Terraforming Planets: Why and How

The term, terraforming, was first used by Jack Williamson in a science-fiction short story (“Collision Orbit”) published in 1942. Since then, there have been a number of serious scientific books and papers published on this concept.

Terraforming is the process of deliberately modifying the atmosphere, climate, surface topography and ecology of a planet or moon, to be similar to that of Earth. This would then allow human habitation in an environment much like that of Earth.

This short course is intended for anyone who has wondered how humanity could colonize alien star systems. Settling on existing “habitable” planets may pose significant bio-compatibility and ethical issues. Terraforming sterile planets and moons into Earth-like environments avoids these issues. However, this prospect raises numerous technological, biological, and additional ethical questions. This short course will address many of these questions and will cover “traditional” terraforming approaches as well as the new concept of combining geoengineering with terraforming to create new Earths in very hostile and unlikely places.


Ken Roy, P.E., is a retired engineer who lives and works amid the relics of the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge. He has published papers on technological speculation, terraforming, and space colonization in such venues as the Journal for the British Planetary Society, Acta Astronautica, and the United States Naval Institute Proceedings. He has published papers on new approaches to terraforming the planets of Mercury and Venus. His current interests include the history of the human struggle, terraforming, and geoengineering.