from NASAAmes Website
recovered through WayBackMachine Website
The scientific discussions at the conference focused on two main areas:
Talks by McKay, Haberle, and Zent pointed out that we do not know if Mars has enough of CO2 , H2O, and N2 to build a biosphere.
Carbon dioxide may be trapped in
the south polar cap (small amount), absorbed in the soil (larger
amount) or in the form of carbonate (as yet undetected). Water may
be held as ground ice in the polar region. Nitrogen, a key element,
may be in the form of nitrates in the soil (possibly with the
Talks by Marinova and Gerstell reported on new calculations of how super greenhouse gases could be used to warm Mars. To effectively cover the infrared window region of left by the CO2 and H2O greenhouse effect several super greenhouse gases, each at low (ppm or less) concentration are needed.
Marinova listed the desired properties of these gases: they should be easily made on Mars since transport from Earth would be impractical; they should be long lived -- stable against destruction by sunlight; they should be easily made on Mars; not contain chlorine or bromine which destroy ozone; and should be ultimately produced biologically.
Gerstell reported on a search for even more effective super greenhouse gases using quantum mechanical calculations. It is clear if the gases are designed to optimize their infrared greenhouse properties, then significant improvements can be expected. Warming Mars with super greenhouse gases is a real possibility.
Climate models of Mars
reported by Lorenz, Carlstrom, Fogg, and Zubrin provided insight on
how the environment of Mars would respond to warming.
Presentations by Graham and Cockell showed how the biological development on Mars would be in many ways analogous to mountain and polar biological succession on Earth. One can imagine how Mars would develop biologically by imagining a descent down a tropical mountain. In terms of biology, the key question is the availability of nitrogen.
In the paper by McKay, it was suggested that to recreate a biosphere
on Mars there must be nitrogen present in the soil as nitrate or
genetic engineering of microorganisms allowing them to take in
gaseous nitrogen at present martian levels.
that plants and insects could be introduced on Mars together.
Primary workhorses of biocycling
could be microbial communities introduced into the deep and near
Martian subsurface to perform return of materials back to the
surface from buried sediments, a process dubbed "bioinjection".
authors agreed that there is great value in directed selection of
whole organisms in addition to genetic engineering techniques, that
is, the exposure of microbes and plants to conditions ever more
closely approximating those to be found on Mars to "mine" for novel
traits that may arise in response to those conditions.
Korycansky discussed more speculative approaches to bringing outer solar system objects to Mars as a source of water and nitrogen. Finally McKay, Robinson and Zubrin opened a brief discussion of the societal and environmental issues raised by the idea of terraforming Mars.
These topics are to be the focus of a future conference.