Making Mars Breathable? Terraforming Mars Depends Upon Fusion Energy


CHANGE OF THINKING: MARS ALWAYS HOSTILE TO LIFE? YES, SURE, BUT TERRAFORMING LOOKS POSSIBLE, WITH WHAT WE DON’T HAVE YET, BUT DESPERATELY NEED, CONTROLLED THERMONUCLEAR FUSION:

Abstract: This essay says one thing, Mars never had life… And then rebounds by pointing out we can leverage that lack of potentially obnoxious Natives we would have to respect, presumably. With thermonuclear fusion, melting the ice caps, Mars could be made breathable… Partial pressure considerations of a manufactured atmosphere makes a breathable Mars easier to achieve than the MAVEN team has it.

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Water Flowed… But How? Under The Ice?

There was clearly flowing water on Mars, estuaries, lakes. The natural first conclusion is then to believe that Mars was Earth-like in the distant past. There are three problems with this picture: the Sun used to be much less powerful, greenhouse gases should have been less on Mars, due to lower gravity… and lack of imagination.

A recent paper “Valley formation on early Mars by subglacial and fluvial erosionopines that sub-glacial erosion is most likely:

Abstract:

The southern highlands of Mars are dissected by hundreds of valley networks, which are evidence that water once sculpted the surface. Characterizing the mechanisms of valley incision may constrain early Mars climate and the search for ancient life. Previous interpretations of the geological record require precipitation and surface water runoff to form the valley networks, in contradiction with climate simulations that predict a cold, icy ancient Mars. Here we present a global comparative study of valley network morphometry, using a principal-component-based analysis with physical models of fluvial, groundwater sapping and glacial and subglacial erosion. We found that valley formation involved all these processes, but that subglacial and fluvial erosion are the predominant mechanisms. This is supported by predictions from models of steady-state erosion and geomorphological comparisons to terrestrial analogues. The inference of subglacial channels among the valley networks supports the presence of ice sheets that covered the southern highlands during the time of valley network emplacement.

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Sub-glacial erosion makes the apparition of life on Mars much less likely, in my opinion (and thus the position that Earth’s life started on Mars). That could come as a disappointment for exo-life fanatics. However, it should also come as a relief: if life didn’t start on Mars, the planet is sterile, and we have nothing to fear. There is no ecology to destroy, and we do not need to be isolated from potential Martian microbes. 

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Martian Atmosphere Is Not Friendly:

Atmospheric pressure on Mars tends to a fraction of one percent of that on Earth. The highest pressure, in the lowest elevation Hellas impact crater, 7.2 kilometers below average elevation, is 1.4% of that of Earth.

As far as making Mars more life friendly, an obvious idea would be to crash comets into it. That should be feasible with foreseeable technology… Although de-orbiting comets from the Oort cloud may be controversial considering that Earth is the greatest gravitational attractor of the inner solar system.  

The seasonal Martian polar caps are made of air that freezes during winter. Depending on the time of year, more than a quarter of the martian atmosphere can be found lying on the ground around the poles. The atmosphere is 95% CO2; that’s why the seasonal polar caps are mostly made of dry ice.

An atmosphere that freezes in winter needs to be remedied by those with hedonistic, esthetical ethics… Let thermonuclear engineering follow.

As seasons come and go, carbon dioxide shifts back and forth–lying on the ground during cold months, floating through the air during warmer months. The world-wide air pressure rises and falls by 25%. For comparison, the air pressure inside a hurricane on Earth is often only a few percent lower than ambient. You can experience a full 25% difference in pressure by traveling from sea level to the top of a 9000 ft (3000 m) mountain. Just try running a 100 yard dash up there: it’s one of my preferred jokes, easy to realize for those having access to the Yosemite National Park, in Tuolumne Meadows. After 70 meters or so, the end of the world is near… (I do run at that altitude, but… slowly…)

The seasonal ice cap seems to be made of CO2 ice, one meter thick, above sixty degrees (60 degrees). The permanent ice cap is made of water ice three (3) kilometers thick. 

As it is, because average ground atmospheric pressure on Mars is 1% of Earth, ice doesn’t melt, but sublimates: it goes directly from solid to gas, and from one polar ice cap to the other. But boosting atmospheric pressure to half of Earth would be plenty enough to permit liquid water where it’s warm enough.

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Abundance of carbon-bearing minerals and the occurrence of CO2 in polar ice using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and used data on the loss of the Martian atmosphere to space by NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft have led th MAVEN team to conclude that terraforming Mars was not possible with present technology:.

