NASA Debates Terraforming Mars

NASA will hold a formal debate on terraforming Mars tomorrow night at its third Astrobiology Science Conference. Terraforming refers to the transformation of an alien world into a world that we can live on; the Oxford English Dictionary credits science fiction Grandmaster Jack Williamson with coining the term in his 1949 novel SeeTee Shock.

Featured in this debate are authors Sir Arthur C. Clarke (live from Sri Lanka - using geosynchronous communications satellites - the idea for which he suggested in 1945 - I had to get that in), Kim Stanley Robinson, and Greg Bear, in addition to experts in geoscience, planetary science and astrobiology. The debate is open to the public, and will be held Tuesday night from 7-9 at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. See the NASA Astrobiology Science Conference homepage for more information.

The topic of terraforming has seen various treatments in science fiction, in addition to Williamson coining the term. In 1972, author Larry Niven refered to biological package probes, a long-term way to mass-produce Earth-like planets, in A World Out of Time, published in 1976. The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson provides the most detailed sf treatment of terraforming Mars, using all of the data available at the time of writing. David Gerrold in his excellent (but unfinished) series The War Against The Chtorr, turns the concept on its head, writing about aliens who are determined to transform the Earth into something they can use.

See also How NASA looks to change Mars and NASA Mars Terraforming Debate. Find out How Terraforming Mars Will Work. Read the latest on the Mars Exploration Rover Robot Mission.

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