Terraforming Mars

Proposals to terraform the Red Planet abound, but are any of them feasible?

5 min read

In August, NASA’s unmanned Phoenix Mars Mission blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center as the first mission of NASA’s Mars Scout Program. Phoenix will reach the Red planet in May 2008, and is part of NASA’s strategy to ”follow the water” on Mars. This will pave the way for manned Martian missions, which President George W. Bush made a NASA priority in 2004. No date has been set for the crewed mission to Mars, but NASA is drawing up plans. The ultimate goal: making Mars a human outpost.

The renewed focus on Mars has rejuvenated the idea of terraforming Mars, which once belonged to the realm of science fiction, but is becoming increasingly possible today. Terraforming—or earthforming—is a Herculean feat of planetwide engineering that will change the Martian atmosphere and allow humans to make uninhabitable Mars into a planet fit for natural life. Space suits will still be necessary for human habitation, but food will available from plants that grow on a more temperate Mars.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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