Terraforming 101: How To Make Mars A Habitable Planet

Before we can journey to the stars, we must first go to Mars.

That’s Elon Musk’s philosophy, anyways – and as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins reports, just days ago he revealed new details on his ambitions to colonize the Red Planet, including sending two cargo rockets by 2022 and four rockets (two manned, two cargo) by 2024.

In 40 to 100 years, Musk suggested that up to a million people could live there.


As Elton John wisely noted, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

Indeed, the average temperature on Mars is −55 °C (−67 °F), dust storms are frequent and potentially deadly, and the planet has extremely low atmospheric pressure (about 1% of Earth). Because of the atmosphere and temperature swings, meaningful occurrences of liquid water on the planet’s surface are almost impossible. And while Mars is thought to have plenty of frozen water at its poles and in underground deposits, the logistics of tapping into these resources could be quite difficult.

In other words, for any meaningful and long-lasting human presence on Mars, we would likely want to alter the planet and its atmosphere to make it more habitable for human life. And while the exact mechanisms we would use to accomplish this are still up for debate, the basics behind what’s needed to achieve Earth-like conditions are actually pretty straightforward.


Today’s infographic comes to us from Futurism, and it details what might need to happen on Mars to make it more accommodating to human life.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Here are two steps we could take to get Mars into the “Goldilocks Zone”, where water is liquid – and harmful ionizing radiation like x-rays, UV rays, and gamma rays are not problematic.

Greenhouse Gases
One way to ward off harmful ionizing radiation is to add a thicker layer of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere of Mars. Such an atmosphere would also allows less heat to escape, meaning warmer temperatures on the planet.


Magnetic Field
A strong magnetic field on Earth is something else that makes life easier. Earth’s solid inner core, composed primarily of iron, creates this field when the planet spins – and it deflects cosmic rays and other harmful types of radiation.

One interesting solution to solve this problem on Mars would to have a magnetic field generator in front of the planet at all times, deflecting any such rays coming from the sun.


While terraforming is still a mixture of theory and science fiction at this point, we do know some of the major problems that have to be solved for attaining a habitable environment – and it will be interesting to see how plans around Mars develop as the prospect of colonization becomes more real.

You need to live in a dome initially but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on.


… So it’s a fixer-upper of a planet.


– Elon Musk


Manthong Yippie21 Mon, 10/09/2017 - 00:36 Permalink

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 I would do Houston first. But, do you have to have green skin and red feet to identify as a Martian?

In reply to by Yippie21

Lucretius evildimensions Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:38 Permalink

Whilst this line of thought is a healthy exercise for the brain, using tax dollars to fund Musk's fantasies is wrong! This kind of crap is the height of arrogance. We, as a race (human) have yet to learn to share this one planet, peacefully   . I dare say, it would be morally wrong to infect space / other planets with our greedy and avaricious species. Earth, IMHO could be a paradise, if not for the pesky parasites (humans) and their need for gov!.These jackasses think they can/could "manage" another planet, how well are they doing here??? Why are the forests in the western US and Canada burning down every year? We've endured 100+ years of "forest management" by our .guvs! Why are "they putting sodium fluoride in water and tooth paste? Why are "they" doing nano particle aerial injection of aluminum and other metals? Do YOU really buy .gov's official story on the HAARP Array?WTF, why can differing religions, cultures and regions not live peaceably? Perhaps cleaning up our own shitty nest FIRST, before shitting up the entire f'kn solar system / neighborhood might ought be a priority. These same "big brain" types are also thinking up future governments for space,FFS! Let that sink in for a moment... even if you had the resources ($) to leave this mess behind and go be a "space mountain man / pioneer", you'd need a mother may I from your gub/UN, read; Exit tax! Personally, I feel all of NASA'a budget ought to be spent on OUR terrestrial problems. Don't get me wrong, I greatly enjoy science, and astronomy, but I feel there are greater priorities.Peace, L.

In reply to by evildimensions

markl Mon, 10/09/2017 - 00:41 Permalink

To call this article a crock of shit is to do a grave disservice to decent honest crocks of shit the world over.This would bankrupt our planet and that still wouldn't be enough.

afronaut Mon, 10/09/2017 - 00:46 Permalink

No one is going to Mars in our life times. And when they do, leave the dindus behind. Let them figure out how to get there on their own.

LetThemEatRand Mon, 10/09/2017 - 00:51 Permalink

Pro tip one.  When they talk about terraforming other planets, it is code for how they are going to drive us out of our lands and take over the husk they leave.  Pro tip two. Don't accept any electric blankets from Musk.

Conax Mon, 10/09/2017 - 00:53 Permalink

Placing a magnetic field generator between Mars and the Sun would not protect Mars from cosmic rays. Only a planetary magnetic field enveloping the planet could do that. We have millions of square miles of desert and rocky, arid terrain right here. Terraform that.

Lucretius toady Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:52 Permalink

Ya, I liked that part too, just pull one of those planetary sized generators out of your ass and place it on a nail in space, a bit to the left, perfect, and you're in business! Also, when did the leftoids decide that the earth's core was solid, I've been told all my life that it was "magma", melted iron and rock...not solid... I was however educated long before common core, so I am most likely wrong.

In reply to by toady

Atomizer Mon, 10/09/2017 - 01:00 Permalink

120 day life cycle. Who's going to generate oxygen sustainability? Musk with his Telsa batteries? Let's round up all the liberals. Send them to Mars.Crackling phone line. We can't hear you. We will call you in 250 days after your dead from oxygen depletion. See how your doing. Have a good day. Your delivery of Tang is 45 days away. 

Father ¢hristmas Mon, 10/09/2017 - 01:06 Permalink

Goddamn, ZH done shitted on Elon in three different articles tonight lolAlso: Lol@ white folks fucking up the planet consuming all the resources and now they want to nuke everyone and escape to Mars.Hopefully greys and reptilians will offer them diseased blankets and trinkets in exchange for all their fuel and oxygen.  Then enslave them and force their progeny to survive on alien welfare and substandard Martian education.Dirty motherfuckers.

Bernardo Gui Mon, 10/09/2017 - 01:07 Permalink

I'm sure if you throw enough money at terraforming Mars it might work some day. The western welfare states are old and in debt. China is an economic house of cards. The US will be lucky to afford an occasional probe in a few decades. Social Security, Medicare, welfare, and interest on the debt will suck up all the federal spending.

Global Douche Anteater Mon, 10/09/2017 - 02:35 Permalink

Actually, Social Insecurity has been paying the bills. What Trust Fund do we have? I doubt there's shit in it. Useless IOU's which themselves carry no monetary value in a notebook, er likely notebooks now. When will Uncle Sam lose his fucking credit card? Dammit Janet has yet to take away the Punch Bowl. Pathetic weasel she is!

In reply to by Anteater