Our results suggest that there is not enough CO2 remaining on Mars to provide significant greenhouse warming were the gas to be put into the atmosphere; in addition, most of the CO2 gas is not accessible and could not be readily mobilized. As a result, terraforming Mars is not possible using present-day technology,” said the MAVEN team

MAVEN reasoned thus: Although Mars has significant quantities of water ice that could be used to create water vapor, itself a mighty greenhouse gas, previous analyses show that water cannot provide significant warming by itself; temperatures do not allow enough water to persist as vapor without first having significant warming by CO2, according to the team. Also, while other gases such as the introduction of chloroflorocarbons or other fluorine-based compounds have been proposed to raise the atmospheric temperature, these gases are short-lived and would require large-scale manufacturing processes, so they were not considered in the MAVEN study. But that’s only for the 2020s… If we got lots of power at our disposal, everything changes.

Same Problem As Usual. Terraforming Mars Is Imaginable, Thanks to Fusion:

So the solution, long term, will be to use thermonuclear fusion to melt the ice caps, and extract CO2 from the ground… that should bring a pressure equal to roughly 11,000 meters on Earth…  and then more nuclear fusion to split the oxygen and carbon of the CO2.

An oxygen laden atmosphere, besides being breathable, would create ozone (O3), protecting the ground from UVs. Notice in passing that in this proposed scheme, Martian atmosphere is actually breathable. Indeed PARTIAL oxygen pressure at ground level is only like 13,000 meters or so… if the atmosphere were PURE oxygen…  

Of course, we could get bio-engineered plants from Bryophyte phyla—small plants like mosses, liverworts, and hornworts—and the Tracheophyta phyla—vascular plants such as ferns and horsetail. The most promising candidate are of the genus Poa, a group of perennial grasses with hundreds of different species. One could start in enclosed domes, feasible with robots and infinite energy… That is, fusion.

As usual, one meets thermonuclear fusion as the great solution to great things. It is hard to see how one could stop the Climate Crisis Catastrophe on Earth without it. Scientific rumor has it that the melt of Greenland is already irreversible: the present pulse of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) is happening two orders of magnitude faster than the fastest it occurs naturally…. What that means in practice is that most of the nonlinear effects are ineluctable, they are coming, but nobody believes it, because of the inertia in the system.

Thus, when we think about colonizing Mars, one thinks also about how to stabilize spaceship Earth. Ah, yes, because it’s completely unstable as it is now. Those who influentially disagree generally sit in spacious mansions, and have private jets, and sing like John Lennon:”It’s going to be alright…” . No, we need revolutions, it’s not going to be all right without hard work, and even harder thinking.

Well, thus, only if we work hard, on the right things. Martian preoccupations one of them. Want to learn? Play.

Play with Mars. Having no life there helps. So bad news are good news. Mars lost its atmosphere to Coronal Mass Ejections, thus to thermonuclear fusion. ironically, life may have NOT got started on Mars because of not enough thermonuclear fusion. It’s a thermonuclear fusion mess… Intelligence can fix it.

Patrice Ayme

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4 Responses to “Making Mars Breathable? Terraforming Mars Depends Upon Fusion Energy”

  1. Gmax Says:

    It’s hard for people to understand we are living in a sci-fi world. Most humanists don’t get that going to Mars is what we need to do to pursue the mission of traditional humanism

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  2. ianmillerblog Says:

    The biggest problem with terraforming Mars is not enough volatiles. Your suggestion of bombing Mars with comets would work if there were enough comets. I would prefer Kuiper Belt objects because they are bigger so you would need fewer of them, and they would blast bigger holes, the bottoms of which are where pressures are higher. The good news is Kuiper Belt objects should provide nitrogen and argon that don’t freeze out, and methane which will give a short-lived greenhouse gas. For me, CO2 is not an advantage; if you manage to get the temperature high enough to get liquid water the CO2 will react and form carbonates with the iron oxide there.

    How the water flowed is an interesting problem. In my opinion, the answer is that Mars started with a reduced atmosphere, and ammonia dissolves in ice down to -80 degrees C and forms a liquid. However, as the methane got converted to CO2, the ammonia reacted to form ammonium carbonate, and eventually urea. If I am right, it will still be there, buried, and hopefully remains in a form that would be free nitrogenous fertilizer. The reason that there was a reduced atmosphere is that rocky planets can only accrete solids, so nitrogen and carbon had to be accreted as nitrides and carbides that were formed in the high-temperature phase of the accretion disk, then liberated by water chemically bound to silicates and aluminosilicates. The reason the various rocky planets have different amounts of volatiles is because they accreted at different temperatures.

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    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Very interesting, Ian, thanks. I saw in the last two weeks, among the scientific publications I read, that water on Earth would have been accreted (new theory), not bombed by comets (very old theory)… At least that was the main idea of the paper they thought they had a proof of…

      Terraforming Mars will have to be done below domes, and in caves initially… Thus huge robotized machinery, great energy, thus the need for fusion energy… Progress is been made… So fast that ITER doesn’t use the most advanced magnets (high temp superconductors)…

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