There is an exciting new show tomorrow (Thursday, November 19 9PM ET/PT) on the National Geographic Channel - Expedition Week. called Mars: Making The New Earth.The show is about "terraforming" Mars from a cold, dry, uninhatiable desert into a living planet. The scientific advisors for the show include Chris MacKay of NASA AMES Research Center, James Graham of the University of Wisconsin and David Grinspoon of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The producers state that the source of the Mars-as-a-mountain analogy and factual details of biological terraforming for this episode are taken from James Graham's paper on "The Biological Terraforming of Mars: Planetary Ecosynthesis as Ecological Succession on a Global Scale" (Astrobiology, Volume 4, number 2, 2004).
A preview of the show can be seen here:
The producers/advisors state that the steps to "Terraforming Mars" include:
Enjoy the show.
- The first and most important step in making Mars inhabitable is to warm it up, rasing the average temperature 35 to 55 degrees Farenheit. (Average Mars temperature is about -81 degrees Farenheit.)
- Old concepts on how to warm up Mars range from detonating hydrogen bombs and guiding space rocks on a collision course with Mars to setting up little factories on the planet whose intent is to produce greenhouse gases.
- Much of the new Mars would be an icy world, like summer above the arctic Circle, with atmospheric pressure equivalent to a mountain twice the height of Mt. Everest.
- The next step is turning Mars green and producing a breathable atmosphere, which will be a much longer and more difficult process.
- Lichen and moss, which thrive on carbon dioxide, will be the first imports of plant life from Earth, perhaps 50 to 100 years after warming begins. They build soil, create more nutrients and pave the way for grass and woody shrubs.
- Once established, Martian forests will spread on their own, improving the soil and the atmosphere, creating a livable world for more than just plants.
- It could take 100,000 years for the trees to transform an icy blue Mars with a carbon dioxide atomosphere into a warm, green planet with enough oxygen for humans to breathe.
- A fully terraformed Mars may never be as warm and wet as Earth because it's too small and too far from the sun. Low elevations where the atomsphere is thicker and regions near the equator will be the warmest.