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Planetary engineeringAssuming commercial fusion power, heavy lift vehicles and major advances in genetic engineering, the authors survey possible late-21st century methods of working major transformations in planetary environments. Much more Earthlike climates may be produced on Mars by generating low freezing point greenhouse gases from indigenous materials; on Venus by biological conversion of CO2 to graphite, by canceling the greenhouse effect with high-altitude absorbing fine particles, or by a sunshield at the first Lagrangian point; and on Titan by greenhouses and/or fusion warming. However, in our present state of ignorance we cannot guarantee a stable endstate or exclude unanticipated climatic feedbacks or other unintended consequences. Moreover, as the authors illustrate by several examples, many conceivable modes of planetary engineering are so wasteful of scarce solar system resources and so destructive of important scientific information as to raise profound ethical issues, even if they were economically feasible, which they are not. Global warming on Earth may lead to calls for mitigation by planetary engineering, e.g., emplacement and replenishment of anti-greenhouse layers at high altitudes, or sunshields in space. But here especially we must be concerned about precision, stability, and inadvertent side-effects. The safest and most cost-effective means of countering global warming - beyond, e.g., improved energy efficiency, CFC bans and alternative energy sources - is the continuing reforestation of approximately 2 times 107 sq km of the Earth's surface. This can be accomplished with present technology and probably at the least cost.
Document ID
19910016777
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Pollack, James B.
(NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA., United States)
Sagan, Carl
(Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY., United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Arizona Univ., Resources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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