Overpopulation. Pollution. Global warming. Resource exhaustion. Augmented natural disasters. As the Earth grows older, the human race will likely deplete the Earth of its natural resources and space. Even as you're reading this article, more greenhouse gases are being released into the air, more species in the ocean are being fished towards extinction, and more babies are being born to the point where eventually, we're all going to run out of space.
Although the prospect of an overcrowded Earth ridden with pollution and lacking in wildlife seems dreary, scientists have begun to think about the idea of terraforming.
So What Is Terraforming?
Terraforming is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying a planet or moon's properties (such as its atmosphere, temperature, or surface topography) in order to make it similar to the biosphere of Earth.
The purpose of this? To make it inhabitable by humans!
Several potential methods of altering the climate of Mars may actually be possible with our current technological capabilities. Unfortunately, we do not have the economic resources needed to mobilize terraforming.
It is without a doubt that terraforming would be a long and arduous process that would require a lot of money. It would be difficult to convince any one government or society to allocate their resources for this purpose.
Mars is considered to be the most likely candidate for terraforming. This is because it is the most Earth-like out of all the planets in our solar system. It is thought that Mars once did have a more Earth-like environment a long time ago, with a thicker atmosphere and lots of water that was eventually lost. We do not know why this was the case, but there a few theories:
i) First, whenever surface water is present, carbon dioxide reacts to form chemicals that become deposited into rocks. This causes a depletion of atmospheric CO2. This does not happen in Earth because of tectonic movement.
ii) Secondly, asteroid impacts in the early history of Mars caused significant changes to its surface environment.
Terraforming Mars would involve two major changes: building the atmosphere and heating it. A thicker atmosphere with greenhouse gases (yes, greenhouse gases aren't all bad!) such as carbon dioxide would trap solar radiation in the form of heat, raising the temperature of the surface. Because the raised temperature would add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the two processes would augment each other.
Terraforming Venus requires two major changes; removing most of the planet's dense carbon dioxide atmosphere and reducing the planet's intense surface temperature. These goals, like Mars' terraformation, are closely interrelated. Venus' extreme temperature is thought to be due to the greenhouse effect caused by its thick atmosphere.
Europa is a moon of Jupiter. One advantage to terraforming Europa is that it has liquid water on it, which would be extremely helpful for the introduction of any form of life. However, there are many difficulties. Europa is near a huge radiation belt around Jupiter. Radiation is deadly to humans, so we would need to build radiation deflectors to protect humans if they were to live on Europa. The costs to this would be gargantuan. Additionally, Europa is covered in ice and would have to be heated. Europa also needs an introduction of oxygen into its atmosphere.
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