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).
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:
Motherboard on printing 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:
Image via: Daein Ballard/Wikimedia Commons,