As far as no one knows, Mars is completely devoid of life. We do not know if this has always been the case, but we know that modern Mars is a very hostile place due to cold temperatures and deadly radiation. When people finally arrive on the Red Planet, we may be able to change it, and a new study suggests a hint of how it can happen. In a new article published in Nature Astronomy researchers Explain how a thin layer of aerogel – a highly porous, virtually weightless material – can make the vast areas of Mars more habitable.
Scientists have imagined what would be needed to make Mars terraform in the past, and the general consensus is that elevating the surface temperature over the freezing point of water should be the first major step. Once water runs on Mars, we could really begin to modify the environment and maybe even make it viable in the future, but it's easier to say than to do.
Researchers in the latest study looked at how it could play the role of an aerogel. They created an experiment to simulate how the sunlight passing through the aerogeu's shield could change the surface conditions below, finding that the use of a layer of silicon airgel only 2 to 3 centimeters thick allows enough light to to plant photosynthesis while blocking harmful ultraviolet radiation
On Earth we are concerned about the greenhouse effect because it pushes the surface temperature of our planet to dangerous peaks. On Mars, a layer of aerogel can serve the same purpose. The layers of incredibly light material could increase the temperature in large regions, allowing the water to flow and the growth of the plants.
At this point, of course, this is very theoretical. The aerogel is real and may seem to be used to solve a major problem for future Martian settlers, but its production on the Red Planet (or its introduction from the Earth) is hardly worthwhile at this stage.