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Sagan's work inspired other researchers and futurists to take seriously the idea of terraforming. The key question was: are there enough greenhouse gases and water on Mars to increase its atmospheric pressure to Earth-like levels?
In 2018, a pair of NASA-funded researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder and Northern Arizona University found that processing all the sources available on Mars would only increase atmospheric pressure to about 7 percent that of Earth - far short of what is needed to make the planet habitable.
Mars - Dream
Terraforming Mars, it seemed, was an unfulfillable dream.
Now, researchers from the Harvard University, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, and the University of Edinburgh, have a new idea. Rather than trying to change the whole planet, what if you took a more regional approach?
Researchers - Regions - Surface - Material - Aerogel
The researchers suggest that regions of the Martian surface could be made habitable with a material -- silica aerogel -- that mimics Earth's atmospheric greenhouse effect. Through modeling and experiments, the researchers show that a two to three-centimeter-thick shield of silica aerogel could transmit enough visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous ultraviolet radiation, and raise temperatures underneath permanently above the melting point of water, all without the need for any internal heat source.
The paper is published in Nature Astronomy.
Approach - Mars - Modification - Robin - Wordsworth
"This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification," said Robin Wordsworth, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Earth and Planetary Science. "Unlike the previous ideas to make Mars habitable, this is something that can be developed and tested systematically with materials and technology we already have."
"Mars is the most habitable planet in our Solar System besides Earth," said Laura Kerber, Research Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "But it remains a hostile world...
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