Terraforming Mars requires building up the atmosphere and raising the temperature. If the temperature increase a few degrees, more CO2 (currently frozen at the poles and in the soil) would be released into the atmosphere, in turn trapping more heat. This would not create breathable air, but would increase pressure, potentially removing the need for pressure suits.
Ideas include the mining of fluorine minerals as a source of CFC's and PFC's or importing hydrocarbons from Titan.
Mirrors could be placed in orbit around Mars, directing sunlight onto key areas such as the polar caps and early colonies. The mirrors could be formed of aluminized PET film and act as a solar sail to maintain its position relative to Mars.
Dark Extremophiles such as algae and bacteria would enable Mars to absorb more sunlight, warming the atmosphere. They would also produce small amounts of oxygen.
NASA and Techshot Inc are developing a system to introduce oxygen-producing cyanobacteria and algae to Mars. A future Mars rover mission may inject the 7cm canisters into sites with transients of liquid water, releasing the organisms to grow within sealed soil. The system would then look for oxygen given off as metabolic byproduct. If successful, large sealed biodomes could produce oxygen during future human missions to mars (though the effect would be isolated, not planetary).
Buzz Aldrin (pictured above on the Apollo 11 mission, before landing on the moon) is working with the Florida Institute of Technology on a plan to colonise Mars within 25 years (2039 would be the 70th anniversary of his Apollo 11 moon landing). He envisions tours of duty lasting 10 years. Aldrin has joined former shuttle astronauts Winston Scott and Sam Durrance at MIT.
SpaceX (the first private company to deliver cargo to the ISS) is developing a Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) with a goal to send 100 metric tons of payload to Mars. CEO Elon Musk expects the MCT to take 100 people at a time to mars.
The above image shows the Space X Dragon spacecraft. The separate, private Mars One colonisation project has considered using a variant of Dragon, launched on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, to transport crew and cargo to Mars.
NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) produces 512,000 pounds of thrust - over 12 million horsepower. It could push ten giant aircraft carriers around the ocean at 25mph.
Martin Burkey of NASA's SLS team: "It has to handle temperatures as low as minus 400 degrees where the propellants enter the engine and as high as 6,000 degrees as the exhaust exits the combustion chamber where the propellants are burned. It has to move a lot of propellants to generate a lot of energy. At the rate the four SLS core stage engines consume propellants, they could drain a family swimming pool in 1 minute... The RS-25 is about the same weight and size as two F-15 jet fighter engines, yet it produces eight times more thrust. A single turbine blade the size of a quarter... produces more equivalent horsepower than a Corvette ZR1 engine."
NASA is developing three versions of the rocket for different missions, with the third intended to take part in a mission to Mars. The above image is an artists illustration (via NASA).
NASA is developing Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN) technology that compares pictures of the approaching ground with stored images for accurate landings. This is a huge advance over current technology, such as NASA's Mars Rover Curiosity (pictured above), which was targeted to land in a zone 7 by 20 kilometres. The TRN system may be used for NASA's next robot Mars mission planned for 2020 and for later human missions.
SpaceX (and Tesla) CEO Elon Musk wants to print organisms on Mars using a "digital biological converter" (DBC) developed by leading geneticist Craig Venter, who worked on the Human Genome Project (which sequenced the entire human genome). The converter would implant raw DNA code into a universal recipient cell and bring it to life.
"I think biological teleportation is what is going to truly enable the colonization of Mars," Venter told Ashlee Vance, author of a new biography of Musk.
Vance suggests a DNA printer on Mars would allow "humans to create medicines, food, and helpful microbes for early settlers of the planet."
At an early stage of development, Venter's converter has backing from the DARPA (within the Department of Defense).
"Venter intends DBCs to print living cells, using an automated and improved version of the process behind his 2010 breakthrough synthetic cell," according to a Venter profile in the Guardian.
Venter is also developing a system to enable the genetic code of organisms found on mars to be transmitted back to earth and printed.
Image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/oninnovation/
Guardian Venter profile: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/13/craig-ventner-mars
Motherboard on printing life on Mars: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/elon-musk-and-craig-venter-want-to-print-life-on-mars
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing genetic engineering technology to combat vector-borne illnesses, repair damaged environments on earth and one day help terraform Mars.
Read more at Motherboard: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/darpa-we-are-engineering-the-organisms-that-will-terraform-mars
Image via: Daein Ballard/Wikimedia Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Mars#/media/File:MarsTransitionV.jpg
Mars One is a nonprofit organisation aiming to send groups of people on one-way trips to Mars from 2026. Many in the scientific community have questioned the feasibility of its plans, partly due to budget issues.
200,000 people reportedly applied for a chance to go to Mars and the selection process is underway. Honda has sponsored a series about the finalists, called Citizen Mars: http://www.engadget.com/citizen-mars/
Image via http://www.mars-one.com/
Timelapse movie following the preparations of the ExoMars 2016 spacecraft in the lead up to launch on 14 March 2016. The movie includes the integration of the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, with the Trace Gas Orbiter, and the journey of the spacecraft inside the Proton rocket as it is moved to the launch pad and raised to a vertical position.
ExoMars launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT on 14 March. It will arrive at the Red Planet on 19 October. Its mission is to address unsolved mysteries of the planet’s atmosphere that could indicate present-day geological – or even biological – activity, and to demonstrate the landing technologies needed for future missions to Mars.
Find out more: http://www.esa.int/exomars
Credits: Directed by Stephane Corvaja, ESA; Edited by Manuel Pedoussaut, Zetapress; Music by Hubrid-Time