At Edgeworks Entertainment, we are grateful to have the opportunity to offer our team members the ability to work from home during this important time of social distancing.
We’ll be creating new features and busting bugs from the comforts of our homes, as we understand how important video games can be right now, so we want to make sure our players don’t experience any interruptions while practicing social distancing. Our small team is still working hard to ensure our players are taken care of in a timely fashion, and we thank you for your patience during this time.
We are also committed to doing what we can to assist in the fight against COVID-19; as such, we are participating in Stanford University’s Folding@home program, a “distributed computing project for disease research that simulates protein folding, computational drug design, and other types of molecular dynamics.” We’re joining thousands of volunteers around the world by using our computers to simulate the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins to hunt for new therapeutic opportunities.
If you’d like to participate, please check out the Folding@home’s about page for more information. You’re also welcome to join under our team — when signing up, please search for TeamTerraGenesis (team 49287349) to begin folding with us.
As always, dear terraformers, we thank you so much for your dedication and support — so be safe, play games, and terraform responsibly!
When it comes to colonizing and terraforming a new planet those that are carrying out the heavy lifting and leg work need to eat. The land, especially that of Mars and beyond, might not be suitable for farming, and it might not be suitable for a long time to come. That’s where the Sky Farms of TerraGenesis come in.
The strain put on an ecosystem is at it’s peak when civilizations look to support the people within it. This has to become priority number one. Well, once you have breathable air and water… ok so maybe priority number 3… and then there’s the heat levels… and radiation. Well, no-one said that terraforming would be easy did they?!
Supporting the human population of a colony isn’t straight forward but thanks to incredible scientific advances in both hydroponics and zero-G biology we, the human race, are able to look beyond the ground when it comes to growing crops.
Hydroponics and Sky Farms
Hydroponics enable farmers and scientists to harvest nutrients from water and a mineral solution rather than soil, allowing plants to grow in different environments than previously thought possible. Not only that, the water usage is incredibly decreased. Consider that in traditional farming it takes nearly 400 liters of water to grow just 1kg of tomatoes. When using hydroponics this number is drastically reduced to a mere 70 liters of water. This research was initially powered by those in NASA but has been grasped by the various factions of TerraGenesis in their terraforming missions.
The International Space Station provided a great platform for researchers to understand how zero-g conditions affected plant growth, in the same way that it affects human life. Zero-g farming isn’t just about the lack of gravity either. Plants have a hard time in space, especially due to the lack of sunlight, which they need for fuel through photosynthesis. Artificial lighting can replace this, but to maximize efficiency specially designed LEDs need to be used.
As an interesting aside, research into sky farms allowed scientists to uncover a unique device that’s function takes ethylene and converts it into CO2 (carbon dioxide) and water. This could be spectacularly important for lengthy journeys into space.
In order to facilitate the colonisation of a whole planet, or even just a colony for starters, terraformers will need a vast network of these sky farms in orbit. The resource cost might be high, but what price can be put on a well fed workforce?
Sky farms will become incredibly useful during times when water on the surface of the planet isn’t accessible (as it’s frozen) or isn’t available at all. At least for those in the initial terraforming missions, sky farms might well be the only access that they have to get fresh produce in the dark, forbidding world that they’re looking to inhabit.
Searching out new resources with the orbital surveyor.
Selecting a new colony site isn’t as easy as looking out of the window of your ship and picking a spot at random. There is a whole lot more to it than that. Getting onto the surface of a planet or celestial body to see whether a spot is useful for a colony is both a costly and potentially dangerous mission. Therefore, scientists have developed the orbital surveyor. The terraformer’s way of surveying from a distance.
In order to find the perfect site there are a number of factors that need to meet a set criteria:
The land needs to be large enough to support the colony
It needs to be flat enough for structures to be built
There need to be sufficient natural resources nearby
There needs to be room for expansion as the colony grows
And that’s just for a start. The list goes on. The orbital surveyor, thankfully, delivers reams and reams of information based intricate readings taken through scans of the planet. These scans are carried out by a satellite that maps, graphs and details the surface and below.
