(Hat Tip: Space Scan)
Robert Zubrin, president of The Mars Society has developed a five step plan towards conquering the red planet and enabling humanity to establish a second home within the solar system.
(Popular Science) Why talk about building homes on Mars when we have problems on Earth like war, bird flu, AIDS and global warming? To the Mars enthusiast, these scourges simply count among the reasons to ditch this rock and head for the Red Planet.
Robert Zubrin, the founder of the Mars Society, likes to point out that Columbus encountered similar resistance from noobs when he pointed across the Atlantic. But Zubrin isn’t a seafarer—he’s a scientist, with calculations that say people could create an oxygen atmosphere on Mars in just over 1,000 years. Compare that with other scientists’ predictions of 20,000 or 100,000 years, and he might seem like he’s peddling interplanetary snake oil, but there’s no denying that his scheme for “terraforming” is thoroughly conceived.
Throughout his plan, Zubrin has proposed constructing mirrors around Mars as well as slamming asteroid upon its surface in order to warm the planet. Although these two methods are probably not financially sound ways of terraforming Mars (let alone reasonable) his third method may hold some hope for the red planet.
With evidence gleaned from our own global warming, scientists have a good idea of which emissions are best suited for climate change. Zubrin, among others, believes tetrafluoromethane (CF4) is the best gas for the global-warming job. [...]
Emitting 1,000 tons of gas an hour would raise the temperature by 50°F over 30 years. This could be done using 5,000 megawatts of energy—the output of five nuclear power plants (which would themselves run on solar power).
Zubrin outlines that if we could raise the Martian temperature by ten degree’s, Martian soil full of CO2 would then be released, giving future inhabitants ten percent of Earth’s current atmosphere pressure.
After about a century of pumping CO2 into the Martian skies, humanity will finally be able to emerge upon Martian soils without a space suit, with the current atmosphere pressure around 21 percent (with 20 percent being out of carbon dioxide).
Martian residents will be able to walk outside without spacesuits (though they’ll still need oxygen). Not only will this introduce the first interplanetary fashion trends, but the climate will be suitable for planting, flying planes, and building domed (these would be more efficient for oxygen management) cities.
Once the equator’s surface reached a constant temperature of 32° and up, Mars would have liquid water, and it would be time to start gardening.
Zubrin proposes that once Martian temperatures are above freezing, humans could begin planting simple organisms (like lichen) and bacteria in order to help seed the planet’s atmosphere with oxygen.
After a century of fun, Zubrin’s terraforming plans end with a millennium promise.
It’s all seemed so simple to this point-50 years to experience weather and then another 50 to walk outside in your new Martian threads. But it would take our little space gardens 1,000 years to produce enough oxygen for Martian colonists to breathe unassisted. During those 1,000 years, residents would have to continually plant and harvest, playing the role of Mother Nature to speed the conversion of the atmosphere from carbon dioxide to oxygen.
Although Zubrin has not factored in war, disease and Martian global storms delaying the terraforming project by another millennium, he must be given credit where credit is due as there are not many other scientists sketching out a hard core plan for settling on Mars.
Unfortunately the only thing Mars lacks that would make it worthwhile in colonizing could easily be summed up in one word–resources.