Space mirrors could create Earth-like haven on Mars

By | November 16, 2006

Space mirrors could create Earth-like haven on Mars

Mirrors in orbit around Mars could create Earth-like conditions on a small patch of the planet’s surface, according to a NASA-funded study. The extra sunlight would provide warmth and solar power for human explorers, but some experts say the mirrors may be hard to deploy.

Scientists and science-fiction authors have long dreamed of turning Mars into a more Earth-like planet for future human colonists. The process, called terraforming, involves thickening Mars’s atmosphere and increasing its temperature. But schemes to transform the entire planet would take centuries and would require enormous resources.

Now, Rigel Woida, an engineering student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, US, is investigating the possibility of “terraforming” just a small patch of the planet’s surface by focusing sunlight on it from orbiting mirrors.

He received $9000 to study the idea from the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

The concept calls for 300 reflective balloons, each 150 metres across, arranged side-by-side to create a 1.5-kilometre-wide mirror in orbit around Mars.

Balmy conditions

The mirror would focus sunlight onto a 1-kilometre-wide patch of Mars’s surface. This would raise the temperature in this patch to a balmy 20? Celsius (68? Fahrenheit) from Mars’s typical surface temperature of between -140? C and -60? C (-220? and -76? F).

The extra warmth would mean the astronauts would not need heavily insulated suits or living quarters, allowing them to work more easily. The extra sunlight would also boost power from solar cells. – newsci

Meanwhile, here on Earth, aliens in power have kept gas mileage down and have continued to deny global warming exists as they slowly heat up the Earth’s surface to prepare for the day they take over.

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