Note that it’s not just the topography that is measured but, through powerful laser, UV and newly discovered technology, what lies beneath the surface can be discovered too. That means that valuable natural resources ranging from potential water sources to precious metals and fuel can be surveyed. That means that the guesswork is taken away from mining. It means that terraformers can all but guarantee they’re digging in the right spot to harness what lies beneath.
Terraforming isn’t cheap work, digging for raw materials and precious metals allows factions to create a steady stream of credits to enable purchases of more and more impressive technologies. That makes the positioning of your mines all the more important. Position it over an empty patch of ground and you’ll be digging for nothing, pick the right site, using the orbital surveyor and you’ll be digging in paydirt before you know it.
The orbital surveyor isn’t just a useful resource for mining processes but also useful for understanding how the world that you’re terraforming will change and alter as the terraforming process moves forward. Increases in heat and radiation might lead to the melting of ice caps. That melting will lead to rising sea levels. If you’ve not checked the height of your settlement or outpost correctly using the orbital surveyor then you could be in hot water (literally) before you know it.
The orbital surveyor will be one of the first tools that you’ll use in your terraforming arsenal, but it certainly won’t be the last. Master this tool and you’ll be building suitable, safe outposts and fruitful, functioning mines.
Heat. It’s a bit of a problem when it comes to creating new colonies and terraforming new worlds, you can’t have too much and you can’t have too little. Thankfully, scientists have created Soletta.
Soletta is a marvel of technological achievement. It allows previously uninhabitable worlds to become habitable, it can change the surfaces of whole worlds and can unlock the potential they may have. Thanks to advanced artificial intelligence and dynamic sensors, Soletta is able to manage and adjust to create the perfect temperature for life not only to exist, but thrive on previously alien worlds.
How does Soletta work?
Earth, our home world, happens to be in the perfect position for life to exist. A few fractions closer or further from the Sun and our planet would look very different. This, therefore, hugely impacts how we can terraform other planets in our solar. Take Venus for example, whilst it’s a prospect for terraforming, the surface temperature is vastly higher than that on Earth and therefore requires cooling. Somewhere like Mars, being further from the sun, requires the opposite.
Soletta works by either dampening or amplifying solar radiation to decrease or increase the energy coming from the Sun. If you were to stand on the surface of a newly terraformed world and looked up, Soletta would appear as a huge circular array of solar sail style mirrors. They are aligned to focus or deflect sunlight which may have been focused or just missed the planet.
The name of the satellite stems from science fiction, namely the works of Kim Stanley Robinson and the work Aurora. Soletta was built, in this instance, to aid the terraforming process on Mars at the start of the 22nd Century.
For a piece of technology this impressive, you can expect to part with a fair piece of capital. Soletta certainly doesn’t come cheap, in TerraGenesis you can expect to pay 50,000,000 credits but the freedom over temperature control that it allows is worth it.
Reflecting vasts swathes of heat across a planet’s surface, or deflecting it, can have dramatic effects. Therefore, it is strongly suggested that you consider the impact that Soletta will have on your whole ecosystem and the colonists within it.
If you have a reasonably stable water supply but use Soletta to increase the planet’s temperature you can expect a fair percentage of that to be evaporated and the stock to be depleted. The same can be said for the opposite, cool the surface too much and the water supply will freeze at the planet’s extremities.
It’s worth considering the other buildings that raise or lower local temperature. Take for instance if you have an Aerostat Platform, it would first cause your temperature to drop, but once the gap between current and temperature becomes too big Soletta’s percentage change becomes stronger and rise the temperature, which narrows the gap and reduces Soletta effectiveness, in a negative feedback loop.
The Planetary Defense Network, your guard against the perils of space.
The Planetary Defense Network is there to save you and your colonists lives. That is a pretty dramatic way of putting it but is also exactly what it does. Whichever faction you choose to be part of, when terraforming a new world you will want to make sure to invest in this device.
