“Terraforming is a process of planetary engineering, specifically directed at enhancing the capacity of an extraterrestrial planetary environment to support life.”
-Martyn J. Fogg
Continual human inhabitation of the martian surface is a difficult but high priority goal of several national space agencies and aerospace firms. The difficulty of Mars inhabitation is comparable to that of lunar inhabitation. In consequence, reference designs for martian habitation structures (habs) have many similarities to those of lunar habs in scale, form, materials and methods. However, Mars habs can in theory break from this mold. They can be constructed along the lines of terrestrial structures if the surface of Mars – even a small region – is altered beforehand, rendering it more similar to the habitable surface of Earth.
The first, vital achievement of a regional Mars terraformation is the release of persistent liquid water.
On Mars, what must be done to enable construction of a freshwater lake for crewed mission use? The Lake Matthew Team has explored the physical and engineering challenges associated with this question. Obviously, Mars surface conditions make such a venture very hard to imagine. Hard, but not impossible. At certain low-elevation sites, and given certain underappreciated geophysical facts, it could be done, and within practical constraints of time, money and resources.
Even by 2036.
In the Lake Matthew design, sensible heat totaling one quintillion (1018) Joules is liberated by proprietary means into bedrock at the site. Bedrock is heated above freezing and ice melts into a persistent lake. The persistent heat and water simplify inhabitation, enabling construction of mass-efficient habitat and greenhouse for a crew of hundreds. At this scale Lake Matthew reduces the required construction cargo mass by 2/3 or more, relative to the mass required to scale published reference designs, such as NASA’s Mars Design Reference Architecture 5.0. This slashes the required number of heavy-lift launches, leading to very significant cost reductions for construction of a large facility.
Moreover, in the Lake Matthew micro-environment, greenhouse scaling would enable self-sufficiency in food, even stockpiling to provision all future crewed missions, planet-wide. Self-sufficiency and stockpiling are not attempted in reference designs, due to the tremendous difficulty of scaling greenhouses under near-vacuum. But at Lake Matthew, scaling and local provisioning would be feasible. Local provisioning could reduce every crewed Mars mission’s initial mass in Low Earth Orbit by over 90%. This would dramatically lower the cost of crewed missions, opening Mars to many national space agencies and aerospace firms.
The invention is a unique, unobvious and practical set of methods for terraformation. If mission planning begins by 2017, the Lake Matthew terraformation can be completed by 2036.
The Lake Matthew Team continues to refine its design, working to optimize methods for constructing Lake Matthew and realizing its benefits to crewed missions.
For additional information, please contact the Lake Matthew Team at