The art and science of turning Mars into a habitable planet is known as terraforming. Complex biochemical processes, set in process by machines, could indeed change Mars' atmosphere to such an extent that it may become sufficiently hospitable to allow for colonization. Is this where the human race is headed next?http://www.flickr.com/photos/ridingwithrobots/
Easing the Worries about an Apocalypse
Fears about an impending apocalypse are so serious that Merida, Mexico, hosted a symposium of anthropologists, archaeologists and other scientific experts, the Associated Press reports. The consensus of the scientists is clear. While December 21, 2012 is indeed the end of a cycle in Mayan timekeeping, the feared date does not necessarily spell the end of the world. Arguing that end-time thinking was not endemic to Mayan culture, experts pointed to Western thinking as the likely culprit for putting an apocalyptic spin on the changing of calendar leafs.
Planning the Escape to Other Planets
But just in case that there will come a time when doomsday-sayers are correct, humans are in search of the proverbial escape pod. Since there is no other planet with an atmosphere similar to that of earth in the solar system -- and since human travel outside the solar system is not possible at this time -- the concept of terraforming has gained quite a few followers. The Space Review describes the process as altering a planet's climate to such an extent that it becomes more like Earth.
Terraforming: Science or Science Fiction?
A likely candidate for terraforming is Mars. After Rover's recent celebration of its ninth year in operation, the NASA's Mars Rovers site released pictures of Matijevic Hill, where the indomitable machine is investigating spheres possibly formed by water or volcanic activity. Just recently, SkyMania released a report that lichens have the potential to survive in an atmosphere similar to Mars' current conditions. "We must be extremely careful not to transport any terrestrial life forms to Mars that might contaminate the planet," a researcher warned after evaluating the results of the experiment.
Yet if terraforming Mars is the goal, then transferring organisms such as lichens could be one milestone on the road to creating a more habitable planet. Of course, even if scientists were successful in sending some resilient life forms to Mars, some aspects to the planet defy current problem-solving skills. Take for example the repeated loss of atmosphere, as reported by Cosmos Magazine. Solar winds have been identified as the reasons for the consistent air loss from the red planet. Fixing this problem will have to be a major concern for terraforming experts when it comes time to plan the move.
Until scientists work through the practical and ethical concerns of terraforming Mars, man's greatest hope is that archaeologists and scientists are correct in suggesting that the Mayan doomsday apocalypse will go the way of Y2K: quietly and without noticeable effect.