Over 65 million years ago Earth was minding its own business. Happily going about its day with a whole world of fauna, oceans and dinosaurs. That was until a humongous asteroid impacted the surface and changed the course of Earth’s history for ever. The dinosaurs and other life on Earth hadn’t invested in a Planetary Defense Network. Sure, the technology wasn’t there, nor was the concept of space… but if they had invested in one they’d still be here today.
The Planetary Defense Network defends the world you’re terraforming from rogue asteroids, meteors and other dangerous threats to the surface from the depths of space. At the basic level the system tracks and monitors threats as they get near to the terraformed world. At the more engaged level, should a threat be more direct and potentially damaging to your world the planetary defense network will intervene and neutralise the problem.
Ever since 2016 teams of scientists and astronomers have kept a weathered eye on the skies and space around Earth, watching for life threatening celestial issues. When a potential issue is spotted it is logged and then monitored. As of 2019, that catalogue sits around 15,000 logged potential issues, with roughly 1500 added each year. That’s just for Earth, that doesn’t include newly terraformed worlds, worlds which are potentially in an even more dangerous position.
Whilst the Earth bound monitoring system was a useful beginning the question was always asked, “What would happen if one was on an imminent collision course with Earth?”. The answer was pretty grim reading… mankind essentially became extinct.
If you’re after some slightly worrying reading head over to NASA’s own Asteroid Watch website. They regularly post about inbound objects, their size, how close they’ll get to Earth and even the date that they’ll pass. The handy approximate size chart measures in house, bus or plane sizes. Their podcast also shares thoughts such as “What would happen if an asteroid hits the Earth?” and other happy questions. Now if that doesn’t fill you with existential dread then nothing will…
Thankfully, that dread and fear is something of the past for those colonising and terraforming new worlds. With an investment into a Planetary Defense Network your faction and colonists can rest assured that their world is safe. At least from asteroids.
What if strapping yourself to a massive rocket, starting a huge explosion and hoping for the best wasn’t the only way of getting into space? What if you were able to use a device that essentially resembled an elevator and caught that into space instead? Seems a whole lot more convenient and safe?
Space elevators in TerraGenesis enable travel to and from the surface of the planet that your faction is terraforming with ease.
What Are Space Elevators?
They are essentially exactly what they say they are. They’re elevators that take people and cargo to and from space. The general idea is that they have an orbital station port that is a semi-permanent structure in space and a long, traversable cable that allows you to travel up and down aligned at the equator of the planet.
This piece of technology, whilst astronomically expensive to initially build, will create a far more cost efficient and environmentally sound method of traveling to space. The initial cost comes from the huge scale of the device. When created, the space elevator will be the largest structure that humans have ever created. It’ll need to be able to reach geostationary orbit, or 35,786km in altitude. That’s a lot of cable.
This isn’t a new concept either. In fact, the idea was first hypothesised back in 1895 by Tsiolkovsky. He proposed the idea that this structure would be built under compression, meaning it supports its weight from below.
Since around 1959, ideas began to spring forward using the concept of tensile structures and centrifugal forces that work together to keep the structure in tension thanks to a counter weight deep in orbit and an anchor on the surface. Whilst this is, thanks to the high gravity levels, is problematic on Earth, on bodies with lower gravitational forces the idea has more potential.
Space Elevator: A Physics Problem
Thanks to the gigantic size of the space elevator there are a few physics issues, that we won’t dive deep into, that need to be overcome. These include:
Ensuring that, what for all intents and purposes is, a massive stick tethered to the surface doesn’t collide with anything.
The cable is able to maintain straightness
The cable is able to hold it’s own weight
The cargo is able to sustain the immense G forces it would undertake whilst moving both vertically and horizontally under differing gravitational forces.
These issues are still theoretical in concept in the 21st century, but scientists are investing time, money and effort into finding a solution to these issues. Thankfully, in TerraGenesis, the factions have overcome these problems and have successfully created space elevators to aid and enable further colonization and terraforming of future, distant worlds.
