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One concern about terraforming Mars - losing its atmosphere again?

timk225

Active Member
Mar 24, 2016
2,050
1,063
Pittsburgh
I haven't read anything in this section of the site, so I don't know if this has been covered.

I've read articles about terraforming Mars, and it's been said that Mars gravity, at 38% of Earth is "strong enough to hold an atmosphere".

Yeah, but what if it isn't? What if a real good storm gets going, or some sort of solar event comes along, or an asteroid hits the planet? These things surely have happened on Earth with its much stronger gravity and we are still here, but on Mars, it might not turn out the same way.

Might be a good thing to research a bit more before we go spending trillions fixing up the planet. No sense getting into it all if its new atmosphere can just be blown away into space one day.
 

ecarfan

Well-Known Member
Sep 21, 2013
19,350
14,016
West Vancouver, British Columbia
I haven't read anything in this section of the site, so I don't know if this has been covered.
Near the top of the thread list is this thread which may be of interest to you Mars and Off Planet Colonization

Mars has adequate gravity to retain an atmosphere, but it is more complex than that. Mars has a very weak magnetic field compared to Earth, and the solar wind has over hundreds of millions of years stripped away most of Mars atmosphere.

Note the timeframe.

Whether or not Mars will be terraformed is an open question at this point, of course. At the moment SpaceX is focused on developing the transportation system (the BFR) to enable the colonization of the planet. In my opinion, terraforming is not required to establish a self-sustaining human colony on Mars. No one knows what it will cost because no one knows exactly how to do it. And it will take thousands of years.
 

timk225

Active Member
Mar 24, 2016
2,050
1,063
Pittsburgh
Has it been determined what an adequate amount of gravity is to retain an atmosphere long term? 20% of earth gravity? 30%?
 

ecarfan

Well-Known Member
Sep 21, 2013
19,350
14,016
West Vancouver, British Columbia
I don’t know, but the issue with Mars atmosphere is primarily related to its lack of magnetic field, not its mass.

And you have to define what you mean by “an atmosphere”. Mars has an atmosphere.

From Atmosphere of Mars - Wikipedia : “The atmosphere of the planet Mars is composed mostly of carbon dioxide. The atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface averages 600 pascals (0.087 psi; 6.0 mbar), about 0.6% of Earth's mean sea level pressure of 101.3 kilopascals (14.69 psi; 1.013 bar).”

That is a long way from vacuum. And a long way from being breathable by humans.
 
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Reactions: Grendal

Doug_G

Lead Moderator
Apr 2, 2010
17,882
3,351
Ottawa, Canada
Mars lost it's atmosphere after its core magneto shut down and the protective magnetic fields collapsed. Turns out the loss was largely due to sputtering.

NASA's MAVEN Reveals Most of Mars' Atmosphere Was Lost to Space

This process takes a very long period of time, in terms of a human lifespan, but relatively short geologically speaking. So if we were able to regenerate Mars' atmosphere its subsequent loss would be a very long-term problem.
 

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