MAVEN discovers setback to Mars’ terraformation

The possible terraforming of Mars was found to be less feasible than NASA had predicted. The spacecraft MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) revealed on Nov. 7 that the red planet’s carbon dioxide, thought to be contained in the Martian crust, is gone entirely.

One way to change Mars’ climate to make it more suitable for human colonization involves freeing mass amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the crust back into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, MAVEN results announced Thursday, Nov. 5 that after Mars’ global magnetic field shut down around 4.2 billion years ago, solar wind and sun explosions stripped away and sent into space most of the planet’s atmosphere.

“Quoting Bob Dylan: ‘The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,’” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarter during the announcement. This does not mean that terraforming Mars is impossible or that the planet has no potential access to carbon dioxide, but it is a setback. Another possibility lies in Mars’ two polar caps, both composed primarily of frozen water, as they hold some carbon dioxide ice and Martian soils, which soak up carbon dioxide as well.

The $671 million MAVEN mission aims to better understand how and why Mars lost its relative warmth and surface water and became blanketed with toxic soil and radiation. NASA intends to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s regardless of terraformation setbacks.

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