Author Topic: Mars Terraforming discussion  (Read 57472 times)

Offline Lee

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Mars Terraforming discussion
« on: 02/14/2013 03:41 pm »
Submitted to NASA around 5 years ago
Submitted to SpaceX on 13 Feb 2013

Mars Terraform Proposal
Copyright
Leon Hendrick Franken
2005 to 2013

Presented to SpaceX

Mars Terraforming

About 5 or 6 years ago I submitted a short proposal to NASA for a mars habitat specifically designed to grow vegetation on the martian planet. I did not get a response. This is my second attempt and I present it to any and all willing ears at SpaceX and anyone else who has the foresight to listen.

The first premise that must be addressed is why a habitat is feasible. We have many scientific resources to point out our impending clash between nature and human evolution. This clash or cross roads may be outside the horizon of our lifespan, but it is not such a welcome thought to our children we leave behind to face what we have left them. The earth cannot support a human population that only grows exponentially. This is the simple conclusion and there are many facts out there if one has the inclination to prove this. In this proposal I will not be spending any time expounding on that.

The one thing I will say now is that the technology we develop for harsh environments such as off-earth planets does have immediate rewards in terms of our local lifestyle. In attempting  to develop technology for the harshest most alien environments we find there is a real world application here back at home. So someone who says that the technology we develop for Mars is a waste of time and effort has absolutely no founding argument, since there are immediate benefits that apply to real-world situations here on earth.

Some simple examples:

Water and waste management in space teaches us to treat the earth as a limited finite resource spaceship. If we treated the earth like a spaceship and that everything in that earth system was of inestimable worth, we would use our resources in such a way that fosters longevity and moderation of all we use.

Energy creation is another example, where instead of relying on sources of energy that burn out, or result in an empty fuel tank, inter-planetary travel forces us to revisit our paradigm about what other energies may be used instead. Examples such as the ion engine, the solar sail and electromagnetic propulsion are all good cases of technology that can be applied to Earth. These things may never have been discovered if we did not pursue space exploration.     

Infrastructure has always been a major obstacle to space travel. We have realized the limits of moving tons of metal and steel into space, but as the industry has evolved so has our ingenuity. The latest invention by NASA and their affiliates is an inflatable space module that is able to withstand the rigors of the vacuum of space. Does it have a real-world application here on earth? Of course it does. Perhaps there will come a time when your new home arrives in a small box and all you do is anchor it down and inflate it. Its thermal properties could be far superior to any normal house, stronger, lighter and the cost could make a new home affordable to many people who live below the inflation rate. 

Crater Method

Now to get on to the meat of the proposal. I make a few assumptions since these are well covered by others more experienced than I. We assume we have a vehicle that can carry up to 6 or 7 astronauts for a 6 to 12 month journey. Six months if we intercept Mars, Twelve months if we miss it and have to make a return.

We assume the vehicle is carrying an inflatable mars habitat with special foam cylinders for inflating on the surface of Mars.
We assume we have chosen a specific crater of a given size that the inflatable is designed for.

The position of the crater is assumed to be within a certain latitude where one of the craters walls is subject to shadow each Martian day.

We assume we have the equipment and technology to support human life for a combined total of 24 to 36 months, taking into account and adjusting for the next optimal launch window to return to earth.

Why a crater?

The benefits of using an inflatable roof over a crater are numerous and inter-relational.

First, by pulling an inflatable roof over the cap of a crater provides a dead-zone in the sense of climate below the roof. This dead zone would be partially isolated from the extreme fluctuations of the Martian surface outside of it. The roof itself would ideally be translucent but with one feature of being able to be filled with opaque “smoke” of some kind into various sections of the roof. The opaque sections would reflect excessive light, thereby reducing the amount of Martian heat bearing down on the surface below. The amount of opacity could be regulated to provide ideal lighting levels for vegetation. This would provide the first steps to preparing the biosphere for vegetation and human habitat.

Secondly, a pull-over roof requires less expertise to erect than a dome or building. The roof would be pulled well past the lip of the crater and secured by multiple anchors to the Martian soil. The anchors would have electronic monitors to provide strain measurement data connected to alarms within the habitat should an anchor need maintenance.

Thirdly, using a crater offers some unique possibilities of placing specific equipment and life support systems. The portion of the crater that always receives sunlight would be ideally suited for evaporation plants, solar cells and heat exchangers. While the shadow face of the crater would be ideal for human habitats, vegetation experiments, water storage, air conditioning, etc.

