The terraforming plant (also known as the terraforming facility or terraforming center) is manmade industrial complex that terraforms a planet. Depending on conditions, there can be one or more terraforming plants.
Construction site Edit
Terraforming processes will alter the shape, chemistry and initial equilibrium of a planet. For example, creating an ocean on Luna or Mars will result in extra mass on an area of the celestial body, with great stress to the crust, creating quakes. Also, heating a planet will make its ices liquefy or sublimate.
The terraforming plant must be placed in an area with high ground stability and with large resources (important ores, needed during the process). If the planet will have an ocean, it is important that the plant will be close to it.
A terraforming plant will produce all what we need to transform a planet. This includes:
- Greenhouse gasses, to increase temperature, for an Outer Planet
- Atmospheric shields, to limit incoming heat for an Inner Planet
- Minerals, to be added to the ground where natural rocks lack of them
- Chemicals to interact with natural-occurring toxins, to block them into more stable compounds
- Oxygen or water, if needed
- Plants and animals, for the new biosphere.
Facilities needed to keep everything going on Edit
Inside a terraforming plant, there will be a few important facilities:
Space base Edit
This is where all goods will come, where scientists and technicians will land and where all will start to happen. The base is the first thing to be built. It will consist of large platforms, with all needed facilities. There will be large platforms for cargo and small ones for people.
Each platform will be equipped with all it needs for one spaceship. This must include devices to load or unload cargo from freight ships. In case of passengers, the platforms must have a wide tube that can be connected to the ship. The tube will allow people to exit their ship and enter an underground network of tunnels, in order to get to the base. Cargo can be transported with the help of roads or rails, to a nearby warehouse, where it is sorted and sent where it is needed.
The base will have its own, low-power energy generator, that will operate until the larger power plants will be built.
Connected to the base, there will be a fuel factory. It will produce hydrogen and oxygen (or other kind of fuel if possible) for spaceships. The factory must have its own fuel and oxygen storage tanks.
The base will have its own apartments and greenhouses, to host the first people and to grow their needed food. Also, the base must handle the passenger traffic, to provide them with air and food as they arrive or wait for a spaceship to departure.
Not in the last instance, the base must offer medical service.
Energy generators Edit
They will produce all power needed. Most probably, they will use nuclear power (fusion or fission). The energy production is very important, everything else depends on it. There will be one or two giant nuclear plants located close to the complex. Building them will be one of the first tasks for engineers.
Shelter, air and food Edit
Everybody who will work at the terraforming plant will have to stay there. People will need a town where to stay. It might be located above or below ground. Each person or each family will have an apartment. To avoid losing heat, it will be more practicable to build blocks with many levels, hosting over 100 apartments. The town will need energy and heat (or energy for cooling in case of an inner planet). So, its construction must be strongly linked with the energy generators. It should be better to build the power plant (or part of it) first.
In order to provide food for everybody, a large greenhouse is needed. There, plants will grow and generate food and oxygen. Bacteria will also grow in large tanks, to transform our excrements and waste water into minerals that can be used to grow plants on. Both the greenhouse and the tanks will need to be heated or cooled to a temperature suitable for Earth life.
The town will need to manage its water, air (fresh and wasted), food and organic waste. It will need to build all machinery and infrastructure for this. Also, it is good if the town will have some extra resources, if anything goes wrong. This includes a tank with drinkable water, a pressurized tank with liquid oxygen and food supply. Resources must be enough to sustain the life of the entire town for at least 100 days, until maintenance problems are fixed.
Optional facilities Edit
Terraforming process will take many years, if not centuries. People living there will need institutions. They will need schools for their children, a park for recreations, places to have fun, as well as other things. Basically, there will be a town that will have to offer its people all they need.
Facilities needed for terraforming Edit
These are the parts that will actually transform the planet into a habitable world. They will include:
Mines and quarries Edit
Located outside the terraforming plant, maybe at over 1000 km, they will be vital if we don't want to bring everything from outer space. Mining the planet will usually be cheaper.
The mines and quarries will need two important things: energy and transportation. Electricity can be brought from the plant. Transportation will be most probably done by rails (see Future transportation for more details). But, in order to do that, we need to have factories able to build electric power lines and railways. Also, workers will need to go to the quarries and return home to sleep. For this, they will bring air, water and food in the morning and return in the evening with carbon dioxide and excrements to be reprocessed.
All the ores extracted will need to be purified. The process is different for each ore. So, there will be a large refinery or smelting complex, composed of many sections, each one specialized in extracting a different substance or chemical element. On Earth, there is no single country that produces all the goods it needs and extracts everything it needs. What we will do in a terraforming plant is that we will concentrate all Earth's extraction industry inside a single complex.
Depleted ores must be token outside from the complex and deposited further away.
We must not use toxic compounds at the refinery. nobody wants a newly terraformed planet to be already saturated with toxic waste.
