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Can Terraforming be possible?

Posted June. 21, 2013 07:14,   


“Since we knew that the Krypton would be destroyed someday, we’ve been looking for a planet similar to the Krypton. The earth was one of the potential planets. We’ll transform the earth into a new Krypton by executing the ‘World Engine.’”

Above are words of a general who masterminded a plot against the Krypton government in the recently released movie “Man of Steel,” which is about the birth of the Superman. After that, two colossal spaceships landed on the center of New York and the opposite side of the earth and began generating a powerful gravitational field. Watching this, the head of U.S. Department of Defense say, “This is terraforming!”

Terraforming is not a fake technology existing only in the movie. Scientists call activities that transform planets into those with human-inhabitable environment a terraforming. Scientists have studied how to change the environment of the Moon, the Venus, the Mars and the Jupiter into something similar to that of the earth.

○ Bacteria need to be spread

The Mars is known for having the most similar environment as the earth. Can the Jupiter be terraformed? As the first step, bacteria need to be spread. Many scientists think that spreading bacteria on the planet should be the first step. If microorganisms cover a planet, organic matters pile up, increasing the chance to generate oxygen.

In particular, microorganisms can survive in extreme environment such as extremely cold temperature as shown in study results that bacteria in ancient Egyptian mummies from thousands of years ago and those were preserved in glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago were propagated.

Theoretically, microorganisms can create conditions in which complex living organisms can survive while accelerating the generation of oxygen.

In 2010, Professor Charles Cockell at the Open University in the U.K. released a study result proving that cyanobacteria can survive in space. Cyanobacteria is a kind of microorganisms, which generates oxygen through photosynthesis and known for supplying oxygen in the early stage of the formation of the Earth.

In 2001, NASA said that choroococcidiopsis, a type of bacteria, can best survive on Mars.

○ Greenhouse gas – essential for terraforming of the Mars

Being the most similar to the environment of the Earth, however, the average temperature of the Mars is minus 60 degrees Celsius with the lowest temperature of minus 125 degrees Celsius. Therefore, increasing the temperature is essential in the terraforming of the Mars.

Scientists expect that generating greenhouse gas in the Mars, which is a huge headache on earth, can help raise the temperature of the Mars by harnessing radiant energy in the surface of the Mars. Greenhouse gases can be made by using the massive dry ice kept in a polar cap. Currently it is impossible due to technological limitation, heat generated by huge shock upon the dry ice can be transformed into CO2. Then CO2 will gradually raise the temperature of the surface of the Mars.

○ Space Radiation

Study on terraforming has been and will be continued until it succeeds someday. However, space radiation will be ongoing problem after the success.

In the case of the Earth, the Earth’s magnetic field prevents radioactive particles from the Sun or other stars from reaching the surface. However, without having a magnetic field, the surface of the Mars is exposed to hazardous space radiation. Moreover, it also means the Mars is directly exposed to the solar wind that can blows off hardly generated oxygen and greenhouse gases on the surface.

Being exposed to space radiation may also cause mutation of living organisms. In addition, effects of a variety of cosmic particles and other variables including gravity need to be addressed to complete terraforming for humans to inhabit on the Mars.