I was wondering if there is a general trend or inclination of the scientific community about actually terraforming Mars, i.e. if scientists are for or against this move (again, general trend - obviously some are for and some are against it).

To put it another way, scientists all over the world study Mars from many different angles and aspects, but how much of this research (qualitatively, of course) serves any agenda for or against terraforming Mars?

People outside of the scientific world (most notable example is Elon Musk) have expressed their interest in terraforming Mars, so I wanted to see where does the scientific community stand in this matter.


closed as primarily opinion-based by uhoh, SF., Rory Alsop, GdD, Machavity Jul 17 '18 at 13:00

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I've voted to close as primarily opinion-based. I don't think there is an identifiable block of scientists called "the scientific community" that has a singular opinion on this. See if you can reformulate this question in such a way that an answer can be fact-based and not just an opinion on what other opinions might be. There isn't really a "science" of terraforming at all. Just a bunch of futuristic ideas that haven't been thought through completely, much less tested. It's not a science, it's science fiction. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Jul 17 '18 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the direct answer would be "The scientific community is divided over the issue." $\endgroup$ – SF. Jul 17 '18 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh, isn't at least part of the motivation for planetary science the facilitation of planetary exploration, including landing and living on other planets? $\endgroup$ – Don_S Jul 17 '18 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ I guess what I'm looking for is science projects that are motivated by the idea of terraforming (such as this one) and quotes of prominent scientists in the field about the concept of terraforming Mars. $\endgroup$ – Don_S Jul 17 '18 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ If you are looking for science projects and quotes of prominent scientists you should ask specificely for that. $\endgroup$ – Conelisinspace Jul 17 '18 at 18:25

This is answerable:

The majority of the scientific community is in agreement that this is currently not possible to terraform Mars with current technology.

  • if it were remotely possible, wouldn't there be a mad international dash to try.


  • Martian atmosphere is generally colder than the arctic. It does have daily highs of 70 deg F however it's nights are as low as -100. Many plants don't do well when the water inside them freeze. https://www.space.com/16907-what-is-the-temperature-of-mars.html

  • Martian atmosphere is thinner than Earth's. Terrestrial life is adapted to require certain minimum pressures in order to carry out gas exchange. Raising the atmospheric pressure of Mars is currently a large head scratcher. There are theories, but nothing a single nation will likely invest in, in anyone's life time.

  • Mars is dry, most of the water is stored in the incredibly frigid poles. Very hard to grow plants with those restrictions.

  • The Martian magnetosphere is incredibly weak. The magnetosphere is what protects a planet's gaseous atmosphere from getting blasted away by solar winds as well as grants some protection from certain forms of radiation. Currently, the only known way to fix a magnetosphere is to reheat a planet's metal core....

Pretty sure the scientific community (in majority) does not view the terraforming of Mars with any kind of possibility with today's level of technology.

Does the scientific community believe that Mars is colonizable? Now that is a different question very much in its infancy. Lots of experiments are currently being conducted. McMurdo station in Antarctica for one is virtually a long running experiment in logistics in keeping a large human population alive in inhospitably cold conditions.

On this perspective, IF we choose to colonize Mars anytime soon, any settlements will be some kind of enclosed structure. Though there are still very very many questions that need be experimented before this is possible. Note: this is not to say colonization is immediately possible either....

  • $\begingroup$ I felt that it was possible to state the majority opinion of the headless and ungoverned 'scientific community' to this question because anyone who could counter it would have to scientifically solve all the problems I mentioned, which to my knowledge no one can/has and therefore science says "no"/"not yet". $\endgroup$ – anon Jul 17 '18 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ You cannot answer the question because you are not a reprensentative of the scientific community. A survey among the scientific community would be needed to answer the question. $\endgroup$ – Conelisinspace Jul 17 '18 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Conelisinspace By that logic no one can vote in the survey as they would have to be validated as a member of the scientific community :-) . However, I reason that because it is a 'scientific' community, "majority opinion" can be expressed through mainstream accepted scientific fact. Currently, the challenges I posed are the accepted reality needed to be overcome in order to achieve the goal of 'terraforming'. Since there is no accepted solution to the challenges I posed, it is logical to conclude that the majority opinion accepts that it is "currently not possible to terraform Mars". $\endgroup$ – anon Jul 17 '18 at 14:44
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    $\begingroup$ > The Martian magnetosphere is incredibly weak. The magnetosphere is what protects a planet's gaseous atmosphere from getting blasted away by solar winds. This is true but misleading. If we can replenish the atmosphere to begin with, within a reasonable time frame (let's say millions of year), the leaks are pretty much negligible (billions of years) $\endgroup$ – Antzi Jul 18 '18 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ I think the real problem with terraforming Mars is not technology, but industrial capacity. We could probably make a somewhat thicker CO2 atmosphere without too much trouble, but to make a nitrogen-rich breathable atmosphere would require massive operations in the outer solar system that could bankrupt Earth millions of times over, the nitrogen importation requirements are insane. The two technologies which would be game changers are fusion power and self-replicating robotics, but mainly because it could increase our industrial capability by many orders of magnitude. $\endgroup$ – Blake Walsh Jul 18 '18 at 11:10

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