How Mars could become a livable planet one day
From tech mogul Elon Musk to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, everyone hopes to make humans an interplanetary species. They want to colonize Mars in the coming decades but the goal can only be achieved if the Red Planet is terraformed into a habitable world. Now, this is a major challenge, one the folks at Harvard plan to tackle with a unique way. Here's more.
Mars is an icy cold planet with thin atmosphere
Human life can thrive on a planet with a thick atmosphere and liquid water, but Mars doesn't have either of these. It boasts of a harsh environment with low temperatures and less than 1% of Earth's atmospheric pressure. This led many into thinking that Mars' surface CO2 could be extracted into the atmosphere to warm things just enough to allow liquid water to exist.
However, NASA said there's not enough CO2
Warming the planet with CO2 would have supported the existence of water, making the planet habitable. But then, NASA claimed there are not many carbon dioxide sources on Mars and the technology to extract CO2 on such a large scale is not there either.
So, Harvard scientists came up with an alternative
As an alternative solution, Harvard scientists suggested using an insulating material, called Silica Aerogel, to heat Mars and keep water in a liquid state on its surface. They said the application of the substance on select areas could ultimately also allow scientists to grow plants and transform the planet into a place where humans could live without any issues.
Silica Aerogel traps heat effectively, says Harvard professor
"We propose to use thin layers of Silica Aerogel to heat surface of Mars to the melting point of liquid water, in order to create habitable conditions there," Harvard professor Robin Wordsworth said, noting that the material "is translucent, light" and effective in trapping heat.
They simulated Silica Aerogel's use in lab
To prove their silica gel heating theory, the researchers analyzed the behavior of the gel on a test surface heated with a solar simulator replicating Martian sunlight. In addition to this, they also employed a computer simulation fed with Mars' actual temperatures to see how the application of the gel would work and evolve on the planet over several years.
Now, the team will evolve its methods
The recent tests proved successful, and now, the team plans to make its testing conditions more Mars-like to make sure that the gel definitely works. As part of this, they hope to add complexities to their simulations and conduct "studies at a Mars analog site". Wordsworth added, "If everything goes well we would [even] like to test this on the Martian surface directly."