Terraforming & Geoengineering

NASA Mars Terraforming Debate to be held at Astrobiology Conference

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
March 25, 2004
Filed under , , ,
NASA Mars Terraforming Debate to be held at Astrobiology Conference
This artist’s concept depicts the early Martian environment (right)—believed to contain liquid water and a thicker atmosphere—versus the cold, dry environment seen at Mars today (left). (Courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

A group of science fiction writers, academic luminaries and NASA scientists will hold a lively debate about terraforming Mars at NASA Ames Research Center on March 30, 2004.

The debate is the first in a new series of discussions entitled “Science Fiction Meets Science Fact.” This series is the result of a shared vision between NASA, Breakpoint Media and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle, scheduled to open in summer 2004. The free, open-to-the-public debate will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. PST in the main tent on the Moffett Field parade grounds at NASA Ames.

“The series is an exciting collaboration between NASA’s online Astrobiology magazine (www.astrobio.net) and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame,” said Dr. Michael Meyer, NASA’s senior scientist for astrobiology. “Terraforming has long been a fictional topic, and now, with real scientists exploring the reality, we can ask, ‘What are the real possibilities, as well as the potential ramifications, of transforming Mars?’ ”

Terraforming is the deliberate alteration of an environment or climate on a planetary scale.

The first debate, “Transforming Mars” will feature:

Sir Arthur C. Clarke – Award-winning author of “2001, A Space Odyssey” (Clarke will take part via teleconference from his home in Sri Lanka)
Kim Stanley Robinson – Hugo & Nebula award-winning author of the “Mars Trilogy”
Greg Bear – Hugo & Nebula award-winning author of “Moving Mars”
Dr. James Kasting – professor of geoscience at Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Christopher McKay – planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center
Dr. John Rummel – planetary protection officer, NASA
Dr. Lisa Pratt – NASA Astrobiology Institute subsurface group, Indiana University

The debate moderator will be Dr. Donna Shirley, director of the new Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. Shirley is the former manager of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the original leader of the team that built the highly acclaimed Mars Pathfinder rover.

The debate is part of the Astrobiology Science Conference, which will be held at NASA Ames from March 28 through April 1. For further information about the conference, visit:


Future debate topics will include returning to the moon and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. For further information, visit:


For information about the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, visit:


To reach NASA Ames, take the Moffett Field exit off Highway 101. To reach the parade grounds, drive through the main gate, follow Clark Road and bear right onto South Akron Road. Attendees will be required to show a government-issued photo ID at the NASA Ames main gate.


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