In Terra Formars, humanity is plagued by the “Alien Engine Virus” that no one knows how to cure and so a crew of Humans who underwent a procedure to gain extraordinary abilities from various animals in nature will travel to Mars to capture “Terraformars”. These Terraformars are highly evolved cockroaches which supposedly have a link to the virus and so it is hoped that through the study of the Terraformars, a vaccine can be created to save those infected with the virus from dying. When watching the Anime, I simply can’t help but think that there’s more to the backstory than what is described in the events that occurred in the story so far. Perhaps if we analyse the legitimacy of the science of Terra Formars, we might get some insight into some possible plot directions. If the predictions are off, it would still be fun to nitpick on the science in the story anyway.
The method to Terraform Mars can be summarised into 3 not so simple tasks.
- Generate a magnetosphere
- Heat up the planet.
- Modify the atmosphere
In the story, moss and cockroaches are sent to Mars in order to perform task 2 and 3. The dark colours from the cockroaches and genetically modified moss will gradually heat up the atmosphere while the moss will photosynthesise to take in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. There isn’t any mention of the first task, so I’m assuming that it has already been done. The reason why there needs to be a magnetosphere on Mars, is because the atmosphere is constantly being stripped away by the solar winds from the sun and there isn’t a strong enough magnetic field to keep the atmosphere in place. There are many hypotheses as to why there isn’t a magnetosphere, however that’s a whole science blog article to write so I’ll simply leave that open for discussion. Nevertheless, the magnetosphere is the first critical task that must be completed before the next 2 tasks even begin.For any plant life or moss to grow on Mars, there must be water that is viable for use, carbon dioxide and also oxygen. Not only does the moss have to photosynthesise to absorb the carbon in the atmosphere, it also has to undergo respiration as well like all plants do at night back on Earth. Given that the Martian Atmosphere is mostly Carbon Dioxide and only roughly 0.14% is Oxygen, not a whole lot of moss can grow even with genetic modification because of the low Oxygen concentration. The spread of the moss will be slow however the rate of spread will pick up as more of the carbon in the atmosphere is absorbed by the moss and more Oxygen is released into the atmosphere. Also considering the temperature of Mars is at -60 degrees Celsius, it would be very difficult for the moss to absorb any water as it would be frozen. Though I have my doubts about this theory because NASA has discovered liquid water on Mars. Cockroaches are also sent to feed on the moss and to have their dead bodies decompose into nutrients for the moss to feed on. Considering the low oxygen levels at the start of moss growth, cockroaches wouldn’t be sent at the same time, they’d have to be sent when the atmosphere has enough Oxygen for the cockroaches to breathe. So considering these factors it seems very unlikely that simply sending cockroaches and a bit of moss to Mars will heat up the planet.
While the idea is there for the moss and cockroaches, there has to be some pre-heating of the planet to melt the water for the moss to absorb. There are a variety of ways to heat up the planet ranging from importing greenhouse gases or blowing up a few hydrogen bombs. It has also been suggested that heating the planet will melt the dry-ice in the poles and release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus starting a sustainable greenhouse effect to keep the planet warm. So in theory, the moss will be able to slowly build up however this also begs the question as to why cockroaches are also sent to Mars. If the atmosphere is already warm enough, and the moss can survive on the martian soil without having to rely on the decomposed cockroaches that got their nutrients from the moss in the first place, then there really isn’t any point for cockroaches to be sent to Mars aside from somehow deliberately creating a mutant alien species in order for the plot of Terra Formars to happen. Aside from oxygen there are other gases such as nitrogen for food production, and an ozone layer to filter out much of the harmful radiation from space. The air pressure on the surface also has to be similar to that of Earth at sea level so humans won’t be oxygen-starved as if they’re at high altitudes on Earth. There may be many more variables to consider as well and so my dear fellow Terrans, that is something our generation and the future generations will have to figure out.
Evolution or Genetic Engineering?
You may have heard of the phrase “survival of the fittest” which basically is referring to the process of natural selection. On Mars there are many environmental pressures that the cockroaches have to adapt to and those who cannot adapt, will simply die out and those who can will pass along their desirable traits to the next generation. Over time more and more of the cockroaches with desirable traits will be able to survive the harsh martian environment. So how do these traits even appear in the first place? The traits occur via the mutations of a cell, put simply when a cell divides it makes “mistakes” when making copies of the DNA, and as the cells divide these mistakes are copied over, and many more mistakes can be made. Most of the time this makes changes that are make little difference, other times it can be beneficial or detrimental. You could think of it like repeatedly copying a set of instructions on how to build a certain organism over and over again without stopping to make any corrections. You would be making various errors on each attempt and eventually the errors will build up and the instructions will be very different from what you started with. If a mutation helps a cockroach survive in the environment it is in, it will likely be able to reproduce and its offspring will just as likely be able to survive as their parent. If a mutation hinders the cockroach’s ability to survive, then it would likely die out. This process is mostly random luck of the draw, and it’s very gradual, and 500 years is not going to be nearly enough time for cockroaches to turn into Neanderthal like muscle men.
Humans evolution from the apes was a process that took millions of years and 500 years is a blink of an eye compared to that timescale. It’s virtually impossible considering how cockroaches have 6 legs, whereas Terraformars have 2 legs and 2 arms, and how much they resemble humans rather than the disgusting insects they used to be. The better explanation for cockroaches turning into Terraformars is that they’re a result of genetically modifying a human zygote (a fertilised egg cell) to give it the traits of a Cockroach. If the scientists in Terra Formars, can create human beings who can transform into forms resembling their base creatures, then there’s no doubt that they should able to genetically engineer a cockroach/human hybrid. The research may take many years to complete given that the enormous difference between human and cockroach however, at the very least there’s a good chance for the research to take place before the cockroaches and moss are sent to Mars. I would even argue that these Terraformars were the result of a failed experiment that was the forerunner to the Bugs Procedure. It wouldn’t be surprising that cockroaches were chosen considering that they can withstand 10 times the amount of radiation of an average human, eat almost anything and continue to move for a short period after decapitation. These are some of the traits that can help create a genetically enhanced nightmare of an army for whatever nefarious purpose a nation might have.
So what would the backstory actually look like if the Terraforming of Mars was as described as above and the Terraformars were actually genetically engineered human/cockroach hybrids? First would come the heating of the planet and the moss being sent there to slowly convert the Carbon Dioxide into Oxygen. Then after there’s enough oxygen on Mars, the first Terraformars are sent there, possibly to secretly raise an army strong enough to conquer Earth. One of the significant points to consider is that the Terraformars can utilize the Bugs Procedure and that their human DNA is probably the reason that they’re compatible with it, otherwise it would be difficult to justify that somehow a treatment for humans can be used for cockroaches which of significant physiological differences. I personally think this backstory would be a far better explanation to how the Terraformars came into being and it could be included into the main story as a form of a revelational plot twist. If you consider all the theories, what do you think is going to happen next in the story?
I really hope Terraformars NEVER EXIST because I find them disgusting and creepy!
Good Luck, Have Fun!
~Hayashi Sora (林そら）
P.S. Most of this is based on simple scientific knowledge I view in my spare time from various sources such as Youtube and Wikipedia. This article is in no way educational and is just for fun. Please do your own research if you want a better scientific understanding.