Humans could one day live on Mars thanks to ‘small islands’ made of super lightweight TILES to warm regions, melt ice and protect from UV rays
- Tiles made out of silica aerogel could be used to warm certain regions of Mars
- An inch thick layer would make ‘small islands’ in certain regions of the planet
- Could open the door to habitation domes with year-round drinking water
Mars is a harsh environment with its barren landscape and extreme temperatures but it could soon become habitable thanks to ‘small islands’ made from insulating tiles.
They would be made using the super lightweight silica aerogel which would insulate the planet.
An inch thick layer of tiles made from the innovative material, a fluffy white powder that is mostly air, would be enough to insulate the frozen world for humans.
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Mars is a harsh environment with its barren landscape and extreme temperatures but it could soon become habitable thanks to ‘small islands’ made from insulating tiles. They would be made using the super lightweight silica aerogel (file photo)
This would warm the surface and open the door to habitation domes with year-round drinking water while also protected form the sun’s harmful rays.
The tiles would be laid in ice-rich temperate regions of the planet, according to the ambitious plan laid out by a joint US and British team.
They say that within the next few decades it will be a reality, but it is highly dependent on other projects, such as those in development from NASA and SpaceX to venture to the red planet.
Its success, the researchers claim, lies in trying not to transform the entire planet n one fell swoop, but taking a regional approach.
Computer models and lab experiments showed a shield around an inch thick (two to three centimetres) made of silica aerogel could transmit enough visible light for photosynthetic life to develop.
Silica aerogel (left) is extremely lightweight and could be used to create warm patched of land on Mars. It would warm the surface and open the door to habitation domes with year-round drinking water while also protected form the sun’s harmful rays
The proposed tiles made out of the substance (right) could be a reality for Mars in the next few decades but it is highly dependent on other projects, such as those in development from NASA and SpaceX to venture to the red planet
WHY IS MARS SO INHOSPITABLE?
The martian surface is a bleak place believed to be devoid of any life.
The planet is covered in iron oxide which gives it the distinctive red tone.
Mars also has an extremely thin atmosphere which fails to protect the planet from the damaging cosmic rays of the solar system.
UV rays beat down on the planet unabated, whereas the ozone layer of Earth protects life.
This radiation is highly ionising and can cause cancer and destroy cells.
The planet, further away from the sun than Earth is, is also extremely cold.
A summer day on Mars may get up to 70°F (20°C) near the equator, but at night the temperature can can plummet to about minus 100°F (-73°C).
It would also block hazardous UV radiation and raise temperatures underneath permanently above water’s melting point – without any need for an internal heat source.
Corresponding author Professor Robin Wordsworth, an engineer at Harvard University in the US, said: ‘This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification.
‘Unlike the previous ideas to make Mars habitable, this is something that can be developed and tested systematically with materials and technology we already have.’
Silica is a cheap mineral made up of silicon and oxygen – two of the most common elements on the planet. It has already been used to protect the Mars rovers.
Co-author Dr Laura Kerber, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said: ‘Mars is the most habitable planet in our Solar System besides Earth.
‘But it remains a hostile world for many kinds of life. A system for creating small islands of habitability would allow us to transform Mars in a controlled and scalable way.’
The study was published in Nature.
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