Q: How long do you think it will take for the greenhouse effect to take place in terraforming Mars? - Peter
A: This depends on what method is used. If an event such as the impact of large meteorites is invoked in triggering the greenhouse effect - then timeline is quite uncertain. We know very little about the composition of the soil, and how much carbon dioxide would be release as the temperature rises (this has a positive feedback.) However, if greenhouse gases are used, the timeline simply depends on the rate of production of the gases. Greenhouse gases start working immediately and can very quickly warm up a planet if they are produced at large enough quantities. Current estimates taking into account a reasonable rate of gas production suggest that about 100-200 years would be required to raise the average temperature on Mars to about 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) ± 15 degrees Celsius. - Margarita M.
Q: What exactly are the people going to live in and what is the inside like? - Marie Lewis
A: Good question, but the answer really depends on what stage in the process of our Mars exploration and colonization you are talking about. If you are asking about the first pioneering astronauts going to Mars, the answer is; not much. They will most likely live in a tuna can shaped habitat, probably with two floors containing private sleeping quarters, a common area for dining and other group activities and then lab areas for experiments and supply storage. This tuna can will be a cramped work environment to live in, but nothing Submariners dont deal with for months on end under Earths oceans. Now, if you are referring to later in the colonization of Mars, people will probably live in interconnected domes and greenhouses that are modular in construction, so new sections can be added on as needed. Eventually however, we will have the industrial infrastructure on Mars to start building larger habitats out of Martian made steel and plastics.
One possibility for a full blown colony that has been proposed, is to roof over a section of a canyon on Mars with glass, making one huge shopping mall like hall. This glass roofed canyon would have houses built into the rock walls on either side, and grass, trees and running water filling the canyon floor, making lush parks for the inhabitants to enjoy. So to answer your question generally, humans will start out living in cramped utilitarian habitats that will bring them from earth and serve as their home on Mars. But, as we colonize the planet, we will use our ingenuity and skill to construct beautiful colonies that bring a little bit of earth to a red dust ball 100 million kilometers from home. - Luke Colby
Ask a Mars question and it will be answered in the next issue of The Martian Chronicles!