Terraforming –literally means “Earth-shaping”– is a process of deliberately modifying an object such as a planet, moon, or other body to be similar to the biosphere of Earth, in order to make it habitable by humans.
What is the importace?
Lately, terraforming has become a hot topic among scientists. The reasons behind the importance of study on the topic are based on the facts that the future population growth and demand for resources may necessitate human colonization to have second habitable place other than Earth, such as Mars, the Moon, and nearby planets.
Additionally, in the event of a catastrophic extinction, such as the meteor thought to have killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, Earth’s species, including humans, could live on this second habitable planet. It is too danger if human colonization centered only in one planet. But…
Mars is the most earthlike of all the other planets in our Solar System. Mars is also located close to the earth, making Mars becomes the most possible and prospective planet to be terraformed. Terraforming Mars would entail two major interlaced changes: building the atmosphere and heating it, in order to make it similar to the earth and habitable.
As physicist Stephen Hawking warned, the earth is heating up, and the potential for mankind to extinguish itself is great. Given that terraforming Mars could take centuries, there might not be much time to waste!
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)
To relize the dream of making Mars ‘the second earth’, NASA has launched a robotic space probe mission to the Mars called Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity rover in Mars on August 6, 2012.
The overall objectives include investigating Mars’ habitability, studying its climate and geology, and collecting data for a manned mission to Mars. To contribute to these goals, MSL has eight main scientific objectives:
(1) Determine the nature and inventory of organic carbon compounds
(2) Inventory the chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur)
(3) Identify features that may represent the effects of biological processes (biosignatures)
Geological and geochemical:
(4) Investigate the chemical, isotopic, and mineralogical composition of the Martian surface and near-surface geological materials
(5) Interpret the processes that have formed and modified rocks and soils
(6) Assess long-timescale (i.e., 4-billion-year) Martian atmospheric evolution processes
(7) Determine present state, distribution, and cycling of water and carbon dioxide
(8) Characterize the broad spectrum of surface radiation, including galactic radiation, cosmic radiation, solar proton events and secondary neutrons