The Lagrange Academy is your terraformed world’s leader in education and development. In fact, more often than not it literally leads the world, but more on that later. The Lagrange Academy is an investment in your people, your scientists, your greatest minds and your faction as a whole.
This orbiting institution is accessible to only the greatest and most elite minds available but is also large enough to educate vast swathes of those people at once. They’ll be able to look down on the terraformed world beneath them from a fixed L4 Lagrange point in orbit. This might seem like a platform for solely scientists but that’s not the case. Public servants, entertainers, law makers, and even those regular citizens who reach the highest levels of education are able to work at the Lagrange Academy.
Through their education and development, these minds will be able to guide, craft and develop your whole factions culture and process. What used to be a traditional, set and fixed set of traditions can become a fluid, changeable culture.
The name might sound like it’s simply named after a founder but there’s considerably more to it than that. A famous physicist and astronomer, Lagrange spent years developing an understanding of how objects orbit planetary bodies and other nearby celestial bodies too. Through this research he began to understand and then gave his name to a series of fixed orbit points.
The Lagrange points, put simply are points in the space around a planet where satellites are able to stick at a fairly fixed point between two different bodies. Take the example of Earth and the Moon. There is a certain point between the two bodies where their gravitational pull will be cancelled out and the satellite in question will remain at a fixed location in orbit, getting no closer or further from one of the other.
The L4 point, where the Lagrange station is situated is an interesting case. Considered to be one of the most stable orbit points, the Langrange station and achieves this through a particular position whereby it orbits the larger of the two bodies slightly in front of the smaller body. In our example above the satellite orbits Earth slightly before the Moon’s orbit. This is where the motto of the Lagrange Academy, “Literally leading the world” comes from.
Lagrange Academy Application
In TerraGenesis, the Lagrange Academy removes any cost to changing your culture. This means you can alter the economy style, eco-policies, governmental strategy and planetary values at the drop of a hat. Does that mean that you should? Well, of course you can alter this to your needs, but be wary of the ramifications. Large adjustments can seriously destabilise your world. For instance, your eco-policy can drastically reduce the number of habitations that your world has, leading to massive population shortages.
The Lagrange Academy allows a dramatic amount of freedom without cost, but should always be used with a calculated approach that its members would celebrate.
The idea of carrying out an asteroid drill sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but this is science fact!
As a general rule, people like to be prepared for every eventuality and NASA are no different- welcome to a world where there’s such a thing as an asteroid drill! For most of us there’s already enough to worry about in normal life without planning how to deal with large, hurtling lumps of molten rock as well, but it’s the job of agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency to puzzle out these interplanetary problems. Is a huge asteroid strike on earth likely? Luckily, no. But is it impossible? Not at all!
It’s a scary prospect
The phrase ‘asteroid drill’ is a bit of a scary one, but what does it actually mean? Well the various space agencies around the world want to simulate what would happen if the planet were hit by a huge asteroid thrown into our atmosphere from space. They’re not just thinking about the lumps of rock that regularly burn up in the atmosphere, they’re nowhere near terrifying enough. They’re thinking about something that would wipe out a city the size of Tokyo!
The focus is on simulated information-gathering, for example finding out very quickly where and when the asteroid is likely to land. Communications are also key, with governments having to cooperate to potentially evacuate millions of people from a likely strike zone. The more you learn about asteroid drill, the more you hope that this all remains hypothetical and never happens for real!
What have asteroids ever done to us?
Obviously you wouldn’t want to be hit by a falling asteroid, but are they really such a big deal? Well depending on the size, potentially yes. In rural Siberia in 1908, a huge explosion spontaneously flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. The culprit was eventually found to be a huge asteroid that burnt up on entry into our atmosphere, turning it into an air-borne bomb. The miraculous fact that no one was hurt is only down to the fact that no one lived there! Imagine that happening over a populated urban area nowadays…it doesn’t bear thinking about.
