Tue. Oct 20th, 2020

Since the establishment of human civilization, we wondered if there is a life in the Universe other than on Earth and do aliens exist. If they do, where are they?

With the development of science and technology, the search for answers to this question has accelerated. We made giant telescopes, sent signals into space, launched spacecraft. Until now, we have not really found any signs of aliens (unless we count the top-secret events in Area 51, now Area 59).

Brief History of Space Exploration

We are human, and our sense of curiosity will never end due to our nature. We will continue to explore the universe. Our desire to explore the universe began to turn into concrete steps, especially from the mid-20th century. In the 1960s, there was fierce competition between the US and the USSR in every field. One of the branches of struggle was space. The most wanted thing to do in the space race was to send people to the Moon. Although the Soviets sent the first creature and human to space, NASA astronauts were first to set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

The Russians did not give up immediately. They tried to develop their own Moon rocket technologies, but technical troubles broke their business.

From 1969 to 1973, the US organized 6 manned flights to the moon. After this, the excitement and strife of the space race seemed to have faded out.

If the Soviets had brought the first man to the Moon, then the issue of sending the first people to Mars would have come up. NASA had sufficient equipment and resources for this. Wernher von Braun, who played an important role in the technology of the rocket Saturn 5, which led people to the moon, designed Saturn 5 rocket for Mars, not for the Moon.

However, Braun’s requests were not fulfilled. Human spaceflights were limited to the moon and the low earth orbit.

Today, we can say that the space industry, which has been sleeping for years, is reviving much more effectively. You all know the leading name in this awakening more or less: Elon Musk.

Elon Musk founded SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) in 2002 to make humanity a multi-planet species in the future, considering that our future is much more exciting. One of Musk’s main ideas is to make Mars a liveable place, Earthlike, with colonization.

Is terraforming Mars possible?

There are some difficulties in making Mars a liveable place. One of the challenges is Mars’s atmosphere. It is much thinner than Earth’s and it has lost atmospheric gases millions of years ago. One if the ideas to revive Mars’s atmosphere is to terraform it with artificial or natural solar fusion by exposing trapped carbon dioxide on Mars with nuclear bombs.

It is true that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are present in the soil and poles of Mars, and they would be released if a high-thermal bomb, such as nuclear bombs, explodes.

However, the greenhouse gases on Mars alone are not sufficient to terraform the Red Planet.

The Origin of the Claim

Elon Musk first announced the idea 2015 in broadcast by the television programmer named Stephen Colbert, we could be terraformed by launching nuclear bombs on Mars:

Later, when Musk’s ideas were examined by academics and it was thought that it would not be possible, Musk objected to an article published by Discover Magazine in 2018 on Twitter.

On this and similar feedback, Discover Magazine consulted more names on planetary sciences, Mars geology, and terraformation, when Musk said that it was not possible in a common way, Musk became even angrier and tweeted this:

Musk also shared an article written in 1993, Robert Zubrin and Chris McKay claimed that this would be possible.

Finally, in August 2019, Musk brought the same idea back to the agenda. But this time, in addition, he announced that he would sell a T-shirt with a Nuke Mars words on the front:

Terraforming Mars

Terraformation means changing a planet by human intervention to have an Earth-like atmosphere. One of the methods of terraforming Mars is to release gases trapped in the rocks and create an atmosphere again by bombing a rocky planet with powerful missiles called thermonuclear bombs. Some studies in 1993 suggested that there were enough greenhouse gases to terraform Mars. For example, Robert Zubrin’s one of Mars’ most passionate projects, Humanity to Mars project, says:

“I wrote this paper in 1993 with Chris McKay. It shows why Mars can be terraformed. There is positive feedback- we warm Mars a few degrees C with CF4. this will cause CO2 to outgas from the soil. That will warm Mars more, releasing more CO2, resulting in a runaway greenhouse effect. Contrary to Jakowski, the required CO2 is almost certainly there. If the soil contains 1% adsorbed CO2 by wt, it will contain enough CO2 in the top 200 m to give Mars a 300 Mb (5 psi) atmosphere – the same pressure as Skylab – or Mt Everest. No need for spacesuits on such a Mars.”

