Exploring Space - The Quest for Life Exploring Space - The Quest for Life Exploring Space - The Quest for Life
The Mars Prospect - Journey to the Red Planet

Terraforming Timeline: Making Mars Ours

Turning Up the Heat on Mars

Artist's rendering of a greenhouse gas factory on the surface of Mars

The same greenhouse gasses that pollute the Earth would be key to warming Mars. The following options are among the methods being considered. For safety reasons, the settlers may need to leave the planet's surface for a time.

Orbital Mirrors
Scientists have considered placing Mylar disks, with a diameter of 155 miles and a weight of 200,000 tons, to reflect sunlight onto Mars and heat the surface. The idea is that over many years, the rise in temperature would release greenhouse gasses. The question remains how to get such large mirrors into space, so it's likely they would have to be built there, and not on Earth.

Greenhouse Gas Factories
Scientists contemplate building greenhouse gas-producing factories that generate large quantities of chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and carbon dioxide, which would then trap solar radiation and help build a thicker Martian atmosphere. Whether the material for constructing the factories could be shipped to Mars or made from Martian elements is being debated.

Ammonia-Heavy Asteroids
Scientists have thought about attaching nuclear, thermal-rocket engines to ammonia-heavy asteroids and redirecting the asteroids so that they crash into Mars and release the meteor's ammonia and water. The ammonia could raise Mars' greenhouse gas level. The rocket engines could be able to move the asteroids 3 miles per second, for a period of ten years, before they shut down and allowed the asteroids to coast into Mars.

Back Introduction page 1: Should We Terraform Mars? page 2: Preparing for Liftoff page 3: The First Research Settlement page 4: Turning Up the Heat on Mars page 5: Melting Ice and Thickening the Atmosphere page 6: Oxygenating and Greening the Planet page 7: Mars as Home Next