Chemical reactors Edit
Once we get the materials needed, we have to think further. There will be another complex, much larger then the refinery. It will consist of many chemical reactors. Here, raw materials from the refinery will be transformed into all chemicals we need. The chemical complex will be divided into 3 different sectors:
Atmospheric complex will manage the atmosphere. In the first stage, it will produce greenhouse gasses or atmospheric shielding gasses, to get the temperature to the right value. These gasses will also be produced in small amounts later, to softly change temperature.
Once temperature is set to the correct values, a new part of the complex needs to be built. This part will make the atmosphere breathable. It will have a huge, monumental task. Depending on conditions on the planet, the required operations are as follows:
- Remove unwanted toxic gasses from the atmosphere. For example, on Venus, we need to remove the sulfuric acid. One good way would be to extract sulfur atoms and store them in safe areas beneath surface. The remaining part of the acid is actually made of oxygen and water.
- Control carbon cycle. This means that, from the existing carbon dioxide, we must produce oxygen. This can be done artificially, with huge energy consumption, or with the help of some genetically modified algae. The process will also create a black powder of carbon atoms, like an artificial coal. It is important that it does not ignite. Earth solved its carbon problem by sequestration of fossil fuels underground. On a terraformed world, the most easy way is to move the extra carbon to the ocean floor, where it will be covered with water.
- Control nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen is important for life and is used to create proteins. There must be nitrogen in the atmosphere, to create nitrates on the ground, to make plant life possible. An atmosphere made mainly of oxygen will create risks of fire. If there is not enough nitrogen, the atmosphere pressure must be low (a rarefied but oxygen rich atmosphere is breathable, without major risks of fire) or the air must contain other inert gasses (like argon). Nitrogen is found usually as ammonia, which is toxic for life and has a bad smell. Ammonia must be transformed into nitrogen (that will remain in the atmosphere) and hydrogen (that will escape into space).
- Control oxygen cycle. Oxygen will be produced from water and carbon dioxide. Oxygen is vital for life. Also, oxygen will do many interesting things in the atmosphere and on the ground. It will react with rocks and form oxides, which are less toxic then many natural compounds found on a planet. It will burn in the atmosphere with combustible gasses (like methane), reducing them.
- Remove combustible materials from the atmosphere. Some planets may have an atmosphere composed of methane or other hydrocarbures. We cannot live them in the air. The best solution is to burn them with our newly produced oxygen. in order to do this, artificial lightning should be the best solution.
Hydrologic complex is also of high importance. Life cannot exist without water. However, the water might be saturated with salts or it might contain other unwanted compounds. Inside the newly formed oceans, natural toxins can be a thread to living organisms. All these problems must be fixed with the help of chemicals.
In order to do all this, the base must be connected to the ocean side with a railway.
Soil complex will survey the surface. If needed, it will produce with the help of its reactors all what we need to improve soil quality.
The soil complex must have its own fleet made of air vehicles. The fleet must conduct surveys and must throw chemicals from the air.
Geographical and climatological facility Edit
This part might exist or not. in some scenarios, it might be needed to improve the Geography of the planet. Scientists might propose radical actions like these:
- Build channels for the newly formed rivers.
- Break a hole in a mountain chain, to allow air masses to move.
Wild life facility Edit
Some people might argue that this part of the terraforming plant must be built the last. However, it is good to make animals live in captivity on this new world, so that they will be more prepared.
Basically, this part of the station needs its own greenhouses. Plants produce food, air and water only to sustain the ecosystem they are inside. The facility will have its own transportation fleet, to send plant seeds and later animals to remote places.
After terraforming Edit
After terraforming, the plant becomes almost useless. In some cases, the newly transformed planet will still need parts of the terraforming station. For example, if the air is escaping into space or if the amount of greenhouse gasses is too big or too small, settlers will need to adjust them. Anyway, it will work at less then 1% of its former capacity. On some planets, there will be no need at all.
Parts of the terraforming plant can be used for industrial or civilian destination. The generators can produce energy for the new colonies. Its rail system can be used for transportation. Its town still can host people, only that the artificial biosphere, that once produced food and air, is now useless. The base will remain operational for future settlers and future industrial corporations.
Many parts of the plant can be disassembled and moved to the next planet we want to terraform. However, if interplanetary transport will be too expensive, almost all will be left on the planet. And even if we move all buildings and structures, their foundations will remain on the ground. They can be the foundations of a larger future city or they can be recycled and used by the new settlers in many ways.
One possibility is that parts of the terraforming plant will remain unused and will rust and degrade. If this is the case, some parts (like the nuclear generators and substances used in chemical reactors) must be buried or transported into safe locations.
Much later, perhaps after hundreds of years, the remaining structures of terraforming plants will become museums, together with the first manned and unmanned landing sites and first colonies.