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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Nov 15, 2006 23:33:35 GMT -6
Space mirrors could create Earth-like haven on Mars
Mirrors in orbit around Mars could create Earth-like conditions on a small patch of the planet's surface, according to a NASA-funded study. The extra sunlight would provide warmth and solar power for human explorers, but some experts say the mirrors may be hard to deploy.
Scientists and science-fiction authors have long dreamed of turning Mars into a more Earth-like planet for future human colonists. The process, called terraforming, involves thickening Mars's atmosphere and increasing its temperature. But schemes to transform the entire planet would take centuries and would require enormous resources.
The concept calls for 300 reflective balloons, each 150 metres across, arranged side-by-side to create a 1.5-kilometre-wide mirror in orbit around Mars. Balmy conditions
The mirror would focus sunlight onto a 1-kilometre-wide patch of Mars's surface. This would raise the temperature in this patch to a balmy 20° Celsius (68° Fahrenheit) from Mars's typical surface temperature of between -140° C and -60° C (-220° and -76° F).
The extra warmth would mean the astronauts would not need heavily insulated suits or living quarters, allowing them to work more easily. The extra sunlight would also boost power from solar cells.
And the higher temperature would melt any water ice on the ground. This could make precious liquid water available for astronauts to drink, and the water could also be used as a raw material to produce rocket fuel for the journey home.