Fourthly, by using an inflatable roof tethered to the floor at certain points of the crater, these tethers could be built with strain gauges which would provide pressure data of the exterior atmosphere as well as the evolution of the interior biosphere and how it interacts with the native atmosphere outside the roof.

Fifthly, below the roof would consist of a number of partitions or cells that cordon off certain sections of the biosphere, Some cells would include an entire capsule covering roof to wall and floor. Some cells would simply cordon off sections similar to a slice of pie but leaving the Martian floor exposed. This combined setup provides isolation between habitats that may not tolerate cross-contamination. An example is the vegetation cell. For the first test, this cell would need to be completely isolated even from the Martian soil. A second cell would have re-engineered Martian soil with the same strict environmental controls and would be ready for vegetation when the first cell has proved a success. A third cell may simply be enclosed in inflatable walls, but be exposed to Martian soil and Martian atmosphere although in a very limited amount. Should the second cell test succeed the third test of introducing plant life to an alien landscape in a very controlled manner would be ready with limited atmospheric exposure. Once the third cell has proven to work, it would be time to build a second crater biosphere and then to interlink the two craters without breaking down any of the cells. This is the most logical approach to redundancy in vegetation testing in an alien environment.

This strategy provides gradual migration of earth plant life to the host environment in logical and gradual steps. With foresight the crater that is selected would not be too far away from a long ridge with a shadow edge or to a collection of nearby craters. This would allow for future expansion of the biosphere by either using shaded ridges or nearby craters that provide a shadow edge.

Another benefit of using a crater is the probability of a meteorite hit on the same spot compared to a spot that has not been hit by a meteorite. Any statistician can tell you the odds are very low for a second strike in the same crater. Even if a meteorite had to hit near the biosphere, its zero profile would keep damage to its minimum as sediment and rock would be blasted across the flat roof of the biosphere resulting in far less damage than if the biosphere was shaped like a protruding dome.

Simply put a crater habitat with a zero-profile inflatable roof lining with regulated partitions and grounding tethers below it logically proves to be the most feasible long term habitat proposal for introducing humans and vegetation to Mars.

This is the conclusion of the proposal.

Leon H. Franken
[email protected] 

Offline alexterrell

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #1 on: 02/14/2013 07:47 pm »
The air pressure inside the roof/crater would blow the anchors out, unless they're very deep and very strong, in which case you might as well extend the dome down to a sphere.

With payload constrains a sphere is limited to about 50m diameter with current materials - which is quite a lot. But the hard work is adding the shielding (radiation, micro meteorite, and internal).

Offline Andrew_W

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #2 on: 02/21/2013 10:25 pm »
Another benefit of using a crater is the probability of a meteorite hit on the same spot compared to a spot that has not been hit by a meteorite. Any statistician can tell you the odds are very low for a second strike in the same crater.

Sounds like the theory that if you throw 5 heads in a row the chances of you throwing tails next time is increased.
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Online Robotbeat

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #3 on: 02/21/2013 10:37 pm »
Another benefit of using a crater is the probability of a meteorite hit on the same spot compared to a spot that has not been hit by a meteorite. Any statistician can tell you the odds are very low for a second strike in the same crater.

Sounds like the theory that if you throw 5 heads in a row the chances of you throwing tails next time is increased.

Right, the OP is repeating a fallacy. In the real world, "the dice have no memory."
Indeed, and in fact making the opposite assumption may be better... If you find a place with a lot of cratering, it may be that the conditions are such that you're more likely to get cratering there in the future...

If I roll 100 sixes in a roll, in real life the odds are much better that the die are not normal. That the far-side of the Moon has more cratering is not by accident.
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Offline robertinventor

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #4 on: 05/06/2013 02:49 am »
Mars enthusiasts often talk about terraforming Mars as if it is a simple matter, with only engineering issues to be sorted out.

Here is a blog post I've just written about how there is much more to it than that. It would be easy to make mistakes that will spoil Mars for humanity for billions of years.

I also talk a bit about the ethical issues, which are often ignored by Mars enthusiasts. Yet they need to be thought about and debated before any irreversible decisions are made.

http://robert-inventor.tumblr.com/post/49677771359/terraforming-mars-needs-great-care-and-is-way-beyond

Online JohnFornaro

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #5 on: 05/06/2013 01:12 pm »
To the OP:  Oh, absolutely. 
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline Barrie

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #6 on: 05/06/2013 01:33 pm »
Terraforming makes no sense to me as far as making humans a multi-planetary species is concerned.  It makes more sense when you want to make, say, the square-lipped rhinoceros a multi-planetary species - which might be a cool thing to do at some point in the far future.

