Conceptual Art Depicts the Terraforming of Mars

Terraforming Mars (Image: D Mitriy. Concept art depicts the terraforming of Mars)

In 1973, celebrated American astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan published an article in the journal Icarus titled “Planetary Engineering on Mars”. Three years later, NASA addressed the issue of making the Red Planet habitable for human life in a study using the terminology “planetary ecosynthesis”. By 1982, the term “terraforming” made its first appearance in the title of a published journal article.

(Images: D Mitriy – left, right)

The paper, “Terraforming Mars”, by planetary scientist Christopher McKay, was published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. “Terraforming” has been the standard nomenclature ever since, fuelling scientific debate and leading to its fair share of concept art, like these images by Wikimedia contributor D Mitriy.

(Image: D Mitriy)

Putting aside the ethical and technological limitations, terraforming refers to the process of engineering the surface and climate of a planet to make it able to support human life. Sagan first proposed the terraforming of Venus back in 1961 by “seeding the atmosphere” with algae. But later studies of atmospheric conditions on Venus rendered this approach nonviable, and the Red Planet has since become the main focus of scientists.

(Image: D Mitriy)

In addition to serious scientific study and debate, the terraforming of Mars has also become a popular subject for conceptual artists to address. Lone travellers exploring distant planets and the dystopian ruins of our own world have all proved popular subjects. When it comes to terraforming Mars, perhaps in the future these fun visuals will break the shackles of science fiction…

(Image: D Mitriy)

Published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 licence, these images by D Mitriy are steeped in a retro-futuristic atmosphere popular with the sci-fi genre. The image below, meanwhile, shows an artist’s impression of Mars being terraformed in four different stages.

Artist's impressive depicting the terraforming of Mars. (Image: Daein Ballard, GFDL)

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