Red Planet Turning Green?

There's a new mission to Mars. But we're not talking about cute little robot rovers anymore.

CBS News Correspondent Jerry Bowen reports on a plan to turn the Red Planet into a green one – one that could support life.

"What we propose is to use greenhouse gases – the same ones that are currently on the earth causing climate change," said , a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology.

That's right. Earthlings are thinking of using the same toxic stuff already blamed for global warming here to put some life back on Mars.

Marinova says that the goal is to warm Mars enough so that the planet's south polar cap will evaporate.

Ever since Hollywood directors started yelling "Action!" B-grade science fiction thrillers have depicted a warmer, livable Mars.

Marinova hopes to turn those fictional accounts into reality. She has co-authored a NASA study that says it's doable – even if it's not understandable.

As Marinova explains it, the devil's in the details. And the little devil's name is octafluoropropane.

"This is our favorite molecule," Marinova said.

Octafluoropropane is a really nasty greenhouse gas that is the by-product of circuit board production on Earth. It is so powerful that in Mars' thin atmosphere, it would really pack a punch.

"Once we have a colony on Mars, they'll be having their own production and it'll be easy for them to produce these greenhouse gases," Marinova said.

It would take hundreds of years but eventually ice sheets would melt, grass would grow here, and temperatures would hit 50 degrees along the equator of the planet. Martian organisms might be revived too – if there are any.

The idea has made headlines worldwide – from Marinova's birthplace in Bulgaria to Beijing – raising questions of whether it's right to fool with Martian nature.

But Margarita Marinova has no doubts – and she's got even more plans.

"I certainly hope to be one of the first people on Mars," she said.

Marinova would be the Red Planet's very own weather woman. She doesn't forecast it – she makes it.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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