Yes, We Can and Will Terraform Mars…

Candice eetimes… And Maybe The Moon

A recent paper in Nature has declared that there isn’t enough carbon dioxide to terraform Mars.  Well… DUH !!!  We’ve known that for decades.  But the internet and blogosphere has been beating the drum, some of it rather insulting to those of us who have been contemplating such an endeavor for decades.  But this is a strawman.  Locally available CO2 was never thought to be the primary source of an atmosphere.  Instead, those who have been thinking deeply about the real means of creating a second home for earth life has been to use volatiles from further out in the Solar System.

Back in the early ’90s, my good friend Dr. Joy D. Shaffer, did her own “study” of the problem.  She realized that we could move enough volatiles from Saturn’s rings or from comets.  She did the energy calculations of what it would take to move them in sufficient quantities to provide atmospheric pressure suitable for earthlike conditions on both Mars and Luna.  She envisioned embedding boosters that would mine the chunks of ice and frozen nitrogen as reaction mass to move the material into Mars or Luna low velocity intercepting orbits.  She then made a projection of energy mobilization history since the Industrial Revolution into the future and assumed that we could afford to use 2% of that future energy expenditure to terraform Mars and/or Luna.  She calculated that we would reach that point in only 200 years.

Interestingly, she also calculated the economic cost and energy expenditure needed to launch interstellar ships that would travel at low percentages of C (the speed of light) fast enough to reach the stars in the timeframe suitable for human civilization endurance.  She assumed that humans wouldn’t need to reach high percentages of C to reach the stars and colonize them given that human civilizations, indeed individual organizations, have lifetimes on the order of thousands of years (e.g. 1,600 years since the founding of the present Roman Catholic Church / 2,400 years since the founding of Japan’s Yamato dynasty).  Making these assumptions she calculated that a solar system wide economy could afford to launch star colonizing journeys when our economy had grown sufficient such that the same percentage of gross system product as the United States used to reach the moon during the NASA peak in the 1960s.  Interestingly, that time frame was essentially identical to that needed before we could begin terraforming Mars, about 200 years from now.

This formed the basis for my own thinking in developing the economic and political backdrop to my science fiction novels starting with my first All The Stars Are Suns published last fall.

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