Columnist Leonard David

Make Mars Livable with Asteroids: Researchers Propose Terraforming Plan

Make Mars Great Again
Mars as it would look with a big body of liquid water on its surface. (Image credit: Michael Carroll via Chris McKay)

A research team has devised a plan to make a portion of Mars more Earth-like by slamming an asteroid into it.

This Mars Terraformer Transfer (MATT) concept would create a persistent lake on the Red Planet's surface in 2036, potentially accelerating Mars exploration, settlement and commercial development, the team said.

"Terraformation need not engineer an entire planetary surface. A city-region is adequate for inhabitation. MATT hits this mark," the Lake Matthew Team, the group behind the idea, wrote in a press release last month.

The proposed Mars Terraformer Transfer (MATT) plan makes use of a satellite called Shepherd to steer an impactor into Mars. (Image credit: Optonicus Corporation)

Key to the plan is a "Shepherd" satellite, which would steer an asteroid or other small celestial body into the Red Planet. That impactor would inject heat into the Martian bedrock, producing meltwater for a lake that would persist for thousands of years within the warmed impact zone, Lake Matthew Team members wrote.

"Whereas prior designs of habitation structures (habs) were limited to thousands of cubic meters, MATT habs can scale to millions of cubic meters — stadium scale, or greater," team members wrote in the press release. Furthermore, the impact site's treated lake water would be sufficient to cover and protect subaqueous domes, the team added.

Mars' Omaha Crater site has abundant ground ice to fill and refill the crater’s Lake Matthew. (Image credit: Lake Matthew Team)

"With scaling, the first Mars habs transition quickly into settlements, with capacity for self-sufficiency, even provisioning of expeditions worldwide," the press release said. "This cuts the Earth-shipped cargo mass, and the expense, of crewed missions."

"The MATT Shepherd's long mission ends with a small adjustment of the satellite's orbit, placing it into a Mars-resonant orbit that is a bit like an Aldrin cycler orbit," team members told Inside Outer Space. (An Aldrin cycler is a spacecraft, proposed by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, that cruises repeatedly between Earth and Mars.) "This positions the Shepherd for retrieval by the colonists at a later date, notionally for museum display on Mars."

For more information on the group and its Mars Terraformer Transfer (MATT) idea, go to:

Leonard David is the author of "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet," published by National Geographic. The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel series "Mars." A longtime writer for, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+.  This version of this story was posted on

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Leonard David
Space Insider Columnist

Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard  has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He has received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.