Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Terraforming a world with shell technology

Live in a dome; artistic flare w/off-Earth life
I love this idea: terraforming with a shell or dome to hold the atmosphere in and generate heat.  That makes use of local planets like Mars, Venus, and various moons as liveable space very doable.

Miriam Kramer's article "Incredible Technology: How to Use a 'Shell' to Terraform a Planet" on went into much of the details of the practice.  What I find most intriguing was the independence it gave to expanding off Earth.  If we are limited to earth-like planets, than movement off earth will be quite some ways off.  But if we can terraform the moon, Mars, Titus, we have considerably limited the time spent in space and the amount of preparation or technology needed to make such an expedition and colonization.

As Kramer points out, the need for atmospheric supplies and related resources needed to terraform a planet is considerably reduced when a shell is used.  Certainly, we would have to find ways to generate breathable air on site and soil fit to grow food stock, but waiting for a planet to be modified en mass is both excessively time consuming and considerably demanding of resources that would have to be supplied by Earth.

The plausibility of terraforming through the use of shell technology is a great setting for science fiction stories.  It has been used by Heinlein, Clark, Robinson and others.  I can imagine there would be numerous variables to a story just based on selecting a site followed by beginning the process.  Other issues would crop up if this was the first application of the process.  Of course, there would be mistakes, learning opportunities, sabotage or poor management, etc., the list goes on.  There is certainly plenty of resources online to understand the process thoroughly enough to use it correctly in a story.

I believe Niven used a Dyson Sphere in his Ring World series.  Heinlein used domes in several of his novels and short stories set on the moon (Number of the Beast, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Red Planet), Mars and Venus.

What specific novels and short stories do you remember that made use of this technology?

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