Terraforming Mars would entail three major interlaced changes: building up the atmosphere, keeping it warm, and keeping the atmosphere from being lost into outer space. The atmosphere of Mars is relatively thin and thus has a very low surface pressure of 0.6 kilopascals (0.087 psi); compared to Earth with 101.3 kilopascals (14.69 psi) at sea level and 0.86 kilopascals (0.125 psi) at an altitude of 32 kilometres (20 mi). The atmosphere on Mars consists of 95% carbon dioxide (CO2), 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, and contains only traces of oxygen, water, and methane.
Since its atmosphere consists mainly of CO2, a known greenhouse gas, once the planet begins to heat, more CO2 enters the atmosphere from the frozen reserves on the poles, adding to the greenhouse effect. This means that the two processes of building the atmosphere and heating it would augment one another, favoring terraforming. However, on a large scale, controlled application of certain techniques (explained below) over enough time to achieve sustainable changes would be required to make this hypothesis a reality.
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