Colonizing our solar system is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Once a theoretical problem, terraforming has evolved into a funding issue more than it is an engineering puzzle. Our current level of technology has everything that we need to travel to and live on another planet in our solar system. At this point, colonization is a matter of logic. Some of our neighboring space rocks are simply better suited than others for a nice condo in space.
Gas Giant Moons
The gas giants, Jupiter and Saturn, have no solid surface so colonizing them is out of the question, but their moons are hopeful. Being bigger than the moon and having water, Saturn’s biggest satellite would require little in the way terraforming. Most of the technology needed to live on Titan requires temperature-resistant textiles, which we already have available.
Moore’s Law, which states that computer processing speed doubles every 18 months, may be applicable to other forms of technology. This seems to be true in space travel where, two years ago, a rocket would have taken a year and a half to get to Mars. Under today’s technology, the trip may only take 30 minutes to an hour. This bump in technology and Mars’ similarities to Earth make it a logical first place for an otherworld landing and future colonization.
Mars is smaller and less massive than the Earth, making Mars’ gravity about one-third of Earth’s. By comparison, the moon only has one-sixth of the gravity of Earth. Because it has a small atmosphere and water, terraforming would be relatively easy, assuming that the population was immune to cosmic radioactivity. The Earth has several electromagnetic mechanisms that protect us from cosmic background radiation. Mars does not have the rotation to create a protective field, so we would need to do this ourselves to create a truly Earth-like environment.
Where Mars has a very thin atmosphere, our neighbor on the other side, Venus, has too much. Called the runaway greenhouse effect, carbon dioxide has built up over the years. This has caused the atmosphere to be dense, creating extremely high pressure and making Venus the hottest planet in our solar system. With an average temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit, a warm day on Venus would melt lead.
Terraforming the planet is theoretically simple but very slow. Since plants use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, a hybrid greenhouse/bunker would be the first step to a new Earth. Unfortunately, estimates show that using the technology of the last five years, it would take approximately 15,000 years to accomplish, so new systems of carbon dioxide reclamation need to be developed.
Small and close to the sun, Mercury is still a candidate for colonization. Its gravity is about the same as Mars, so any gravity issues we have will be shared. When the surface faces the sun, temperatures can rise to over 800 degrees Fahrenheit and away from the sun will fall to 279 below zero Fahrenheit. Because Mercury does not spin and it has no atmosphere, survival on the planet is all about location. As one approaches the poles, temperatures approach ones that are found on Earth. Mercury’s proximity to the sun and lack of angular momentum would make it nearly impossible to fully terraform, but domed structures near the poles may be possible.