Will Humanity Turn Mars Into Trantor/Coruscant?

in #space2 years ago

Image credit: NASA link Public domain image.

If you are a baby boomer who likes sci-fi novels then you will know that Trantor is a planet-wide city from the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. If you are a millennial or younger then you will know that Coruscant is a planet-wide city in the Star Wars sci-fi world.

In either case these cities are examples of an ecumenopolis (a planet spanning city).


What does this have to do with Mars and our solar system?

In this post I wrote about 4 months ago, Psyche - The 10,000 Quadrillion Dollar Asteroid I worked out that you could cover the land area of the Earth up to a depth of 20 metres in pure nickel iron. This asteroid is apparently the solid metallic core of a failed planet and it may become a future mining hub of the solar system.

Clearly, covering the surface of the Earth in nickel iron for our buildings would be an environmental disaster of the highest proportions and it will never happen (we hope).

So, let's turn our attention to Mars instead which may have little to no environment to destroy. Mars also has almost no atmosphere which is quite inconvenient if you want to breath.

Image credit: Wikimedia user Owenusa link CC BY-SA 3.0 license

This means building habitats to hold in that air and water vapour and if humans ever go to Mars in a big way and then breed in a big way then we are going to need lots and lots of habitats.

Mars may also have toxic dust which could sicken and maybe even kill future colonists. So living in a sealed environment seems to be the smart thing to do.

Enter Psyche once more.

The surface area of Mars is about 145 million square kilometres and the land area of Earth 149 million square kilometres. So the math worked out in that earlier post on Psyche still roughly holds.

This single asteroid has enough iron and nickel to cover the entire surface of Mars with a solid layer up to 20 metres in depth. This is plenty of material to build out a planet spanning city on the surface of Mars. Also, Mars doesn't have any of those pesky oceans to get in the way of real estate development.

Image credit: author link CC BY 2.0 license


Prime Martian real estate might be at the bottom of the trenches of Valles Marineris (Mariner Valleys). These valleys are up to 7 kilometres deep at some points. If humans ever start terraforming Mars and start to thicken up the atmosphere it is the bottom of this valley that will have the thickest atmosphere.

The first human to walk outside and breath in the Martian atmosphere without a helmet on will take that first breath in this valley.

The downside to building out this valley bottom is that if the atmosphere ever attains significant amounts of water vapour from human activity then these will be the first places to fill with water.

Image credit: NASA link Public domain image.

Another greater spot for real estate would be near the top of Olympus Mons (Mount Olympus). This is the second tallest mountain in the entire solar system and it rises 22 km above the local plain. The view from this location would be spectacular.

The only drawback is this location would be the last to benefit from any atmosphere thickening, however a thin atmosphere might be beneficial for the local rocket launch industry.


Terraforming Mars would be a multi-thousand year long massive engineering effort. In the meantime any humans that live there will need to build out there habitats which will link up to form cities (all built with steel from Psyche).

As the population grows the cities will naturally grow larger and may eventually touch and merge. It will be a race between the terraformers and the city builders as to who will win this race.

Thank you for reading my post.




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They say risk only comes from not knowing what you are doing.

I'd bet that it won't. Population growth is slowing here on Earth and likely to top out around 11 billion. Even so, people immigrating to Mars will be pretty limited by the transportation costs. Even with Musk's vast reduction, he's still talking about $500k for a ticket. Awesome! But...still very spendy and that will limit the folks able to go.

Then there is life on Mars. or rather the life people would live on Mars.
Mars is...a bit challenging to terraform as noted already just from the atmospheric POV. Then the soil itself is more than a little toxic: .5% of the martian soil is made of perchlorate salts. These are bad for people. Watney wouldn't have survived, at least as presented.

(still love the book and movie though)

Mars is pretty much a mega fund site. But not as bad as Venus.

Mars is pretty much a mega fund site.

That's a good one, wish I had though of it myself.

I'd bet that it won't.

You are probably right. This post is mostly science speculation but who knows what will happen in the future.

he's still talking about $500k for a ticket.

I wonder if they will have a global lottery for this. Buy a ticket to fund the program and the winners (losers?) get a one-way trip to Mars. <radio guy's voice>Must be physically fit, void in states where prohibited.</radio guy's voice>

I think Mars has a lot of long term potential as another world for Humanity, but it needs some serious clean up and, honestly, we need the fusion rocket engines to make it happen. That way we can redirect kuiper belt objects to Mars to provide the volatiles it needs: turns out the locked in CO2 is only enough for the equivalent of 61k ft here on earth if released.

So, let's say you did drop lots of Quaoar or some other kuiper belt object on Mars. You'd have a good century of cleaning up from there. Dropping in raw sodium and the proper microbes to sequester all that nasty chemicals from the volatiles mixing with the perchlorates and everything else.

It would be beautiful, in the end. Just keep your hands off of Elysium Mons. It's MINE! ;)

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One thing to consider is that Mars has 1/4 the surface area of earth, limited free water, and readily available Oxygen to pull off a terraform that would make much difference to earth overpopulation. Also once an atmosphere how does one prevent it diffusing into space because of the lower gravity.

Terraforming on Mars will be a bitch. The solar wind will be constantly stripping off the atmosphere and their is no global magnetic field.

Life on Mars may never get beyond the habitation module phase.

Sounds like a very... psycheic question :D

I am tempted to say that I am looking forward to see this... But actually, I probably be dead, dead and re-dead by then... too bad :/

If the universe is infinite there are infinite copies of lemouth and one of them is going to go to Mars.

Poor Mars! :D

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reading first sentences and finding a quote about Isaac Asimov.
When there is a mix between this great man and science for me is always awesome.
Talking about Mars has a magnetic power for me and I would like taking part of an expedition on this planet in the future. That is a my dream.
Congratulation to your post.

To the question in your title, my Magic 8-Ball says:

My reply is no

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