This can only be an educated guess as there is no way to really see the spectra deeper in the atmosphere. I think it's safe to assume that water in the atmosphere of Venus will be most abundant in the lower few km on the atmosphere. This makes it impossible to really know.


    Earth, from SpectralCalc.com:

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    You say:

    Greenhouse gasses cannot supply that much insulation. that is effectively what the greenhouse effect is, isolating the heat in the atmosphere.
    then:

    It still ends up with a greater heat than earth because of the density of the atmosphere.
    Venus' atmosphere is as hot as it is because the dense atmosphere is made up of greenhouse gasses like CO2. Why can't enough greenhouse gasses on Mars lift the temps high enough? Nobody is suggesting anything close to the densities like those found on Venus you know.

    As for the water, I'll bet Venus has plenty. It's just all in vapor form....Well, according to NASA, Venus has 0.002% H2O in it's atmosphere. This can only be an educated guess as there is no way to really see the spectra deeper in the atmosphere. I think it's safe to assume that water in the atmosphere of Venus will be most abundant in the lower few km on the atmosphere. This makes it impossible to really know.
    Really dude, why jump to such conclusions? Haven't you ever heard of the planetary missions to Venus?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra
    Mars is outside a narrow zone that allows the earth to be habitable. I'm pretty sure the energy requirements or technology is not in our foreseeable future to terraform such a planet.
    Although prohibitively expensive, Zubrin's concepts have the advantage of using only tech we already have or that we will reasonably have in the next few decades.


    Think about it. Mars only gets 43% of the solar radiation per giving area that the Earth does. Just how are we going to maintain a habitable temperature? You might be able to have somewhat of a livable equatorial zone, but it would still be damn cold by our standards. then there would be the storms originating from deadly cold regions, moving across this areas, probably so frequently, it's still unlivable.
    Because Mar's length of day and tilt are similar to Earth, once Mars developed a more robust atmosphere, the equatorial regions would be somewhat insulated by an abbreviated Hadley circulation; in other words, polar storm's usually wouldn't reach the equatorial regions.

    While still colder than earth the equatorial zone, which are nearly half the surface area, could be made at least warm enough to grow cold weather plants--it would be very habitable so long as humans wore a thin O2+N2 mask for breathing.

    --
    One obstacle to all this speculation is we'd need to develop good models about the huge dust storms that sometimes effect the entire planet. How much terra-forming would we need to slow them down?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    While still colder than earth the equatorial zone, which are nearly half the surface area, could be made at least warm enough to grow cold weather plants--it would be very habitable so long as humans wore a thin O2+N2 mask for breathing.
    On Earth, 65 degrees N and S get about 43% of sunlight the equator gets. That is almost in the polar regions. So even at the equator of Mars, it is still very cold.

    Also, about the mask, why do we need ? Is it only there to dilute the , or do we need it for some other reason?
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    You say:

    Greenhouse gasses cannot supply that much insulation. that is effectively what the greenhouse effect is, isolating the heat in the atmosphere.
    then:

    It still ends up with a greater heat than earth because of the density of the atmosphere.
    Venus' atmosphere is as hot as it is because the dense atmosphere is made up of greenhouse gasses like CO2. Why can't enough greenhouse gasses on Mars lift the temps high enough? Nobody is suggesting anything close to the densities like those found on Venus you know.
    I don't see conflict in those statements. CO2 at non toxic levels in a livable atmosphere do not close the atmospheric window enough to generate the necessary heat.
    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER
    As for the water, I'll bet Venus has plenty. It's just all in vapor form....Well, according to NASA, Venus has 0.002% H2O in it's atmosphere. This can only be an educated guess as there is no way to really see the spectra deeper in the atmosphere. I think it's safe to assume that water in the atmosphere of Venus will be most abundant in the lower few km on the atmosphere. This makes it impossible to really know.
    Really dude, why jump to such conclusions? Haven't you ever heard of the planetary missions to Venus?
    Yes, I am making some unfounded assumptions here. "I'll bet" means I'm stating it as opinion. At least to me. Doesn't it read that way to you? As for the Pioneer Venus probes, I thought it was damaged in reentry, and didn't supply valid information. Am I thinking of a different one?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mole

    On Earth, 65 degrees N and S get about 43% of sunlight the equator gets. That is almost in the polar regions. So even at the equator of Mars, it is still very cold.
    Ok, we can both do the trig, but I'm not sure how it relates to my post.

    Also, about the mask, why do we need ? Is it only there to dilute the , or do we need it for some other reason?
    Mostly to reduce the chance of flash fire into the person's face. Other gases such as helium would just as well.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Although prohibitively expensive, Zubrin's concepts have the advantage of using only tech we already have or that we will reasonably have in the next few decades.
    Yes, I agree, but I don't ever see Mars as becoming a livable planet for maybe several thousand years. I think it would be very irresponsible to put settlements there under a man-made temperature increase, because I think nature could make it unlivable again in a heartbeat.

    Now on the flip-side, I would like to see such steps taken. If mankind is to survive several millenium from now, what happens as the sun expands over time? Venus is believed to once be more like earth and the nature life of Sol has changed things. I have no problem trying to give the basic chemistry of life a head start.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra
    I don't see conflict in those statements. CO2 at non toxic levels in a livable atmosphere do not close the atmospheric window enough to generate the necessary heat.
    OK, show us your numbers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Also, about the mask, why do we need ? Is it only there to dilute the , or do we need it for some other reason?
    Mostly to reduce the chance of flash fire into the person's face. Other gases such as helium would just as well.
    Actually not, if you ever want to run agriculture there.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Ok, we can both do the trig, but I'm not sure how it relates to my post.
    I'm just saying, even if it is warm enough to grow cold weather crops, it is still hard to grow them commercially.
    And I did not intend to insult your ability to do trig.
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  21. #20  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Also, about the mask, why do we need ? Is it only there to dilute the , or do we need it for some other reason?
    Mostly to reduce the chance of flash fire into the person's face. Other gases such as helium would just as well.
    Actually not, if you ever want to run agriculture there.
    How does the chemical of breathing through a mask relate to agriculture? I think Zubrin assumes that even terraformed Mars the atmosphere would hold too much CO2 to ever be breathable for mammals.
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