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    Terraforming Research and Experiments

    Terraforming Background


    Terraforming is the process of transforming a hostile environment into one suitable for human life. Being that Mars is the most Earth-like planet, it is the best candidate for terraforming. Once just the subject of science fiction novels, it is now becoming a viable research area. The famed astronomer and Pulitzer prize winner, Carl Sagan, says that there is enormous promise in the search for ancient life on Mars. If life was once sustainable on Mars, it is important to know what caused Mars to evolve into the cold and lifeless planet it is today. With this knowledge, we can terraform Mars by reversing the process.

    - NASA


    Terraforming is a process of taking an inhabitable planet and making it habitable for living organisms. This can be done by adding an atmosphere, heat, and water. Mars is considered by many to be the candidate for terraformation. Much study has been done on the possibility of heating the planet and altering its atmosphere, and NASA has put some input into this idea, but the economic resources to terraform are far to much for any government willing to donate.

    Many people say that it is possible to terraform Mars, our Moon, Titan, Callisto,Mercury and dozens of other moons.

    Looking at what we did to this earth, many people think that planets should be left without human interference. Others say that terraforming sounds ethically sound once we know that the planet we are terraforming has no other life of its own, but if it does, while we should not try to reshape the planet to our own use, we should engineer the planet's environment to artificially nurture the alien life and help it thrive and co-evolve, or even co-exist with humans.

    There are many potential political issues for terraforming a planet, such as who gets to own the terraformed land on the new planet, could it be national governments, organizations like the United Nations, corporations etc. Such settlements may become national disputes as countries try to make portions of other planets part of their own national territory.

    Topics of Interest

    Terraforming (literally, "Earth-shaping") of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to those of Earth to make it habitable by terran organisms.

    Based on experiences with Earth, the environment of a planet can be altered deliberately: however the feasibility of creating an unconstrained planetary biosphere that mimics Earth on another planet has yet to be verified. Mars is considered by many to be the most likely candidate for terraformation. Much study has been done concerning the possibility of heating the planet and altering its atmosphere, and NASA has even hosted debates on the subject. Several potential methods of altering the climate of Mars may fall within humanity's technological capabilities, but at present the economic resources required to do so are far beyond that which any government or society is willing to allocate to the purpose. The long timescales and practicality of terraforming are the subject of debate. Other unanswered questions relate to the ethics, logistics, economics, politics, and methodology of altering the environment of an extraterrestrial world.

    Carl Sagan, an astronomer, proposed the planetary engineering of Venus in a 1961 article published in the journal Science titled, "The Planet Venus."[2] Sagan imagined seeding the atmosphere of Venus with algae, which would convert water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide into organic compounds. As this process removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect would be reduced until surface temperatures dropped to "comfortable" levels. The resulting carbon, Sagan supposed, would be incinerated by the high surface temperatures of Venus, and thus be sequestered in the form of "graphite or some involatile form of carbon" on the planet's surface.[3] However, later discoveries about the conditions on Venus made this particular approach impossible. One problem is that the clouds of Venus are composed of a highly concentrated sulfuric acid solution. Even if atmospheric algae could thrive in the hostile environment of Venus' upper atmosphere, an even more insurmountable problem is that its atmosphere is simply far too thick—the high atmospheric pressure would result in an "atmosphere of nearly pure molecular oxygen" and cause the planet's surface to be thickly covered in fine graphite powder.[3] This volatile combination could not be sustained through time. Any carbon that was fixed in organic form would be liberated as carbon dioxide again through combustion, "short-circuiting" the terraforming process.

    Sagan also visualized making Mars habitable for human life in "Planetary Engineering on Mars," a 1973 article published in the journal Icarus.[4] Three years later, NASA addressed the issue of planetary engineering officially in a study, but used the term "planetary ecosynthesis" instead.[5] The study concluded that it was possible for Mars to support life and be made into a habitable planet. The first conference session on terraforming, then referred to as "Planetary Modeling," was organized that same year.

    Planetary habitability is the measure of a planet's or a natural satellite's potential to sustain life. Life may develop directly on a planet or satellite or be transferred to it from another body, a theoretical process known as panspermia. As the existence of life beyond Earth is currently uncertain, planetary habitability is largely an extrapolation of conditions on Earth and the characteristics of the Sun and solar system which appear favorable to life's flourishing—in particular those factors that have sustained complex, multicellular organisms and not just simpler, unicellular creatures. Research and theory in this regard is a component of planetary science and the emerging discipline of astrobiology.

    Ecopoiesis is a neologism created by Robert Haynes. The word was formed from the Greek house and production. Ecopoiesis refers to the origin of an ecosystem. In the context of space exploration, Haynes describes ecopoiesis as the "fabrication of a sustainable ecosystem on a currently lifeless, sterile planet". Ecopoiesis is a type of planetary engineering and is one of the first stages of terraformation. This primary stage of ecosystem creation is usually restricted to the initial seeding of microbial life. As conditions approach that of Earth, plant life could be brought in, and this will accelerate the production of oxygen, making the planet theoretically eventually able to support life.

    The terraforming of Mars is the hypothetical process by which the climate, surface, and known properties of Mars would be deliberately changed with the goal of making it habitable by humans and other terrestrial life, thus providing the possibility of safe and sustainable colonization of large areas of the planet.

    Based on experiences with Earth, the environment of a planet can be altered deliberately; however, the feasibility of creating an unconstrained planetary biosphere is undetermined. Several of the methods described below may fall within humanity's current technological capabilities, but at present the economic resources required to execute such methods are far beyond that which any government or society is willing to allocate.

    The colonization of Mars by humans is the focus of speculation and serious study, as the surface conditions and availability of water on Mars make it arguably the most hospitable planet in the solar system other than Earth. While the Moon has been proposed as the first location for human colonization, unlike Earth's moon Mars has an atmosphere — giving it the potential capacity to host human and other organic life.

    Terraforming of Venus is the hypothetical process of engineering the global environment of the planet Venus in such a way as to make it suitable for human habitation. The existing environment of Venus would require changes to the planet.

    The colonization of the Moon is the proposed establishment of permanent human communities on the Moon. Advocates of space exploration have seen settlement of the Moon as a logical step in the expansion of humanity beyond the Earth. Polar colonies would be ideal for avoiding long cold nights and to take full advantage of the sun.

    The ethics of terraforming has constituted a philosophical debate within biology, ecology, and environmental ethics as to whether terraforming other worlds is an ethical endeavor.

    The Outer Space Treaty, formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law. The treaty was opened for signature in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union on January 27, 1967, and entered into force on October 10, 1967. As of January 2008, 99 countries are states-parties to the treaty, while another 26 have signed the treaty but have not yet completed ratification. The full treaty can be found at Wikisource.

    Terraforming has been well-represented in popular culture, usually in the form of science fiction. Author Jack Williamson is credited with inventing and popularizing the term "terraform". In July 1942, under the pseudonym Will Stewart, Williamson published a science fiction novella entitled "Collision Orbit" in Astounding Science-Fiction magazine. The series was later published as two novels, Seetee Shock (1949) and Seeetee Ship (1951). American geographer Richard Cathcart successfully lobbied for formal recognition of the verb "to terraform", and it was first included in the fourth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in 1993.

    Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

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    Last updated: June 2013
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