Is it sensible to consider terraforming Mars? (Beginner)

Some researchers are investigating how to modify the Martian atmosphere to make it suitable for life as we know it. Others have higlighted how the absence of a magnetosphere makes a dense atmosphere on Mars unsustainable. Is it sensible to consider terraforming Mars even though it lacks a magnetosphere?

The issue of the solar wind eroding the atmosphere of a terraformed Mars has not been addressed in detail, because it is still unclear whether humans have the economic means to terraform Mars. However, some researchers are beginning to incorporate the need of a magnetosphere for long-term stability of a Martian atmosphere generated by human intervention. It is possible to generate a thick atmosphere so that it would survive sufficiently long in spite of the solar wind; in fact, the solar wind is not the sole reason for the low density of the current Martian atmosphere. Another alternative is to replenish the atmosphere as needed, perhaps by diverting volatile-rich comets into impact trajectories with Mars. In short, the absence of a magnetosphere, while hindering the viability of a Martian atmosphere, is not a show-stopper for terraforming Mars.

This page was last updated on July 18, 2015.

About the Author

Suniti Karunatillake

After learning the ropes in physics at Wabash College, IN, Suniti Karunatillake enrolled in the Department of Physics as a doctoral candidate in Aug, 2001. However, the call of the planets, instilled in childhood by Carl Sagan's documentaries and Arthur C. Clarke's novels, was too strong to keep him anchored there. Suniti was apprenticed with Steve Squyres to become a planetary explorer. He mostly plays with data from the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer and the Mars Exploration Rovers for his thesis project on Martian surface geochemistry, but often relies on the synergy of numerous remote sensing and surface missions to realize the story of Mars. He now works at Stonybrook.

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