Paraterraforming Mars

I simply define the term paraterraforming as the creation of greenhouse-like structures with internal conditions similar to that on Earth.

A fundamental advantage of paraterraforming over terraforming is that one can first achieve paraterraforming at a small scale and then progressively expand these Earth-like environments to meet the needs of the growing settler population until, theoretically, the entire planet is covered with paraterraformed areas thereby achieving the equivalent of the terraformation of Mars.

A second major advantage of paraterraforming is that the equivalent of Earth atmosphere can be created very shortly after initial crew arrival. In contrast, the final phase of terraforming in which the equivalent of Earth atmosphere (including composition and pressure) wouldn’t be achieved until, typically, thousands of years after initial crew arrival. Given this multiple orders of magnitude advantage of paraterraforming over terraforming, paraterraforming deserves far more attention and work than it currently does.

Large paraterraformed areas can be established from very early on. Assuming 100 tonne Starship payload deliveries and the separate delivery of layers of the paraterraformed areas, and assuming 0.6 kg/m2 of the airproof layer, a singular sheet would have a surface area of about 16.7 hectares. Kevlar net sections would be delivered separately and sections would be connected to each other.

The upward forces of air pressure in the paraterraformed area would have to be transferred to the Kevlar tethers down the sides of the paraterraformed area and into ground anchors. Give the very substantial forces involved, the Kevlar tethers would have to be sized accordingly and the ground anchors would have to be pounded/drilled deep into the surface, perhaps even into bedrock. Also, periodic, internal tethers could substantially reduce the forces being direct down the sides of the paraterraformed areas. To reduce the forces involved, the internal air pressure could be reduced to 0.5 atm and perhaps 30% O2 to provide an acceptable living environment. Earth-like air is only needed for the paraterraformed area up to a height that the settlers would need. Perhaps it would need to be no higher than how far an individual could throw an object.

Starting near the equator and by maximizing the greenhouse effect, internal air temperatures could be raised to a short sleeve environment during the daytime for certain points in the Martian years. Multiple layers to reduce convective losses and coatings to enhance the trapping of the infrared spectrum. But like northern climes on Earth, people would need to wear warm clothing while "outdoors" in the paraterraformed areas.

Perchlorates could either be washed from the dirt as it is processed or rocks could be crushed to make dirt that doesn't contain the perchlorates.

Some sort of process could be used to eventually produce high-quality soil. Bags filled with water and nutrients could first have atmospheric CO2 pumped in to Earth-like pressures and then blue-green algae in water using sunlight would convert the CO2 into O2. The algae thus grown could then be used to provide complex organics to the dirt being manufactured. Then plants could be grown to produce higher quality soil. Insects and worms could next be introduced to eventually produce rich soil.

To get things started as fast as possible, I believe that paraterraforming structures should just be constructed on Earth and then shipped to Mars. But as power and production capacity increased on Mars, there will be a point at which the materials for paraterraforming will be produced on Mars using continuous production systems. As AI and robotic technologies advance, one could envision a point where the paraterraformed areas are expanding on their own.

The thin atmosphere of Mars would substantially help reduce the ability for the most common (but small) meteorites from striking paraterraformed structures. Stop-rip elements could prevent a small rupture from becoming a larger rupture. The location of ruptures could be identified using microphones and the triangulation of the hissing sounds. Drones or other vehicles could quickly go to the location and apply a temporary patch until a more permanent patch can be applied.

Exposure to space radiation is the final remaining challenge to providing a truly Earth-like environment. This challenge is not unique to paraterraforming but is also a challenge for terraforming until the atmosphere thickness of Mars reaches a level where the air column above the ground reaches some percentage that of Earth's.

The Martian air may provide about 11 g/cm2 which is sufficient to protect humans from most solar particle events. But high-energy (especially high-Z) particles would easily make it through the thin atmosphere. Over time, Martian settlers would exceed their career limits. This could be managed by limiting the amount of "outdoor" exposure. In theory, the effects of radiation could be countered by medication or even genetic engineering.

With the upward forces of internal air pressure being so high, a layer of transparent water could be suspended in the outer layer of the paraterraformed area which could significantly reduce the amount of GCR radiation reaching the surface.

There could also perhaps be a paraterraforming approach where there is a large upper layer with CO2 air compressed to multiple atm of pressure until there is enough air mass above the paraterraformed area to block the GCRs.

However, it seems to me that creating localized or even global artificial magnetic fields would be the way to try to solve this problem once and for all.

Paraterraformed areas could be expanded as needed for "outdoor" living area by the Martian population as it grows. Given that the surface area of Mars is about that of Earth, and given that, even at 8.8 billion people Earth, there are many areas on Earth that are not highly populated (e.g. the Midwest US). People tend to live in cities and suburbs. So it could take a very long time (if ever) before Mars would need to be fully paraterraformed. The amount of nitrogen and argon buffer gases currently present on Mars, if separated and pumped into the paraterraformed areas would be sufficient for perhaps __ km2 which is enough to house __ people if at the density of __country___. *****

It seems inevitable that initial settlers are going to want to have garden-like areas attached to their habitats. Those could double as agriculture and natural settings for enjoyment. As settlements grow, the residents aren't going to want to wait for millennia before enjoying Earth-like natural settings. So, they will inevitably paraterraform areas. This description just describes what seems probable in that settlements will inevitably have paraterraformed surrounding areas in order to provide a high-quality, Earth-like environment to enjoy. With automation, why wouldn't settlers choose to set the processes moving forward to have larger and larger areas paraterraformed?

Given that SpaceX has developed their Mega Bay to start producing a fleet of Starships and the probability of LEO propellant transfer, it seems to me that multiple lands with opportunity to tweak the software between each attempt will be available at each Earth-Moon launch window. So an initial permanent base could conceivably be established on Mars in the 2030s. Since a large, inflatable greenhouse is possible in the near-term, it seems to me that the process of paraterraforming could start very soon.

Given the benefits and inevitability of paraterraforming, I think that the concepts deserve greater analysis and consideration. Indeed, I would like to suggest that a paraterraforming demonstration be conducted in an analogue setting on Earth with plans to advance the state of the art so that it could be ready by the time it is needed. The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain CONFIDENTIAL material. If you receive this material/information in error, please contact the sender and delete or destroy the material/information.