Any large-scale human activity is going to change the atmosphere, and a tenuous atmosphere will show the changes more.  Leaks and exhaust will introduce substances that weren't there before.  Doing anything big-time on Mars is going to change it, if only small-time.  The only way to avoid it is to do almost nothing.  Will we always be willing to accept that constraint?

Offline robertinventor

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #7 on: 05/06/2013 02:16 pm »
Terraforming makes no sense to me as far as making humans a multi-planetary species is concerned.  It makes more sense when you want to make, say, the square-lipped rhinoceros a multi-planetary species - which might be a cool thing to do at some point in the far future.

Any large-scale human activity is going to change the atmosphere, and a tenuous atmosphere will show the changes more.  Leaks and exhaust will introduce substances that weren't there before.  Doing anything big-time on Mars is going to change it, if only small-time.  The only way to avoid it is to do almost nothing.  Will we always be willing to accept that constraint?

Oh - first totally agree it makes no sense for making humans a multi-planetary species, space habs are far more robust because you would have so many of them, all independent, so once we have colonies in space hard to see any disaster affecting them all. While on a planet it remains possible for some major disaster to affect everyone.

With Mars, if you explore it by telepresence, this totally does not rule out exploiting it. You can have factories on the surface semi-automated and operated by telepresence. Even on Earth many factories don't have many humans on the factory floor. Also if human presence is needed, you can use robots operated by telepresence, which can even be humanoid in shape with hands etc, making it as easy to work there via telepresence as it would be if you were there in person.

So - can export anything of value from Mars, including the mining that Zubrin mentions as a way to sustain the colony. This could be used instead to sustain the orbital colonies and space habitats instead of surface colonies.

Also - if there is life on Mars, some of it might be of use to humans, and it might be useful to cultivate it on Mars and export it (of course after biohazard assessments have been made). Again all this can be done on Mars or a Marsformed Mars  at some later stage.

There's also the possibility of an intermediate form of terraforming with plant life only and without aerobes or only carefully selected aerobes. Mars then might be able to export food - though seems unlikely that food would be in great demand as there would be much more growing area in the orbital habitats eventually - or export wood, or some product that grows particularly well on the Mars surface. This might be safer than full terraforming, and assuming the decision is made not to "marsform" it for native lifeforms.

BTW another idea, if Mars is lifeless, but includes precursors of life, is to "marsform" it warm it up in order to see what happens to those precursors if allowed to evolve further. Although the full evolution would probably take billions of years to reach something like the complexity of Earth life, it might be invaluable for study of abiogenesis to set it in action again and let it develop at least for a few centuries, to see what happens with an actual living planet in a state similar to the very early Earth, and see if life does evolve there, or what happens to life introduced to the planet via meteorites from Earth.

With humans in orbital colonies well supplied for, also maybe much longer lifespan as well, an advanced civilization (hopefully future us :) ) in our solar system might have the leisure for such experiments.

So totally, keeping Mars free from human contamination doesn't mean that it has to be a "hands off don't do anything" approach.
« Last Edit: 05/06/2013 02:23 pm by robertinventor »

Offline robertinventor

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #8 on: 05/06/2013 02:49 pm »
To the OP:  Oh, absolutely. 

Thanks glad to find someone else on the same wavelength :)

Online JohnFornaro

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #9 on: 05/07/2013 01:10 am »
To the OP:  Oh, absolutely. 

Thanks glad to find someone else on the same wavelength :)

Glad to be generally supportive, but you might find that my wavelength is, well...
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #10 on: 05/07/2013 01:10 am »
... independently arrived at.

Will take a look at your blog.  Are you seated?
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #11 on: 05/07/2013 01:20 am »
Quote from: robert-the-inventor's blog, hereafter referred to as bob
Simplest approach to terraforming - mimic the way the Earth’s atmosphere formed, speeded up.

My conception would have large domes of partial Earth pressure, say twenty to thirty years after the first "primitive" habs and ISRU demonstrations of utility have become successful.  High carbon dioxide atmo, add nitrogen and starter oxygen.  Let plants do the work.  Over the next two hundred or so years, continue to build carbon fiber structures with silicone glass panels, and gradually increase the area under dome.

Don't figure on getting the job done in less than five hundred years.  You will have to devote considerable resources to bringing up people, machines, and knowledge from Earth.

Quote from: Bob
This approach is likely to need care.

No question, but once you have decided to terraform, that means you have already decided that there is no alien life up there.  I wouldn't start terraforming if there were native life up there.  Any manned bases would have to be pretty well quarantined, by my take.

