So how could some potential planetary engineers gain access to all of
this ice and water? Briefly, by
arranging for a comet to impact an body of interest (the Moon, Mars, ...).
This could be done by identifying candidate comets in the three reservoir
regions with orbits that could be modified with minimum expenditure of energy to
deliver their water to the receiving body. In
cases were there was a pre-existing colony on that body, the choreography of
this operation could be interesting and demanding.
If the receiving body had some atmosphere (e. g., Mars), it might be
possible to put the comet into a braking orbit that after many passes delivered
the water to the ground without much impact.
But with a receiving body like the Moon that had no atmosphere at all, a
direct collision would be needed, and the impact site would have to be carefully
placed well away from the sites of colonization and infrastructure.
Is such terraforming as simple as arranging a visit from "the Ice
Man" in the form of a comet impact? Probably
not. The icy mass of a comet
contains many condensables besides water. The
most abundant cometary chemicals aside from water are likely to be simple
hydrogen-carbon-nitrogen combinations like ammonia (NH3)
, methane (CH4),
and hydrogen cyanide (HCN). The
latter may create the most problems for the terraforming engineer.
Somehow, the cyanide in the comet water, if it is sufficiently abundant,
will have to be neutralized to protect astronauts and colonists.
One can imagine bio-engineered organisms that are released after a comet
strike to accomplish the conversion of ammonia and hydrogen cyanide to free
nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water.
But anyhow, it appears that there is a vast reservoir of water in the
Solar System that could be used for making the Moon and Mars more habitable, or
even Earth-like. As we physicists
say, there are no fundamental problems. It's
just a matter of solving a few engineering problems.
AV Columns Online:
Electronic reprints of about 150 "The Alternate View" columns by John G. Cramer,
previously published in
David Jewitt, “Icy Bodies in the New Solar System”, arXiv preprint 0912.2070v1 [astro-ph.EP].
SF Novels by John Cramer: my two hard SF novels, Twistor and Einstein's Bridge, are newly released as eBooks by Book View Cafe and are available at : http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/?s=Cramer .
Columns Online: Electronic
reprints of about 177 "The Alternate View" columns by John G.
Cramer, previously published in