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09 December 2014


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The Moar You Know

"What's the chance of finding water in some form beneath the surface of Mars?"

100%. We know there is water ice there.

What could get exciting is that said ice may not stay ice all the time. Sunlight + water (even in microscopic amounts) can equal life. Antarctica's Dry Valleys are very close to Mars in both temperature and lack of liquid water, and that place is crawling with life.


How many science fiction stories are wrapped around water on or in Mars? Many! Although it appears that the story ended at least a billion years ago, we won't know until we finish looking.

As Moar stated, we know there is water ice at the poles. The real question is, before the environment became radically less hospitable for life as we know it, did it start there? The independent evolution of life somewhere other than earth is the holy grail of planetary and interstellar science and would be a profound event in our history.

William R. Cumming

My only question is whether MARS destroyed by our ancestors before a small group of survivors left for Earth?

Babak Makkinejad

Vikings found life on Mars; the scientists went through contortions to dismiss the evidence...


This link has a nice visual image:


Possible water flows"



Speculations on life:


Babak, no other probe has duplicated those results as far as I know. Probably a false read.


Babak, I worked with the engineers and program managers as we finished the Viking program. I can not imagine Carl Sagan cooperating with hiding any signs of life from that program. The science that was done was rather limited by today's standards.

different clue

I read somewhere that Mars is smaller than Earth and has a weaker gravity . . . too weak over the longest run to be able to hold as much atmosphere as Earth is able to hold. If we really ever wanted to terraform Mars to where we could live on it without permanent resort to space suits and space houses and stuff, I think we would have to capture enough asteroids and crash them into Mars to bring Mars mass up to Earth mass. Then we would have to capture and crash enough water-ice comets into Bigger Mars to give it the surface water it needed to have a water cycle. I don't know what we would do about carbon and nitrogen unless they were already abundant in the near-surface Martian crust. (Perhaps we could harvest bunches of ammonia from the atmosphere of Jupiter and bring it back to Mars to get the Nitrogen needed for protein building).

Babak Makkinejad

Ask the project chemists; they posited that the reactions that the Vikings discovered were not caused by organic residues - they performed fancy foot work - appealing to a tortured chemical process to account for the findings...

Babak Makkinejad

Venus is a better candidate for terraforming if you could puncture its cloud green house.

You also need to furnish it with a moon that could simulate the effects of Earth's Moon on human female fertility....


While a long read, I would recommend reading Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy for information regarding a terra-forming of Mars. The essential problem turns out to be one of thermodynamics - the place is just to damned cold right now.

different clue

A moon is very important. Terra without Luna would be very different and life would have taken a very different turn without tides or anything Lunar-driven. So, as you say, a moon is very important.
I continue to think Mars would be more terraformable than Venus. Mars is merely passively inhospitable to life. All you would have to add to Mars would be enough mass to hold a gaseous atmosphere, then add a Terra-style atmosphere, and add enough water for oceans and a water cycle.

Whereas Venus is actively very hostile to life.
We would have to take things away from Venus and change it around completely to make life possible there. To start with, we would have to lower its atmosphere's current Carbon Dioxide percentage of 70%(!) down to Earth's tiny fractions of a percent in order to reset-downward its current Greenhouse Thermostat setting of about 700 degrees. We would also have to do something about the Sulfuric Acid oceans and Sulfuric Acid rainstorms. Mars doesn't pose a problem like that.

different clue

Yes. More mass would allow for more gravity to better hold a GreenHousing atmosphere. So we would have to add enough asteroids first to bring Mars's mass up to atmosphere-retaining levels. Then we would have to bring in an earth-style atmosphere and earth-loads of water.
I remember reading somewhere that one of the big moons of Jupiter or Saturn is mainly one big ball of water. We could chop off a chunk and bring it to Mars once we had made Mars massive enough with sufficient asteroid-matter.


Instead of terraforming entire planets for now, I think a better approach is designing colonies like this one:

This will lead to eventually bigger colonies, perhaps on the lines of Stanford torus or/and O'Neill cylinder.

Some of the time spans I have seen for terraforming are in tens of thousands of years. That's like going from when our ancestor's started agriculture to where we are now.


If I am not wrong it is the 'labeled release' experiment performed by Viking landers, that is considered 'controversial'.

