In the event of a catastrophic event on the same scale as the asteroid that helped to extinguish the dinosaurs roughly 66 million years ago, humanity’s greatest chance for survival might be on another planet.  Mars, despite it’s current hostile environment, is similar to Earth.  It is perhaps the most viable candidate for terraformation and eventually colonization.  Terraforming Mars is no easy task – it’s a long term, massive engineering project that will take over 1,000 or more years to complete.  The payoff?  An entirely new planet to call our home.  It’s a backup plan for the mistakes we’ve made on Earth.

Futurism developed an infographic that provides a reasonably practical guide to terraforming Mars in four phases:  Warming, Watering, Fertilizing, and Populating.  While the mission is theoretically possible, it’s not without it’s challenges, including the cost (trillions of dollars), protection from cosmic rays (during travel and on the planet), reduced gravity on the planet, a thin atmosphere, a lack of a magnetosphere, and a lack of active plate tectonics.  Additionally, is it ethical to literally change the biological face of a planet?  Do Earthlings have the right to do this?  Which countries would be involved in the mission – and would they be able to work together?  How are “countries” even managed on another planet?

Perhaps Mars is humanity’s best bet, but we shouldn’t overlook Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, or its largest moon, Titan.  We might also consider Jupiter’s moons, Europa and Ganymede.   No matter the location, terraforming a distant planet or moon would probably follow somewhat similar phased approach.

Terraforming Mars:  A Practical Guide

How to terraform Mars


  • Alain

    Let see the problems that I can see:
    With an escape velocity of barely 1/3 that of Earth, it’s hard to keep a viable atmosphere. The lack of a magnetic field have no real impact in this aspect. The first loss will be water through direct escaping, plus the water dissociated by UV rays permitting hydrogen to escape even faster increasing the loss of water further. The plus here is that it will liberate some extra atomic oxygen in the upper atmosphere, leading to an increase in ozone production.
    The lower gravity is the greatest problem: Increasing atmospheric and water depletion, effects on human, animal and plant health and development.
    The lack of plate tectonics should not be an issue. The carbon dioxide is already abundant due to it’s high molecular mass preventing it from escaping. Lack and depletion of water is a much greater issue. Methane, another green house gas, will escape just as fast as water. Better enrich the air with sulphur hexa fluoride to boost the green house effect.
    If there is enough oxygen, the question of an ozone layer will resolve itself. There is no need of a magnetic field to get ozone, just oxygen and UV rays.

  • Carlos Caliente

    Humans are having troubles enough trying to save our own home planet from our wasteful ways, do we really need to spend trillions on some ridiculous adventure 40 million miles away? This is such a stupid idea the whole project is nonsense.