HOW TO BUILD A HABITABLE PLANET
LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS OF THE EARTH AND MARS
The purpose of this paper is to identify the factors that make a planethabitable by observing the structures and processes that occur on theEarth and comparing them to those on Mars so as to conclude whether lifecurrently is or could be made possible on our neighbouring planet.
There are four different biogeochemical systems on Earth that allowchemicals to flow between reservoirs and interact with the environment. They are the atmosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere andeach plays a key role in maintaining the balance that allows life to flourishon the planet. The cycles in which the chemicals move from one system toanother occur at different speeds (ranging from a single nutrient cycle togeological timescales) and generally go through organic (interacting withliving organisms) and inorganic (interacting with the physicalenvironment) phases.
The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of various gases such as nitrogen,oxygen, carbon dioxide, argon, neon, helium, water vapour, methaneand others. The amount of
present in the atmosphere haschanged dramatically since the early days of the planet. Today itmakes up only 0.03% of the atmosphere and is a key element inkeeping the Earth’s systems in dynamic equilibrium by recyclingoxygen (photosynthesis) and helping maintain a comfortabletemperature for life to exist on the planet (greenhouse effect). The
is a natural process through which part of the heatenergy emitted by the Sun enters the atmosphere, is partially reflectedfrom the Earth’s surface back into the troposphere and is reflectedback to the Earth by the ‘barrier’ formed by greenhouse gases (carbondioxide, water vapour, methane and others). In this way, the heatenergy from the Sun is kept in the lower atmosphere and isredistributed across the planet by convection currents.A few billion years ago however, the high concentration of carbondioxide (90%) meant the greenhouse effect was far more powerful andthat the Earth was a very hot place. Over time however, life forms