Quote from: Bob
Terraforming is likely to be a long term process lasting centuries

No doubt.  Make that a thousand years.  But you're focusing on the endgame, when we can barely get into orbit.  your talent would be better spent in the near term.

Quote from: Bob
Our main options are:

Just land humans on it and let it develop whatever way it happens to go

You have to consider the idea of self government long before the idea of terraforming could be undertaken.

YMMV.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline robertinventor

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #12 on: 05/07/2013 07:32 am »
My conception would have large domes of partial Earth pressure, say twenty to thirty years after the first "primitive" habs and ISRU demonstrations of utility have become successful.  High carbon dioxide atmo, add nitrogen and starter oxygen.  Let plants do the work.  Over the next two hundred or so years, continue to build carbon fiber structures with silicone glass panels, and gradually increase the area under dome.

Yes that seems much easier than terraforming. I can see a lot of value in gradually doming more and more of Mars instead of terraforming. And if something goes wrong in one of the domes you can "scrub" the air and start again. Can't do that with an entire planet. Eventually domes within domes.

It's never going to be completely Earth like. In early years going to need artificial light during the dust storms. Going to need heating. The winter to summer temperature swings will be far greater than on Earth. But with domes that matters a lot less, as you can keep them heated to even out the temperatures winter and summer.



Quote from: John
Don't figure on getting the job done in less than five hundred years.  You will have to devote considerable resources to bringing up people, machines, and knowledge from Earth.
I would do all of this by telepresence from Mars orbit so that you can control which micro-organisms are introduced to the surface and when.
Quote from: John
> This approach is likely to need care

No question, but once you have decided to terraform, that means you have already decided that there is no alien life up there.  I wouldn't start terraforming if there were native life up there.  Any manned bases would have to be pretty well quarantined, by my take.
Also I wouldn't start until the early proto-life on Mars has been studied. Must exist because you get interesting structures even in lab experiments simulating early Earth here on Earth. I can see at least several decades of biological exploration of Mars even in the case where it is lifeless. Which could lead to a new explosion of understanding in life sciences. The roboic missions to Mars give not a hint of this because they are nowhere near the level of technology where we can examine Mars at even a microscopic level, or dig beneath the surface to find deposits not modified by the cosmic rays etc you get on the surface and its oxygenating environment. Just need to dig ten meters or so for pristine material but no-one has ever done that yet.

The bases on Mars could never be quarantined. The thing is you can't remove all the micro-organisms from human skin without killing the human. And the body too, our body is host to huge numbers of micro-organisms. It just isn't possible. And once you are on the surface then the micro-organisms will escape to the surface, again, can't in any conceivable way avoid that with present technology.

I did wonder about some future technology with a kind of membrne covering that goes over a human and is absolutely sterile, auto sterilizes itself, and lets air, water and even food in, and human wastes covered by it as they are produced and kept in containers to be returned to orbit.

But that is way beyond anything we can do. You also have to be completely safe for a crash landing on Mars by a ship occupied by humans - again way beyond anything our current technology can do.

Quote from: John
You have to consider the idea of self government long before the idea of terraforming could be undertaken.

YMMV.
If it is in a solar system with thousands of space habs in orbit about planets or the sun, then suitable types of government for people in space habs can be explored there.
« Last Edit: 05/07/2013 07:34 am by robertinventor »

Offline solarsystem

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #13 on: 01/07/2014 01:30 pm »
      According to some scientists Mars atmosphere can be recovered by oscillating carbon dioxide. If this is possible and the projects starts today. How many years does it need to colonize and live on Mars?

Offline Andrew_W

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #14 on: 01/07/2014 02:12 pm »
Hi, welcome to the forum, what do you mean with "oscillating carbon dioxide"?
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Offline solarsystem

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #15 on: 01/07/2014 02:37 pm »
thank you.

Actually i have watched this in a documentary. They were mentioning to install a system which will oscillate carbon dioxide gasses into Mars atmosphere to recover it.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #16 on: 01/07/2014 05:56 pm »
"oscillate" doesn't make much sense in this context. Can you rephrase it?

If you're wondering if Mars can be terraformed to have enough pressure to go around without a space suit on, then I believe the answer is yes. There are very large amounts of carbon dioxide (and water) in the Martian ground, and if the planet would heat up sufficiently, the glaciers and rocks would out-gas enough that it's possible for the lowest parts of Mars to have higher than 1psi pressure. (1psi is roughly the limit of human survivability with pure oxygen)

There are a few ways to accomplish this heating.
In increasing level of difficulty:
One is albedo management. You could sprinkle very fine black carbon powder on the glaciers.

