Greening the Red Planet
While some earthlings worry about how to keep the home planet green, others look ahead to the greening of Mars.
Terraforming, also called ecosynthesis or planetary engineering, is about making other planets Earth-like. Today, naturally, Mars is freezing, dusty and downright inhospitable, so if we want to go there, kick back and make ourselves quite at home, thank you, we may need to make some arrangements.
Change is good. One idea calls for the release of greenhouse gases such as octafluoropropane -- a by-product of circuit board manufacturing -- to warm the planet, melt Martian ice and, eventually, make things like grass grow.
But what does this have to do with space law? Specifically, article IX of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty contains an obligation to prevent "harmful contamination" of celestial bodies.
In a Tech Central Station column on this topic, Professor Glenn Reynolds writes, "terraforming would not, in my opinion, violate the Outer Space Treaty - which prohibits only 'harmful,' not beneficial, contamination." Read his analysis. (Of course, the professor doesn't fail to also note, "there are sure to be vigorous objections raised from certain quarters of the environmental movement.")
And here's an excellent article by Robert D. Pinson in the Environmental Law Reporter on Ethical Considerations for Terraforming Mars. (Yes, he's another award-winning space law student -- can I say disciple? -- of Professor Reynolds.)
Don't miss a recent Slashdot discussion on terraforming. And then there's the obligatory Wikipedia article on it.
And stay tuned for more on planetary engineering in the years, and centuries, to come.