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.


Kenneth Roy is a retired professional engineer who is currently living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. As a long-time hobby he has been working with the idea of colonization and terraforming of distant planets and moons. He invented the “Shell Worlds” concept as a way to terraform planets and large moons well outside the star’s Goldilocks’ zone. In 1997, he made the cover of the prestigious Proceeding of the U.S. Naval Institute for his forecast of anti-ship, space based, kinetic energy weapons. He has published papers in JBIS and Acta Astronautica on space settlements and geoengineering. Kenneth is a founding member of the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) and remains active in that organization. He enjoys reading science fiction, history, alternative history, military history, and books on terraforming.