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Dr. Phil Metzger @DrPhiltill
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This NASA article says terraforming Mars isn't possible "using present day technology." This is true in the most pedestrian sense. Nobody has a "Mars terraforming machine" sitting in their garage, so the technology doesn't exist in the present day. BUT /1…
2/ It would be straightforward to develop the tech to terraform Mars. The authors don't think so. They probably meant something more substantive, like "we have not even achieved Technology Readiness Level 2", i.e., nobody has even conceived how to do it...
3/ They are so pessimistic because they say present day Mars lacks the volatiles (like CO2 or other gases) necessary to thicken its atmosphere and hold in heat, so we just can't conceive of a way to terraform it.

Apparently they didn't check the prior literature on the subject.
4/ The article's basic mistake is in thinking Mars is a closed system. But no planet is a closed system. Material is exchanged between planets and space ALL THE TIME. After all, this is exactly WHY Mars lacks the gases. They escaped to space. And...
5/ Also, the reason why Mars got those greenhouse gases in the first place is because they came FROM SPACE. On asteroids and comets.

Planets also get energy from their start; they give off infrared energy to space; they get bombarded by cosmic radiation affecting chemistry; etc.
6/ Planets exist in the context of a solar system, and this affects the planetary processes in fundamentally important ways. So, if we are planning to dink with the processes of an entire planet, why would we unnaturally limit ourselves by leaving out their exchanges with space?
7/ Of course, we wouldn't. If we change the physics of an entire planet, we'd take into account all the exchanges of matter and energy with space, and we'd leverage those exchanges to accomplish the terraforming. I.e., we would bring icy volatile material to Mars and drop it in.
8/ And the prior literature COMPLETELY knows this and has talked about it and explained how to do it. So you simply can't say that we are below TRL-2. No new high tech is needed to do it! All components are already TRL-3 to TRL-9 (i.e., proven basic function --> flying in space).
9/ This is the method of terraforming you see in the Red Mars/ Blue Mars/ Green Mars series. It is well known. Mars doesn't need all the greenhouse gases to be terraformed. We need only basic rocket technologies that require funding and time to mature and then use.
10/ I'm sidestepping the question whether Mars actually has enough volatiles within itself to be terraformed, because I am addressing the basic flaw of the article: assuming planets are a closed system and that planet-scale engineering would treat them as closed systems,...
11/ which the published literature of terraforming never assumed.

But there IS a real problem with terraforming Mars. It is not technology or volatiles. It is economics. How do we direct enough labor & material from our economy into the the engineering of an entire planet?...
12/ And humanity is on the verge of solving this economic problem. We are developing artificial intelligence so that more robots can work compared to the number of humans operating them. And we will utilize resources of space, which allow us to scale up this robotic industry.
13/ So sometime within this century, we could have an age of super abundance through robotic space industry, and this will -- without question -- give us the economic ability to terraform entire planets. It will not. even. be. hard.
14/ But now I need to admit it is unfair to criticize the NASA article too harshly. They were only creating an interesting "hook" to the science discovery that the volatiles on Mars are less than previously believed.
15/ That was good science, and they wanted to bring it into public discussion to spread more awareness of the awesome progress NASA-funded scientists are making.

So guess we are discussing it. Mission accomplished, NASA, even if the article is wrong 😅
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