Of course, we can’t really talk about cataclysmic asteroid events without giving a shout out to the dinosaurs as well. The leading theories on their disappearance all stem back to a huge asteroid strike on earth that led to mass extinction. It’s a good job NASA and friends are working on a plan then, just in case it happens again!
Time is of the essence for asteroid drills
It would be tempting to imagine that we would spot any sinister-looking asteroids years in advance, giving us lots of time to prepare our defenses, but that’s not necessarily the case. NASA considers that we may only have days or even hours to formulate a response if a threatening object is spotted late, so it’s critical that everyone knows what they’re doing right from the start.
Even if we have time to prepare however, it’s still a good idea for them to get some practice in. It would take quite a while to evacuate a city like LA or London if they were the likely landing sites after all!
Try not to worry TOO much…
Scientists identify 150 or more ‘Near Earth Objects’, or asteroids, every month. Not many of them actually enter our atmosphere, and even fewer are large enough to cause a problem. There are some bigger objects on the horizon though, and scientists are currently tracking a rock that could potentially be on a collision course with earth in about 10 years’ time.
That’s why asteroid drill is so important though, and why we shouldn’t be starting a mass panic just yet. Maybe that rock will come our way, and maybe it won’t. But you should sleep easier knowing that some of the best minds on the planet are working hard today to keep us all safe tomorrow!
What would terraforming look like for these inner solar system candidates?
Terraforming Mars is certainly the topic on the tip of space enthusiasts’ tongues, but are there other worlds humans can call home? The process of terraforming is explored within TerraGenesis with an increasingly difficult set of challenges. Each celestial body comes with a unique set of problems to overcome and wildly different characteristics. Let’s shed a little light on some of our nearby neighbors and see how tackling terraforming would be on each celestial body!
Let’s get straight to the point. Mercury is hot, seriously hot. Surface temperatures regularly reach 700K or 427°C. That’s not all. Due to the lack of a real atmosphere, the side of Mercury that isn’t facing the sun plunges to temperatures as low as -173°C. This makes for an interesting set of challenges when it comes to terraforming.
Sounds fairly impossible to have a regular colony on Mercury, but there’s one more set of facts that might make it possible. The north pole on Mercury is permanently shaded thanks to the low orbital period and the slow rotation of the planet. This would make it the best candidate for terraforming, maybe not an ideal one, but a potentially possible one.
The make up of Mercury seems similar to the Moon, but Mercury has been found to have an expansive core and pockets of ice found at the north and possible south poles. Whilst it might not be our first choice, the geothermal heat that can be extracted from below the surface and the potential water sources make it an interesting candidate.
Venus has a size and composition that is very similar to Earth, making it an (on the surface) ideal candidate for terraforming. Furthermore, its orbit is in what is referred to as the Goldilocks Zone, the area of our solar system that is easily habitable. Sounds like an ideal candidate? Well, of course, there are some challenges to overcome.
The atmosphere isn’t exactly welcoming. It’s well over 90 times thicker than Earth’s and the air is packed full of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. The terraforming process, to counter this acidity, would be extensive. A key process within the terraforming process would be carbon sequestration or, as suggested by Carl Sagan back in 1961, introducing a genetically engineered bacteria that would transform the atmospheric carbon into organic molecules. That said, the sulfuric acid would make this difficult.
Looking towards an external solution, solar shades would be used to deflect the suns energy away from the surface and reduce temperatures. This, in turn, would reduce the greenhouse gases that have exploded throughout the atmosphere of Venus. This is all aimed at terraforming the surface. A further theory would be to ignore the surface altogether and develop entire cities that would float above the clouds of Venus thanks to the intensely dense atmosphere. These cities would then, in turn, act as solar shades for the surface.
Terraforming the Moon
When most people think of a colony leaving Earth, most will think of our closest body, the Moon. Since the dawn of the Space Age, mankind has been dreaming and theorizing the creation of a human settlement on the Moon. But domelike colonies are a long way from terraforming the entire body.
