A new study that was published on Monday in Nature Astronomy may have cast doubts on whether humans can terraform Mars, but Elon Musk is having none of it and still believes that we will be able to colonize the red planet.
In their new study, scientists looked at two different ways that Mars could be terraformed and made habitable for humans, as Inverse reports. The first way would involve ramping up the atmospheric pressure of Mars considerably so that humans could hopefully get by with a limited breathing apparatus.
According to the Inquisitr, the second way would involve changing the atmosphere of the red planet considerably so that an abundance of liquid water could live happily on its surface and humans could walk freely as they do here on Earth, without being constrained by breathing gear and any other apparatus.
Christopher S. Edwards of Northern Arizona University and Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado Boulder concluded in their new study that there is simply not enough carbon dioxide to make either one of these ideas feasible in the near future. With just 15 millibars of pressure reported to be available on Mars, this is much less than Earth’s 1,000 millibars.
So while Jakosky and Edwards noted that we could certainly extract 13 millibars out of the sedimentary rocks of Mars, this would be much less than needed.
However, Elon Musk tweeted another idea on Monday, which would involve obtaining carbon dioxide from the soil of Mars, something he believes is fully achievable with just the right amount of heat to release it.
“There’s a massive amount of CO2 on Mars adsorbed into soil that’d be released upon heating. With enough energy via artificial or natural (sun) fusion, you can terraform almost any large, rocky body.”
However, it should be noted that this most recent study is certainly not the first time that scientists have discredited the idea of terraforming Mars and creating a sustainable habitat there.
For instance, back in early 2017 researchers examined data that was collected from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) program and noted then also that there wasn’t enough CO2 in the red planet’s atmosphere.
But if the problem is mainly one of getting enough carbon dioxide out into the atmosphere of Mars, it would appear that Elon Musk already has an answer for that.
As Musk noted in an essay he wrote in 2017, out of all the planets in our solar system, Mars is by far the best planet to terraform, not least because its day is already so close to our own at 24.5 hours. And with 37 percent of the Earth’s gravity, life on Mars could also be quite fun.
“In fact, we now believe that early Mars was a lot like Earth. In effect, if we could warm Mars up, we would once again have a thick atmosphere and liquid oceans. Mars is about half as far also from the sun as Earth is, so it still has decent sunlight. It is a little cold, but we can warm it up. It has a very helpful atmosphere, which, being primarily CO2 with some nitrogen and argon and a few other trace elements, means that we can grow plants on Mars just by compressing the atmosphere. It would be quite fun to be on Mars because you would have gravity that is about 37% of that of Earth, so you would be able to lift heavy things and bound around.”
So despite the recent study suggesting humans will never be able to terraform Mars, fear not, because Elon Musk and SpaceX are still working hard to get us there by 2022.