If you read about some of the experiments, they were not all that sophisticated compared to what the new generation of rovers have been performing starting with spirit, opportunity and now curiosity. The 'labeled release' involved dissolving some aqueous nutrients and then watching for CO2 release as sign of bacterial metabolic activity. The CO2 release that was found was caused by superoxides which have formed on Martian surface due to UV radiation that readily reaches due to absence of Earth like Ozone.

I don't think there is a cover up of any kind and the explanation makes perfect sense.
In 2008 Phoenix lander established the presence of perchlorates in Martian soil that has sterilizing effect on living matter. That's why the search is now focused deeper underground.

different clue


I have to agree. Terraforming Mars will be in the far future and in the meantime is just fun to think about. O'Neill's L5 or other LaGrange Spot space colonies will be tried first, if any such thing is tried any time soon at all.

In the most immediate now-meantime, we should try to keep Earth itself terraformed, stop de-terraforming it further than we already have, and start re-terraforming the de-terraformed regions.
The atmospheric CO2 skyload, methane skyload, NOX skyload, etc. are already too high for human comfort and convenience going forward. Continued skydumping of those greenhouse gases will take the future from "not convenient or comfortable" to "not safe" for organized civilization-loads of people. We should work on getting the skylevels of those gases back to pre-Industrial Revolution levels for our own future comfort and convenience, (not to mention our own future viable survival if the gg-gaslevels get high enough).
For now, terraforming begins at home.

Babak Makkinejad

The explanation based on superoxides remains a hypothesis:


Babak Makkinejad

Might consider a test-run; "Terra-forming" the Death Valley...

Babak Makkinejad

And this:


Kyle Pearson

I'm not sure terraforming any other planet will do much good if we wind up destroying ours over petty social issues.

Babak Makkinejad

Moon's gravitational effect is one consideration; the electromagnetic environment near Earth's surface is another.

Life on Earth has been acclaimed to the presence of low intensity magnetic fields - such fields might very be required for the sustainment of life over very many generations.

I read that during Solar cycles, admittance to Bellevue Hospital for mental disorders increases, for example.

Allen Thomson

The residence time of gasses in the Mars-as-it-is-now atmosphere is long on the human time scale. So if you could plump it up to breathing levels (using comets, Kuiper Belt objects or whatever) it would be many millenia to perhaps millions of years before you'd have to top it up again.

different clue

To the best of my limited understanding, man did not de-terraform Death Valley. Nature unaided made that place Death Valley without human assistance. And Death Valley has never spread itself beyond its natural confines. I can think of artificial ways to simulate terraforming it. Bring huge amounts of water to it and huge amounts of plants will grow there.

I would prefer to see us re-terraform the various strip-mine scapes now existing and stop creating new ones, especially the mountaintop removal ones in Appalachia for one-shot doses of coal. Also start removing the excess CO2 buildup in the oceans and allow them to re-aquaform themselves into nice places for us to get economically valuable food-fish from. Ocean acidation is a growing problem. Also, de-desertify the millions of acres of artificially desertified dry range lands and farm lands all over the world. That would be some valuable reterraforming.

different clue

Allen Thompson,

Even with the mass and gravity it now has? Of course if we get to the point in the far future where we are actually able to bring an atmosphere-load of gas to Mars as it is . . . and keep replacing the leak-away gases every so often, we may well be advanced enough to gather and drop enough captured mass onto Mars so as to make it Earth-size and Earth gas-retentive in any case. But gassing up Mars-as-it-is from time to time might be a far future next step, if we live long enough to get there.

different clue

One wonders, then, whether "terraforming" would involve this and other equally subtle forces and fields of which we know little, and which we currently wouldn't know how to get Mars to generate the equivalent of. One wonders, then, if Earth is the only terraformable planet there is, being already pre-terraformed before our arrival here.

In which case, it becomes even more important to not deterraform the only habitable planet we may ever be able to live on without space suits, space houses, and such.

different clue

Kyle Pearson,

Well . . . if we could terraform another planet perhaps we could send everybody there who has petty social issues. We could call it Planet Barf, the Planet of the Petty Social Issues, and everybody with a petty social issue could go there.

We would then have to avoid destroying ourselves over which social issue is "petty" and who "gets" to say so. hmmmmm.. . .

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