The challenges are similar to those outlined with Mercury. Little to no atmosphere and small or trace amounts of the key elements. The introduction of nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon has been hypothesized in various forms, but one popular way is to introduce them through crash landings. Crash landings of comets that is. The aim would be to introduce the elements whilst also creating more momentum and speeding up the lunar rotation. If we could speed the rotation to 24 hours then we would be in a far better position to adapt to life on the Moon.
As mentioned above with Venus, partial terraforming could take place in the Shackleton Crater. The reason for this particular area is that we have already found evidence of water (as ice) here. Starting small, the terraforming would focus on solar mirrors and dome like habitats which could create microclimates capable of sustaining life.
Well, this is the one that everyone is looking forward to. NASA says that it’s impossible, Elon Musk disagrees. And when Elon disagrees it usually results in something incredible…
Mars remains a poster child for terraforming thanks to the relative proximity to Earth and the fact that scientists believe its atmosphere was once similar to Earth’s. Not to mention, we’re now almost certain that Mars has water supplies beneath its surface. Plus, the diurnal and seasonal cycle is remarkably close to Earth’s, where a day is only 40 minutes longer than on Earth.
When it comes to terraforming, the first step would be to work on the atmosphere, namely thickening it up to be able to maintain air pressure. Currently, at sea level, Mars’ atmosphere is roughly only holding 1% of Earth’s air pressure. Alongside the thickening of the atmosphere, Mars would need to be warmed to a temperature suitable for human life.
Mining volatile elements such as methane and ammonia, which could be mined from the icy moons in our solar system, and then impacting them into Mars could lead to the creation of an atmosphere. But that atmosphere would be CO² heavy, great for warming, not so great for breathing. The conversion to a 70/30 nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere could take centuries but a method suggested would be the introduction of photosynthetic life to complete the process naturally.
Terraforming the Inner Solar System
These are some of our options, and likely the best candidates when it comes to terraforming in the relatively near future. But why stop there? Expansion into the outer solar system and beyond can also be considered. A question that will inevitably will be; why are we even thinking about terraforming? What’s the point? Maybe it’s as simple as, because we can! But it could easily, and quickly, become “because we have to.”
What would terraforming look like for candidates in Saturn’s orbit?
Straight from the start of this piece let’s be clear. We’re not talking about all 62 of the confirmed “moons” that are in orbit around Saturn. Instead, we’ll be focusing on the Saturn’s larger candidates that are found beyond the E-Ring. Namely; Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan and Iapetus.
The Composition of Saturn’s Terraforming Candidates
The moons of Saturn are relatively similar in composition. They are all made of ice (water) and rock, and have similar crust, mantle and cores. Of those listed above, Titan is by far the largest. In fact, Titan is so much larger it is larger than all of the others combined.
When we consider suitability, the moons begin to differentiate themselves. Their sizes, position, gravitational pulls, atmosphere (or lack thereof) and abundance of water, all create variable propositions.
The Terraforming Process
When it comes to terraforming the moons of Saturn the process is relatively similar to that of the Galilean moons of Jupiter. A sustainable atmosphere is the first item on the agenda. This would be achieved through a great deal of heat, either through asteroid impact, thermonuclear action or orbital mirrors.
Without the radiation belt of Jupiter, the Saturn candidates would require atmospheres to undergo a process of radiolysis to create the Nitrogen-Oxygen rich environment that would sustain life. Another interesting method would be to introduce certain bacteria that would process the moons’ naturally occurring ammonia and secrete it as nitrates which could, in turn, be converted into nitrogen gas.
Paraterraforming, who needs a surface anyway?
A far more radical process would be to implement a process of paraterraforming. This process creates what is referred to as a “shell world”. The entire body is surrounded by a type of floating roof which would enclose the surface and sustain life underneath.
