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!

The Science of TerraGenesis Podcast: Christmas Magic (Bonus Episode)


Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher

Hey, folks. Today I’d like to share a post I made on the TerraGenesis Facebook page in December of 2016, just a few months after TerraGenesis was first released. I was sitting in a cabin on the North Island of New Zealand with my wife and my mom, enjoying the disconcertingly warm weather and dreaming of where this journey might take us in the years to come. Some of our oldest players may have read this post already on the Facebook page back in the day, but given the fact that the community was much smaller back then, and the fact that mathematics NEVER goes out of style, I thought I’d share it again. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas or believe in Santa, I hope you’re having a wonderful day, and as usual, happy terraforming!

So, I don’t think it’s going to come as a great galloping shock to hear that the guy who single-handedly designed and created a science-based planet simulator app is a bit of a math nerd. But what you may not know is that I also happen to be a HUGE Christmas nerd. I look forward to it all year, and it holds a very special place in my heart.

So, in honor of one of my favorite days of the year, let’s do a bit of holiday number crunching!

Finding Santa

In December of 1990, SPY Magazine published an article written by Bruce Handy and Joel Potischman called “Santa Math.” In it they calculated just how fast Santa Claus would have to travel to visit every child’s home on Earth in a single day. Their conclusion was a staggering 650 miles per second. In TerraGenesis we use metric, so that’s 1,046 kilometers per second. 

But of course, this is TerraGenesis, and we don’t care about boring-old Earth. We want to hear about Mars.

The Math

On average Earth and Mars are about 225 million km apart, so at that rate Santa would need to fly at his top Christmas-speed for 215,105 seconds (or almost 60 hours) just to get to Mars. Venus would be 45 hours away, the Moon would be just 6 minutes away, and the moons of Uranus would be just over a month of hard flying for Rudolph and the gang.

Of course, a Martian day isn’t the same length as an Earth day. It’s close, but it’s about 40 minutes longer, or about 3% longer than an Earth day. That means Santa has more time to work once he gets there, albeit not much: instead of going 1,046 km/s he’d only have to go 1,015 km/s. I suppose every little bit helps.

Except, Mars is also a lot smaller than Earth: surface area 145 million square kilometers, as opposed to Earth’s 510 million. That’s only 28.4% the amount of ground to cover, meaning that between the smaller surface and the longer day, Santa would only have to go about 27.5% as fast to get the job done on Mars (about 288 km/s), for a similar population.

Santa Math

But then, why assume a similar population? The original “Santa Math” article assumed 91.8 million households eligible for a visit from Santa. In 2015 the average American household included 2.54 people. What’s the population of your Mars in TerraGenesis, divided into households of 2-3 people, relative to that number on Earth? Use this formula to figure it out:

[PopulationRatio] = ( [PlanetPopulation] / 2.54 ) / 92,000,000

Then you can figure out how fast Santa would have to go on your particular Mars using this formula…

[SantaSpeedKm/s] = 288 * [PopulationRatio]

Share your Santa speeds on Facebook and Twitter and see how they compare! And for bonus points and super-nerd cred, look up the surface area of the world you’re currently playing on and the length of its day, and use those in your calculations. Pro-tip: a day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus, so Santa has all the time in the world to glide through those sulfuric acid clouds.

Anyway, I’m just saying, math is cool. And if you happen to still be in school, you have my permission to tell your math teacher that the creator of the greatest app ever says that if they’re not teaching class by calculating the trajectory of reindeer across semi-spherical objects in space, they’re doing their job wrong.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a quote from the once-great Billy Mack: Christmas is the time to be with the people you love. Well corny as it may sound, I love all you folks. It’s no exaggeration to say that this community has changed my life, and I wake up grateful every day to be able to do this, and talk to you, for a living.

So whether you celebrate Christmas in your own home or not, just know that you’re getting good wishes and holiday cheer sent to you direct from Edgeworks Entertainment. I know some people get worked up about the whole “Happy Holidays” vs “Merry Christmas” thing, but to me a big part of the joy of this season is that almost every culture in the world has sensed the beauty of this season, and everyone has something to celebrate. So to everyone out there playing TerraGenesis all across the Earth and beyond: Season’s Greetings, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Midwinter, Glückliches Yule, Happy Kwanzaa, Feliz Posadas, Happy New Year, Jolly Boxing Day, Joyous Soyal, and a very, very Merry Christmas to you all.

That’s it for this bonus episode of The Science of TerraGenesis. 

Be sure to subscribe for more episodes, and in the meantime you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Discord, YouTube, everywhere really. You can also check us out at EdgeworksEntertainment.com and TerraGenesisGame.com, and don’t forget to leave a review for the podcast, it really does help!

And if you haven’t played it yet, be sure to check out TerraGenesis, it’s a free download on iOS or Android, and coming soon to Windows.

Oh, and one more thing: take a moment to check in on your worlds on Christmas Day. You might find a few unusual things waiting for you…

Listen to the Podcast on Youtube Here

Earth Day: What’s the Big Deal and How Can You Get Involved?

Earth Day is not an ancient tradition.

However, it is quickly becoming a significant event in the world’s calendar, growing in popularity and celebrations across the whole globe.

earth day, protest, save the earth, captain planet

The long and short of Earth Day’s significance comes down to it being the most popular of all events that celebrates the planet we inhabit. It’s a way to pause for thought and consider the magnificence of our world and how our actions are impacting it.

At last count, over 190 countries have organized celebrations to mark the occasion, and usually the festivities happen during the Spring Equinox, which changes in exact date but is generally around March 21. That said, the UN has now marked April 22 as the official date and has rebranded it as International Mother Earth Day.

What’s the significance of Earth Day?

earth day 2019, earth day 2020

It’s a day to embrace everything about our planet — from the plants to the animals, biodiversity at every level and the environments that we inhabit. The overall aim is to develop and nurture awareness of the issues facing our planet and, more generally, encourage people to appreciate the planet we have and not take it for granted.

How can you get involved on Earth Day?

earth day event near me

You don’t have to make the effort to attend one of the major rallies organized in your country, nor do you have to become an activist and begin chaining yourself to trees. Everyone can participate and it doesn’t have to be a huge, grand gesture. The smallest of actions can have the largest of benefits.

With that in mind, here are some examples of ways that you can get involved:

  • Get on board with the recently trending #TrashTag. This movement’s premise is simple: head to a local area which has been littered, take a before and after photo then post your accomplishments on social media. This can be as simple as visiting your local park or street, or as grand as an organized beach clean up such as those seen in Mumbai, India.
  • Planting trees and saplings is one of the most heartwarming activities to carry out during Earth Day. Not least because, if it’s local, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor over the coming years. Trees are being destroyed at a rate that’s unsustainable, so even planting one slowly begins to turn that tide.
  • Sharing your knowledge with the younger generation or those who don’t understand the implications is a superb way to mark the occasion. This doesn’t have to be a lecture or lengthy seminar — it can be as simple as sharing a few facts over a coffee. Bonus points if you meet somewhere that is accessible without a vehicle!
  • That’s just a quick start with some ideas that really don’t take a lot of organizing at all. When it comes to Earth Day, the simple recognition of the event and spreading awareness of its cause will be more than sufficient to make an impact.

Want to see how you can control climate change from your phone? Curious what will happen if we leave Earth alone? Check out our hit game, “TerraGenesis“! Available now for iOS and Android!