Terraforming Mars is one of the most desirable ideals of scientists around the world. The red planet is too cold to host life, and its atmosphere isn’t thick enough to protect organisms from harmful radiation but recent research might bring it closer to reality.
Scientists managed to synthesize a compound called “aerogel” – an ultralight material made by swapping the liquid component of a gel with gas.
The authors of the paper believe that the method could generate habitable regions of the red planet, by making photosynthesis possible.
Billions of years ago, when life was at primary stage on Earth, Mars was habitable, having water on the surface, clouds forming in the sky and some sort of volcanic activity. Those facts are known thanks to space missions, which found channels that seemed to have been dug by water on the planet’s surface. This is furthermore backed up by water-rich minerals that have been found by rovers on the planet.
Mars used to be protected from radiation by a magnetic field. There seems to be some residual magnetic activity around the planet’s southern highlands.
Why did it change so drastically?
Mars’ favorable conditions changed after its magnetic field collapsed. The atmosphere of the planet was lost to space, alongside a great part of the planet’s water. However, there are signs of permafrost and subsurface “lakes”.
The temperature of the planet ranges between 0 and 10 degrees Celsius during daytime but drops down to an inhabitable -100 degrees at night.
What’s the plan?
Scientists came with the idea of using a thin (2-3 cm) layer of aerogel in order to produce some sort of greenhouse effect by keeping heat locked in.
It has been proven experimentally that this method could increase the temperature of the planet’s surface by 50 degrees Celsius, keeping water at a depth up to several meters liquid, while also protecting the soil against space radiation, but still allowing photosynthesis to take place.
Unfortunately, the absence of a magnetic field makes this solution questionable, as high energy radiation can easily pass the aerogel layer.