Human efforts to become an interplanetary species are motivated by more than just entertainment, though far from the results seen in series like Star Trek. In the last century we have put our planet to the test: our "civilization" has decimated flora and fauna, and every "remedial" idea is for the moment slower than the growth of a population which, until the end of the century, will show no signs of slow down.
Many believe that the only way to save our species is to colonize other planets and thereby relieve some of the pressure on Earth's resources. Easier said than done, given that our survival is dictated precisely by resources that on other planets, at best, are more complex to obtain.
Thankfully, the engineer from the University of Bristol Paul Smith he had an idea. More: a real plan. Which? Building "terrestrial" forests inside special bubbles on the Martian surface.
Forests “under glass”
“If human population growth goes unchecked, natural areas must be sacrificed,” Smith writes in a recently published article in the International Journal of Astrobiology (I link it here). "The alternative is to create more habitat by terraforming Mars."
Not a new idea, and already beaten by several insiders, even by the former Director of NASA.
Mars is obviously a very different planet from Earth. Colder, drier and with a very different atmosphere. However, researchers think it has large reserves of ice beneath the surface. Assuming (however to be verified) that humans can access and use those tanks, the aforementioned challenges could be alleviated by creating an atmosphere-controlled container. In summary: a "bubble".
Mom, there's another one who wants to terraform Mars.
Importantly, Smith isn't suggesting that humans should terraform the entire Martian surface. The "bubbles" (which the academic imagines as similar to "oases") would serve to offer emotional and practical benefits to the future inhabitants of settlements and colonies.
"Call it an extraterrestrial nature reserve (ETNR)," writes Smith reiterating the idea. "It would be a psychological refuge, as well as a precious botanical garden for secondary metabolites (vitamins, flavors, perfumes, medicines, colors and mood enhancers). "
Bizarre idea. It is feasible?
The biggest obstacle (as if the others were small) is represented by radiation and the magnetic field: we still need to understand what impact they would have on any growing vegetation, and the coming years will tell us.
Regardless of whether Smith's idea is feasible, the message of his article is one of pure hope: that man will be able to explore new worlds while also managing to preserve what he already has.
"From a biocentric perspective, world leaders should be concerned about the future of life in the universe and humanity's role in its protection and promulgation," writes Smith. "On a planet of limited habitability, this is a significant duty. The survival of life, in any form, is the top biocentric priority."
I know you don't feel better about the future of our planet now that you know this idea about how to save it. Sure, it may be crazy to think about building forests on Mars, but at least someone is thinking outside the box.