Underneath the roof, the Cronian moons could slowly raise their temperatures, develop water-vapor based atmospheres and, eventually, life (in the form of bacteria) could be introduced. Whilst this is a truly ambitious proposal, it does mean that the conditions could be far more easily controlled and maintained versus the extreme conditions of the unprotected surfaces.
Titan, the special case
Titan, however, is a unique case. The largest of the Cronians is special thanks to its atmosphere. It is the only large moon that scientists believe to have its own atmosphere apart from Earth’s. Furthermore, the atmospheric pressure is relatively similar to Earth’s at only 1.45 times that of Earth’s. Scientists have hypothesized that the massive sub-surface oceans could sustain microbial and extremophile life, but NASA has gone on record stating that they are definitely only “hypothetical”.
For these reasons, and the abundance of necessary elements within its composition, Titan makes for the best terraforming candidates of the Cronians.
Is it worth terraforming Saturn’s moons?
As always with terraforming, we’re faced with the question as to whether it is worth the time, effort and resources to carry out the process. The Cronian moons are attractive, in the most part, due to their resources. There are, in no uncertain terms, enough water ice, organic molecules and resources found inside the Saturn system to keep human life in supply indefinitely.
That said, would humans look to terraform these moons before larger and closer planets? Most likely, no. But they are potential candidates, and that in itself is exciting.
Which Dwarf Planets Are Good Terraforming Candidates?
The dwarf planets of our Solar System present a tricky set of problems for terraforming. Whilst there are plenty of them to pick from, they wouldn’t be straightforward options. Firstly, they are all incredibly large distances from the Sun and therefore heat, or the lack of it, would present a major obstacle to life. Furthermore, each of these candidates have no atmosphere at all meaning artificial alternatives will need to be sought.
We can take it as read that for life to exist on these dwarf planets they would need a huge influx of oxygen to become sustainable. No easy feat but a necessary one.
Oh Pluto, our dear old friend who was rudely ousted from our collection of planets in the solar system by the International Astronomical Union not too many years ago. Even a display of its love for us, with its heart shaped land mass seen by New Horizons, wasn’t enough to bring its status of planet back.
Pluto, whilst lacking atmosphere, does have both nitrogen and methane trapped in its ice. One potential terraforming solution is to melt then evaporate this ice to create an atmosphere that would then leave a rocky surface. The main issue with this, and the other dwarf planets, is that this atmosphere would simply move on from the planet thanks to the lack of gravity and magnetic fields.
Terraforming Charon and Ceres
Interestingly, Charon and Ceres present somewhat easier terraforming prospects than Pluto. Charon and Ceres, rather than methane and nitrogen, both have an abundance of water-based ice which could be melted to create oceans which could then support floating continents. The continents could then be covered with plant life to help support the atmosphere and create a readily available supply of oxygen. Once again, the atmosphere would need to be artificially enclosed in order to prevent it escaping deep into space.
Eris’ makeup presents something of a combination of the two examples above. Whilst it would end up becoming a water world after the ice has been melted, much of the ice is methane based which would create a somewhat toxic atmosphere. External supplies of oxygen would need to be delivered.
Issues with Terraforming Dwarf Planets
When working on the terraforming of dwarf planets, humans will face a number of interesting challenges which other planets might not present. Firstly, we’ve discussed above the need to enclose an atmosphere to prevent it escaping. Whilst, theoretically, this is possible using a huge dome like enclosure it creates an issue when one goes to leave the planet. To maintain atmospheric integrity, a simple gate wouldn’t be possible. Instead, it’s more likely huge airlocks would exist at each pole.
Avoiding complete catastrophe thanks to asteroid impacts is another issue. Firstly, because an asteroid style impact would destroy any dome in place but also because it would be very difficult to predict potential strikes. The orbits of these dwarf planets are so huge that they regularly pass through deadly radiation fields, are open to solar winds and wandering asteroids.
All in all, when it comes to terraforming for human life, the dwarf planets don’t present likely options. Interesting in theory, but unlikely in practice.