Thursday, February 24, 2011

Since Somebody Asked...Martian Terraforming

Conestoga: The Martian SUV
         I got an email from one of our biggest fans, Trey Palmer; known on the forums as "Pilgrim"  it was one of those general questions about a subject I've been developing for the game for a couple of years now, so I decided to share it with the world.  Or at least you guys:

           Big dumb question - what method are you choosing for Martian terraforming?   Did folks roof the Valle Marineris to create a large base of operations?   Or just build domes and start building solettas?
         Just curious."

         Whenever an email starts with the phrase "Big dumb question" I know that I will be getting an entire post out of it...

         Anyway, the early Martian colonists built automated factories that's only product are more automated factories and a big load of carbon monoxide.  "These auto-fac greenhouses" have been belching CO into Mars' atmosphere for a century as of 2210.  The increase in atmosphereic pressure has made the water ice in the Martian tundra liquefy and fill the Boreal basin.  The temp has risen naturally to about antarctic levels at the poles.  Since the Martian noon-time temp already gets into the eighties Fahrenheit, the Tropic Zone usually maintains a temp in the 30s and 40s at night, thanks to the thicker atmo.  Sun reflection sats are generally directed at the Boreal Coastal Zone, which not only raises the temp to something a human can tolerate without heroic measures, it makes for a good breeding ground for plant life.
Mars in 2210; Diemos in foreground.

          All of this was Phase One.  If the majority of AI that deserted the Great War hadn't chosen to settle on Mars, it never would have reached fruition.  It took AI patience, perspective, and lack of political douche-baggery to see the project through.  Why would they care?  Because these are the AI that decided they liked living in a universe that had people in it and they had calculated a statistical likelihood that Terra's biosphere and human population would be destroyed by the war.  They were half-right, but the upshot is that these AI made preserving the Human race - and making an environment they can thrive in - a high priority.

          The other practical upshot is that the greenhouse gas technique attracted the attention of the Martian natives.  The concept of pollution was unknown to their culture; their society and "technology" evolved along lines as different as their biology.  The fact that Humans could use waste to bring their planet back to life made the natives if not friendly to the Terran settlers, at least allied and helpful.  Of course there are hardliners that don't want to see Mars green and blue, because no society is unanimous and, let's face it, conflict with Martian natives is cool.

          Anyway, Phase Two of the terraforming project is the introduction of plant life that will produce oxygen.  This requires biomass - a lot of it.  The Martian natives can alter genetic codes as easily as we alter programs, so their cooperation provides a major shortcut; it will only take centuries instead of millennia.  In order to secure enough bio-diversity to make a truly independent ecosystem, Mars needs Terran species.  The natives are confidant that they can alter the native Terran species enough to survive in Mars' current conditions, as well as "program" these species to evolve in pace with the projected changes in the Martian biosphere.  In exchange for Terra's support of the terraforming project, Mars is trading that same native know-how to adapt Terran species to the new conditions of Terra's post-nuclear biosphere.  In order to insure that there would still be a Terra long enough to see this project through, Mars brokered the peace treaty that officially ended the Great War and created a balance of power that will hopefully remain stable long enough to insure the survival of H. sapiens into the future.

An early concept map of Mars showing trade routes and cities.
          So yes, there are underground and domed outposts strung along the cost of the Boreal Sea, and some built in lava tubes on the Tharsis plateau.  Valles Marinaris has a scientific research station that mainly deals with the natives, since their civilization is built into the walls of the chasm near it's base.  This area is the only known way into the native Martians' habitats.  These settlements are linked by sea and the air; the Barsoom Airships are one of these links.

And that RocketFans, is the story of Martian terraforming as well as the origin of the modern Black Desert.

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