Zubrin incorrectly referred to as “Jakowski” on Twitter is Bruce M. Jakosky, University of Colorado’s Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory and professor of the Department of Geological Sciences.

In August 2018, Jakosky contributed to an article in Nature Astronomy magazine titled “The Carbon Dioxide Inventory Required to Terraform Mars”.

The article he wrote with Christopher S. Edwards of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Northern Arizona examines the vehicles sent to Mars recently and whether there is enough gas to terraform Mars by examining the data from these vehicles. The result of the authors of the article is the opposite of the conclusion reached by Elon Musk and the scientists who supported him:

 “Data from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe, Mars Express spacecraft, Mars Exploration Vehicle, and Mars Odyssey Spacecraft show that there is not enough carbon dioxide left on Mars to create a sufficient amount of greenhouse gases. Moreover, most of the existing carbon dioxide is in inaccessible areas and may not be easily activated. As a result, Mars cannot be terraformed by today’s technology.”

The article summarizes the carbon dioxide inventory remaining on Mars as follows: Lost into space: 0.5 bar Polar ice: 0.006 bar Carbonates close to the surface: 0.012-0.150 bar Pole / regolith clathrates: << 0.150 bar Trapped in regulates: <0.4 bar Total mobilizable carbon dioxide: ~ 0.02 bar Inaccessible reservoirs (deep carbonates): ~ 1 bar Total amount of carbon dioxide left on Mars: ~ 1 bar

Even if all accessible and therefore technically mobilizable carbon dioxide could be put into the atmosphere without any loss to space, we would only have an atmosphere with a pressure of 0.02 bar (20 millibars). This is equal to 2000 Pascal pressure. Atmospheric pressure on the surface of the Earth decreases as it rises from the ground. At a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius, the pressure at sea level is around 101.325 Pascal. At the top of Mount Everest, the pressure will be around 27,254 Pascal at -13 degrees Celsius. So, it is 3.7 times lower than at sea level. However, if the analysis of the authors of the article in the journal Nature Astronomy is correct, the equivalent of 20 millibars of pressure on Earth is 25,000 meters above the ground. This height is high enough to accommodate only 2% of the oxygen on the ground! Although the boundary of space is still below the accepted 100,000-meter boundary, it practically does not differ much from space.

Of course, things would have changed if we could release all the carbon dioxide on Mars. However, this is not possible with today’s thermonuclear bombs or other technologies, because the carbon dioxide in question is trapped well beyond the depths of these bombs’ reach. With advanced technology, it may be possible to deform Mars by carbon dioxide release; however, this does not seem to happen by simply bombing the Red Planet.

Certainly, even if this was possible, we might have to use all the nuclear bomb ammunition on Earth; even that might not have been enough. In such a situation, it seems a politicaly impossible to persuade nuclear bombs holders such as USA and Russia to use for all superpower nuclear bombs for such a project and consume their arsenal. At last, alternatives that seem similarly impossible for the near future are as follows:

To trigger a global climate change on Mars by sending plenty of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) from Earth to Mars,

To trigger global climate change by preventing the rays coming from the sun from escaping from Mars by building a giant mirror that will always look on the bright side of Mars, Trying to expose all the carbon dioxide trapped underground by drilling holes in Mars at a depth that humanity has never tried.

Conclusion

It is theoretically possible to terraform Mars. However, the size of practical impossibilities is far, far beyond fully reusable rockets or autonomous electric cars…

But this should not be a disappointment

There must be an even greater motivation to know more about the extraterrestrial planets and to produce more projects about how we can get there and to work smarter on them.

For being out there among the stars and making life multi-planetary one day…

That day is near.

And we are fast approaching that day.

Consciousness will not be limited to Earth alone. At least we know that.

Thank you for reading

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