Another is to produce incredibly potent greenhouse gases from in situ salts.

Another is giant orbital mirrors.

The idea is that eventually the outgassing will increase the surface pressure enough that the heating becomes basically self-sustaining (since CO2 is, of course, a greenhouse gas itself... as is water vapor).
« Last Edit: 01/07/2014 06:03 pm by Robotbeat »
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Offline Celebrimbor

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #17 on: 01/07/2014 06:01 pm »
"oscillate" doesn't make much sense in this context. Can you rephrase it?

If you're wondering if Mars can be terraformed to have enough pressure to go around without a space suit on, then I believe the answer is yes. There are very large amounts of carbon dioxide (and water) in the Martian ground, and if the planet would heat up sufficiently, the glaciers and rocks would out-gas enough that it's possible for the lowest parts of Mars to have higher than 1psi pressure.

There are a few ways to accomplish this heating.
In increasing level of difficulty:
One is albedo management. You could sprinkle very fine black carbon powder on the glaciers.

Another is to produce incredibly potent greenhouse gases from in situ salts.

Another is giant orbital mirrors.

The idea is that eventually the outgassing will increase the surface pressure enough that the heating becomes basically self-sustaining (since CO2 is, of course, a greenhouse gas itself... as is water vapor).

 A man with a plan!  Make it so!  :)

Offline meekGee

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #18 on: 01/07/2014 09:37 pm »
oscillate = sublimate?
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Offline gbaikie

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Re: Mars Terraforming discussion
« Reply #19 on: 01/07/2014 09:52 pm »
Because of Mars low gravity, for Mars to have same pressure as Earth you need 3 times as much atmosphere.
Though a 1/3rd of Earth's pressure is breathable [similar to Mt Everest].

So if Mars had 1/3 of Earth's atmospheric pressure, it would similar density as on Earth and Mars atmosphere would be higher than Earth's. And density would more uniform. Or if same density as Earth at "sea levels",
Mars density does not reduce as quickly as Earth does with increasing elevation.

This make Mars not have as much sunlight reaching the surface.
Or because Earth's dense atmosphere, at top of Earth atmosphere there is solar flux of 1360 watts per square meter. And at sea level on earth, on clear day, and sun directly overhead, one gets about 1000 watts per square meter. So one loses about 360 watts per square meter.
And when Sun is not directly overhead,  and so say at 45 degrees above horizon, the sun has go thru more atmosphere and is further reduced. And once it get to 30 degrees, it reduces it by about 1/2.
With Mars with 1/3rd atm this would be worse than Earth. Or if Mars were at Earth distance with 1/3 atm
it would get less solar energy than Earth. And at Mars distance with it's nearly non-existence atmosphere,
Mars currently get more solar energy at it's surface than Earth does.

Now if you had a 1/3 atm, one could fly airplanes like you can on Earth. Or an earth airplane would have slower stall speed than on Earth. Whereas with Mars current atmosphere the stall speed would be supersonic.
But with Mars thin atmosphere one can fly supersonic. Or on earth because of our gravity and because of dense atmosphere airline fly high and around 500 mph, On Mars airplane instead would/could fly over 1000 mph. Or cars could drive at 1000 mph. Bullet trains could go 2000 mph- you can't do that with Earth's thick atmosphere. You do it on Earth if made tunnels which were vacuum like Mars is.

Another factor to consider is the tons of air involved for 1/3 atm. Currently, Mars has:
"Total mass of atmosphere: ~2.5 x 10^16 kg"
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact.html
Or 25 trillion tonnes of atmosphere, and need about 100 times this amount for 1/3 atm.

What I would do, is cover Mars with water. That will do a lot to stop/reduce dust. And it could require less tonnage if one doesn't have water very deep. It's also would warm the planet.

So, I am talking about solar pond. Solar ponds on Earth reach a water temperature beneath the surface
of up to around 80 C. On Mars it would be less, but perhaps around 40 C under surface and surface temperature close or slightly above 0 C.
So say half surface area of Mars "tropical region" would make the tropical region vaguely like Earth's tropics- though cooler. Though much higher average temperature of Mars current -60 C. So globally bring it up to say -20 C and get Mars "tropics" average temperature of around 0 C.

Edit: You can also live under water. Have the atmospheric pressure and be warm, and "walk" in the sunshine. So need about 10 meter water depth on Mars to get 1/3 atm of pressure- you breath easily without a spacesuit/pressure suit  [though might need an air mask- :) ].
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_pond
« Last Edit: 01/07/2014 10:12 pm by gbaikie »

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