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The physics, biology, and environmental ethics of making mars habitableThe considerable evidence that Mars once had a wetter, more clement, environment motivates the search for past or present life on that planet. This evidence also suggests the possibility of restoring habitable conditions on Mars. While the total amounts of the key molecules--carbon dioxide, water, and nitrogen--needed for creating a biosphere on Mars are unknown, estimates suggest that there may be enough in the subsurface. Super greenhouse gases, in particular, perfluorocarbons, are currently the most effective and practical way to warm Mars and thicken its atmosphere so that liquid water is stable on the surface. This process could take approximately 100 years. If enough carbon dioxide is frozen in the South Polar Cap and absorbed in the regolith, the resulting thick and warm carbon dioxide atmosphere could support many types of microorganisms, plants, and invertebrates. If a planet-wide martian biosphere converted carbon dioxide into oxygen with an average efficiency equal to that for Earth's biosphere, it would take > 100,000 years to create Earth-like oxygen levels. Ethical issues associated with bringing life to Mars center on the possibility of indigenous martian life and the relative value of a planet with or without a global biosphere.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
McKay, C. P. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field CA United States)
Marinova, M. M.
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
March 1, 2001
Publication Information
Publication: Astrobiology
Volume: 1
Issue: 1
ISSN: 1531-1074
Subject Category
Distribution Limits