Is this a habitable zone?

Well we have water on Mars and, as James Randerson says, NASA have a cool video of the panoramic view from the Phoenix lander. I’ve added some related audio clips from Mars Phoenix lander lead scientist Peter Smith of the University of Arizona and from William Boynton, lead scientist for the TEGA instrument. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University Arizona/Texas A&M University. And as Charles Arthur asks, “So, water. Anyone for terraforming?”

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  • If everybody agreed that terraforming was the way to go. I guess it would be 50 years minimum before you could even start. The magnitude of understanding required would be truly staggering. It would be without doubt the most unique achievement. I’d love to see it started in my lifetime. It would be a fascinating process. Where would you start – introduction of bacteria I guess.

  • Greenflag


    ‘Where would you start – introduction of bacteria I guess.’

    Where else after all that’s how it started on Earth . For some two billion years that was about it IIRC – Planet Bacteria .

    In his book ‘The Next Ten Thousand Years ‘ Adrian Berry mentions in one chapter titled ”
    Making it rain in Hell’ the possibility of introducing Cyanophyta (blue gree algae i.e the direct ancestors of us all ) into the Venusian atmosphere where they would feast off the carbon dioxide . Apparently Carl Sagan and his colleagues were persuaded that it is the perfect substance for injecting into the Venusian atmosphere . A few dozen spacecraft mostly unmanned would be put in criss cross orbits around Venus . Each would carry on board large numbers of torpedo like rockets . Every 90 seconds at points separated by about 500 miles each spacecraft would fire one of these rockets into the atmospher . A few ounces of TNT will explode the nose cone as soon as it has penetrated the carbon dioxide clouds and the algae will start to feed and reproduce . Once begun this rate of reproduction will increase so rapidly that within a year the surface of Venus would be partly visible by telescope from the Earth . And then would come within a couple of years the Big Rain —

    If anybody wants to read further Adrian Berry’s book was published by Jonathan Cape -30 Bedford Sq London and there is even an introduction by the grand old man of BBC Astronomy – Patrick Moore .

    Wonder whatever happened to the plan for terraforming Venus ? Must have a reread of it. At the time it soundd like pretty straightforward basic biology plus some blue algae reproduction ? Perhaps Carl Sagan and Adrian Berry were over enthused ? Some major practical hitch not being foreseen ?

  • joeCanuck

    It would be the height of irresponsibiliy to start terraforming unless there was a community on the ground to destroy it if things went badly wrong. And that is but one consideration.

  • pauljames

    A wonderful prospect of a star trekian ethical dilema ie do we have the right to destroy or replace even the chance of bacterial alien life for our own purposes, First Contact anyone?

  • Greenflag

    JC ,

    The surface of Venus is approx 900 degrees Fahrenheit or 480 C . It’s doubtful if even ‘bacterial ‘ life could survive on such a surface . The Atmospheric pressure is 100 times that of the Earth .

    By terraforming Venus it could give us ‘earthlings’ at least another planet to live on, relieving stress on the Earth even if only for a couple of million years :)? During that time assuming we don’t get smacked by an ex Ortian cloud asteroid in the meantime it would give us time to plan further ‘terraforms ‘ further out in space ?

    Seriously I can’t believe it was ‘ethical considerations’ that held up the Venus plan . Sagan wrote a book ‘Intelligent life in the Universe ‘ in conjunction with Soviet astronomer Iosif Schlovski which covers this vast but ‘speculative ‘ subject. Interestingly and sadly because of Soviet restrictions Sagan and Schlovski never met face to face .

    pauljames ,

    Where’s the ethical dilemma ? According to Berry, Venus started it’s existence with an environment very much like the early Earth’s . For a few hundred million years both planets would have appeared to be twins with similar primordial atmospheres of hydrogen , ammonia , methane and water. A billion years after Venus was formed carbon dioxide began to accumulate in the atmosphere slowly at first and then very rapidly . The result some three billion years later is ‘hell’ as Carl Sagan was want to describe probable surface conditions on Venus i.e 900 degrees Fahrenheit hot enough to bake pottery and melt lead .

    So instead of humanity wasting more of it’s diminishing natural resources creating a hell on earth for future generations why not instead create a new earth on hell ?:)

  • joeCanuck

    That’s exactly what I was thinking. Just because we examine a few areas (spots really) and don’t find life doesn’t mean that there is no life anywhere on mars.

  • abucs

    It would be interesting to introduce life and monitor how fast it spreads and adapts, although i guess if it is successful, it’ll take a good while. Great job security if you can get it.

    I agree with Pat and Paul. The last thing we want to do is wipe out any alien life.

    Unless it’s chasing Sigourney Weaver with claws and has acid for blood of course. :o)

  • ggn

    I think if there is even a microbe on Mars then Terraforming would be wrong.

    I understand that may make me look like a lunatic.

    Save the Microbes!!!

    Code word : provided!!