I love watching science fiction movies where the colonists are able to transform the country side from something totally inhospitable into something totally livable. Its often referred to as terra forming but is it really possible or is it something we are presented in such a way we can suspend belief.
Is it real? Can we terraform at this point in time? Well, we have a lot of ideas right now, especially in regard to Mars but we really don't know HOW to do it.
Back in the late 1980's and 1990's a group of scientists crated Biosphere 2 which was an enclosed system to recreate Earths ecosystem. The idea behind this particular project is that if such a system was possible here, it would make it easier to settle on a planet somewhere. So this was build in Arizona with eight people willing to live there, sealed in for two full years.
About half way through the first year, the oxygen levels dropped significantly so oxygen had to be pumped in to make it livable again. They tried again but this time it only lasted six months due to mismanagement and the fact that two of the participants sabotaged it. The system has continued to grow while grow and the University is getting ready to conduct experiments on the system.
So we know that it is difficult to build anything that is totally closed but do we have the ability to transform a hostile planet into an habitable, livable place? Well, one has to have a way to create a breathable atmosphere, produce sufficient power or instigate a source for light so plants can be grown, breed plants capable of surviving the unique challenges of the new ecosystems.
In addition, how will the various components be transported to the target location? Where will the energy come from? Well there is the thought we should terraform Mars so we can colonize it but unfortunately, there are some serious problems involved with that.
The problems start with the fact that we'd have to modify the atmosphere, raise the temperature as its quite cold, improve the soil, get rid of the heavy metals, so various plants can be grown, adjust the amount of light hitting the planet, cause elements to combine to produce a serious source of water, etc.
This is something that cannot be done in a short time. It will not work like the Genesis project in Star Trek where they shot a bomb into it and everything instantly changed. This is something that is more likely to take a few thousand years.
There are ideas like using shells, etc but the reality is we are not advanced technologically to pull it off within our lifetime but it still makes it fun to dream about it and all the possibilities of what life could be like if we could properly terraform planets. It's all the what if's that makes life fun.