The Science of TerraGenesis: Planetary Defense Network

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.

The Science of TerraGenesis: Space Elevator

Space Elevators: Going Up?

View from a planet - space elevators

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? Meet Space elevators!

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 Science of TerraGenesis: Lagrange Academy

The height of education at the Lagrange Academy

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.

Why Lagrange?

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.

Fire Drill, Tornado Drill…Asteroid Drill?!

The idea of carrying out an asteroid drill sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but this is science fact! 

Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech

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

Image via Nasa / JPL-Caltech

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?

Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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

Image via NASA / Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin

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…

Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech

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!

Feature Image via  NASA / JPL-Caltech

Want to practice an Asteroid Drill yourself? Download TerraGenesis today!

Terraforming Candidates in the Inner Solar System

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!

Terraforming Mercury

Image of Mercury - Terraforming

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.

Terraforming Venus

Image of Venus - Terraforming

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

Image of the Moon - Terraforming

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.

Terraforming MarsImage of Mars - Terraforming

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.”

Want to try terraforming the Inner Solar System for yourself? Download TerraGenesis today!

Terraforming Candidates in Saturn’s Orbit

Image Via NASA / JPL

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.

Image via NASA / JPL

The Composition of Saturn’s Terraforming Candidates

Image via NASA / Goddard

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?

Image via NASA / JPL/STScI

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

Image via NASA / JPL/University of Arizona

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.

Feature Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Want to try terraforming Saturn’s moons for yourself? Download TerraGenesis today!

Terraforming Candidates: Dwarf Planet Edition

Which Dwarf Planets Are Good Terraforming Candidates?

Image Via NASA / ESA/ATG medialab

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.

Terraforming Pluto

Image via NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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

Image via NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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.

Terraforming Eris

Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech

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.

Want to try terraforming these Dwarf planets for yourself? Download TerraGenesis today!

Terraforming Candidates in Jupiter’s Orbit

Image via  NASA / JPL

What would terraforming look like for candidates in Jupiter’s orbit?

Terraforming the moons in Jupiter’s orbit is a topic that has captured both scientists and writer’s imaginations alike. Since the Arthur C Clarke novel 2010: Odyssey Two the moons orbiting Jupiter have been seen as terraforming candidates. Is this feasible or is it truly only the stuff of science fiction?

Terraforming Ganymede

Image via NASA / JPL

The largest of not only Jupiter’s moons but also the largest moon in the Solar System. No wonder that Ganymede is a popular terraforming prospect. It’s roughly the size of Mercury but with a lesser mass, plus scientists believe that there may be liquid water held beneath the surface. This makes for a relatively straightforward terraforming process, with the introduction of greenhouse gases (from nearby Io) and the use of the strong magnetosphere which should sustain an atmosphere.

That said, the size of Ganymede just might not be large enough to have the gravitational pull to keep that atmosphere in place. Plus, in its current rotation a day lasts for 3.5 days on Earth. In order to make life sustainable that would need to be decreased. A challenging prospect but one specked with possibilities.

Terraforming Europa

Image via NASA / JPL

The current icy gem of Jupiter’s moons. Whilst, on the surface of it, Europa looks like a good prospect for terraforming (plentiful ice, decent relative size) there are some major headaches that come with the process.

Europa is a hugely powerful radiation belt from Jupiter which makes sustaining life on it very impractical. One option to counter this could be building huge radiation shields, but a more likely outcome would be to create a magnetic field around the moon that would deflect the harmful radiation. Furthermore, similar to Ganymede, the rotation would need to be sped up from 1.78 Earth days to 24 hours. This could be done through asteroid impact, which would also benefit the terraforming process by introducing extra heat.

As mentioned above, the moon has a huge abundance of ice, which when melted after a new atmosphere is introduced, would essentially flood the majority of the surface. This means humans would have to build floating cities or form continents from imported material. 

Terraforming Io

Image via  NASA / JPL/University of Arizona

Probably the hardest and most inhospitable candidate of Jupiter’s moons. A whole terraforming process would be incredibly difficult but smaller scale colonies present a more realistic chance. Io resides in the radiation belt, similar to Europa, so would need either shields or a magnetosphere put in place.

The payoff is the vast geothermal energy that can be harvested from under Io’s surface. That said, the volatile nature of the moon makes it a dangerous proposition. The geothermal energy would certainly be attractive this far from the Sun, especially because solar energy would be far less efficient. 

Overall, Io doesn’t win the prize for being the most attractive, straightforward or useful terraforming candidate of Jupiter’s moons.

Terraforming Callisto

Image via NASA / JPL

The last of Jupiter’s moons and the second largest of the Galileans, Callisto is roughly 99% the size of Mercury but with a substantially smaller mass. Callisto makes for one of the most attractive propositions when it comes to terraforming. Much like some other candidates there is an abundance of water (ice) on the surface but, unlike the others, it is at a far greater distance from Jupiter. This means that the radiation belt, that affects the others, presents a far smaller problem. 

