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View Diary: Getting to Know Your Solar System (37): Titan (Vol. 3) (44 comments)

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  •  I have done thought experiments (3+ / 0-)
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    lehman scott, Troubadour, mungley

    in my head about terraforming Mars, and two things have bothered me...

    One... no nitrogen.   For terraforming Mars to occur, you will need nitrogen, and nitrogen seems to be the main limiting factor to make Mars a planet that could support an earthlike biosphere.

    The other is the depth of the atmosphere.  Even if you are able to get a source of nitrogen for an atmosphere, it might be a fool's errand.  A martian atmopshere that would be 1 Bar at 'sea' level would need to be several times thicker and deeper than Earth's, and given Mars' low gravity, that would make it easier for the atmosphere to go off into space.

    Sigline? What Sigline?

    by Khun David on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 02:30:10 PM PDT

    •  You need an inert gas that doesn't leave (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Khun David, BusyinCA

      the planet too quickly, but it doesn't have to be nitrogen.  Argon is also an option (1% of what we breathe), or some mixture of argon and nitrogen different from what we have.  Possibly there are other options, although perhaps not as easy.  Ar/O2 would be just as breathable as N2/O2, as would Ar/N2/O2 or N2/Ar/O2.  

      Not sure where you'd get either argon or nitrogen in the needed quantities, but there must be clathrates in the crust that haven't been exhausted.  Mars died geologically well before it could release all its internal gases.

      Gas would escape, but you're talking about pretty long timelines.  Human activity is very fast compared to atmospheric evolution.  It took millions of years to go from a wet world to an apparently dead one.  So terraforming is not futile anymore than building houses is.  Eventually your house would fall down in an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, volcano, tsunami, flood, etc., if it stood forever, but probably not in its own lifetime as a useful thing before humans themselves repaired and rebuilt it.

      Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a smile on a poor child's face.

      by Troubadour on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 04:29:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bomb Mars with comets (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, Khun David, BusyinCA

        If we develop the ability to terraform Mars, think big! There are all kinds of frozen gases on comets, along with water, so a few hundred sent in from the Oort cloud will do nicely.

        It has to start somewhere. It has to start sometime. What better place than here, what better time than now? - Guerilla Radio, Rage Against The Machine.

        by Fordmandalay on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 07:29:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's a longer-term measure. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CalGal47, Khun David

          The first few centuries of Martian terraformation would be focused on raising the temperature and releasing oxygen from the regolith.  Getting out to the Oort Cloud for a comet seems a bit challenging compared to getting people on Mars with some industrial machinery to spew heat and process rocks.  The Voyager and Pioneer probes we launched decades ago won't be in the Oort Cloud until like the 22nd century.

          Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a smile on a poor child's face.

          by Troubadour on Sun Jun 16, 2013 at 09:17:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We don't need to go to the Oort cloud (1+ / 0-)
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            Kuiper belt objects should have sufficient water and other volatiles.

            Nitrogen is far more common universally than argon (although about as common as neon).  Neon and argon don't chemically react very well, so they are not apt to bind to solids, so they would be more likely to disperse from the atmosphere than chemically active elements, like oxygen and nitrogen.

            Also, nitrogen is absolutely required for terrestrial life, as it is necessary for amino acid and nucleotide synthesis, as part of the nitrogen cycle.  

            Sigline? What Sigline?

            by Khun David on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:55:12 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Although nitrogen itself (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, Rashaverak

        is inert, with the presense of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, nitrogen is converted to ammonia.  Nitrifying bacteria covnert ammonia to nitrites and then nitrates.  Denitrifying bacteria then converte nitrates back to nitrogen.

        Sigline? What Sigline?

        by Khun David on Mon Jun 17, 2013 at 05:58:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Do we KNOW (0+ / 0-)

      there isn't enough nitrate sediments on Mars to make a reasonably thick N2 rich atmosphere?

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