Most science fiction and news stories describe Mars terraforming as a long term but simple process. You warm up the planet first, with greenhouse gases, giant mirrors, impacting comets or some such. You land humans on the surface right away and they introduce lifeforms designed to live on Mars. Over a period of a thousand years or so, life spreads over the planet and transforms it, and Mars becomes a second Earth.
However no-one has yet terraformed a planet. There are many theoretical reasons for supposing it wouldn\’t be as easy as that. What\’s more, this process if it goes wrong could lead to a Mars that is worse for humans than it is now. It could so alter the planet that it can never be terraformed again in such a simple way.
A long article by Robert Walker looking at the issues that we might run into if we attempt to terraform Mars. There’s a lot of information there, but there’s one thing I didn’t see that I now always think about whenever people write about terraforming: it’s a lot easier to modify us than to modify a planet.
Certainly, the idea of modifying our bodies to fit with the Martian environment may seem far fetched. But is it any more far fetched that terraforming an entire planet? Particularly doing it on a short enough time scale to interest anyone in investing?
The usual response, aside from simply ignoring this option, is to say that humans would want to remain human. Perhaps. At first. But as time marched on and the technology improved, it’s conceivable people might change their bodies for visiting different parts of Earth, much less when they go into space. The concerns about natural bodies might seem quaint to our descendants in ways we’d have trouble contemplating today.
And technology that could be used to modify bodies, even radically, would have obvious enormous medical benefits for humanity. Benefits that could be available much sooner than the thousands (tens of thousands?) of years to terraform Mars; a project that, based on Walker’s article, we’d have a good chance of messing up in an irreversible fashion.
- 2260 (timelineofthefuture.wordpress.com)
- Terraforming Mars or Venus (starilluminant.wordpress.com)
- Turning the Red Planet Green (physicsau.wordpress.com)
- Creative Non-fiction Ideas (gizmogunnut.wordpress.com)
- Post 3 – Weekly Update for CSE 167 Final Project (eliahdavid.wordpress.com)
- Should We Remake Mars in Earth’s Image? (pakalertpress.com)
- Terraforming… (lunaticoutpost.com)