As with all these candidates, due to the vast distance between them and the Sun, a process of heating would need to be applied to Callisto in order to melt the surface ice and also sustain life on the surface with a stable atmosphere.

Are Any of the Candidates in Jupiter’s Orbit Good for Terraforming?

Overall? Probably not. Realistically, they would take up a vast amount of time, effort and resources to even get to the most basic levels of life sustaining terraforming. Instead, chances are we would use these moons as resource bases and harvest their natural materials during the terraforming of other, more suitable candidates. 

Feature Image via NASA / JPL/University of Arizona

Want to try terraforming Uranus’ moons for yourself? Download TerraGenesis today!

Terraforming Candidates in Uranus’ Orbit

What would terraforming look like for candidates in Uranus’ orbit?

Graphic of Uranus planet
Image via  NASA / JPL-Caltech

Journeying to the edge of our Solar System isn’t going to be taken lightly, so could we lighten these epic journeys by finding some terraforming candidates in Uranus’ orbit? By creating habitable worlds near the edge of our Solar System we’d be able to launch into far deeper realms of space, enable vital refueling and restocking of expeditions and ease the strain on other colonized worlds. 

But is this even remotely possible? Can we even consider terraforming any of the Uranian moons? Well, there are 6 potential candidates orbiting Uranus; Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon. Plus, Uranus has Puck. Puck doesn’t get included in the first list because of its irregular shape.

Terraforming Miranda

Photo of Miranda Moon - Uranus
Image via NASA / JPL-Caltech

Starting at the smaller end of the moons by diameter (not including Puck), we have Miranda. Miranda holds claim of being one of the smallest spherical, orbiting objects in our Solar System, second only to Mimas (the death star lookalike moon of Saturn). Miranda doesn’t win any immediate prizes for terraforming candidacy thanks to its tiny size relative to Earth (at only 0.81%) but that doesn’t exclude it from use completely. 

Rather than becoming a wholly colonized body, humans could look to Miranda for farming or resource stocking. Thanks to its close proximity to Uranus itself, should we create gas farming stations in the atmosphere of the planet, Miranda could be used as resupply or rest station.

Terraforming Ariel

Photo of Ariel Moon - Uranus
Image via NASA / JPL

Ariel steps things up considerably in size (relatively) and is well over twice the size of the smallest moon, Miranda. But, that said, it is still only 2.64% the size of Earth with a diameter of a mere 719 miles. Once again, the small size likely excludes it from a permanent terraforming project but, similar to Miranda, Ariel does have a strong resource base. The crust and mantle of the moon has healthy reserves of water (ice) and natural gases which could be mined. Long term terraforming for Ariel? Likely not.

Terraforming Umbriel

Photo of Umbriel Moon - Uranus
Image via NASA / JPL

Umbriel presents a serious challenge. When compared to the nearby candidates in the Uranian system, it might not be a first choice, but then where’s the fun in taking the easy route? Its size isn’t one of the largest in the area, it has an unhelpful composition in terms of chemicals and makeup, plus it is far less dense. Umbriel, I’m afraid you’re not about to be our first choice. One for the hardcore terraformers.

Terraforming Titania

Photo of Titania Moon
Image via NASA / JPL

Now we’re talking. Titania holds the prize for being the largest of the moons in orbit around Uranus, but still is nothing in comparison to Earth. That said, where Titania shines is the distance that it stands from Uranus itself whilst holding orbit. This might not sound like a big selling point, but it means that it faces considerably less radiation damage from its mother planet, making it far more habitable. Titania would likely act as something of a training camp to allow humans to acclimatize to life this far from the sun before heading deeper into space. 

Terraforming Oberon

Photo of Oberon Moon
Image via NASA / JPL

Similar to Titania but smaller in size, Oberon presents itself as a better potential candidate for terraforming. It is composed of ice and rock which lends itself to terraforming practically and provides a potential water source. That said, at this distance from the sun combined with the fact that it is a the very edge of a reasonable orbit from Uranus. Oberon would require a great deal of heating and introduction of greenhouse gases to bring it into the realm of terraforming.

But what about Puck, we hear you cry.

Puck is generally referred to as “approximately spherical” which isn’t ideal for terraforming as it would be wildly unpredictable in both orbit and rotation. It is as close as it gets to Uranus which means a huge amount of radiation, plus it is completely pocketed with impact craters. Impact craters means impacts, and going through the efforts of terraforming for it to be wiped out shortly after isn’t a positive indicator.

So, no Puck, you’re not in our terraforming candidates in Uranus’ orbit. 

Want to try terraforming Uranus’ moons for yourself? Download TerraGenesis today!