Terraforming is the process of making a planet more inhabitable than it currently is, and can refer to everything from the complex operations used to turn barren rocks such as New Suez or Callisto into inhabitable planets, to the careful world-shaping done to the Skrell homeworlds, or even the rejuvenation efforts of The Wasteland and Old Earth. Cripplingly expensive and requiring staggering amounts of resources, terraforming has been the nearly exclusive domain of humanity and the Nralakk Federation for much of its practical history and fell out of favor with much of the human Spur after the economic devastation of the Interstellar War and functional terraforming technology is rarely seen in the modern human Orion Spur. In the 25th century terraforming is thought by most as a depreciated science which stands as a reminder of a more forward-looking Spur that has long since faded into history. The near-legendary technology still sees use on a select few planets, where their age incurs heavy costs as well the threat of terrible dangers should they be left neglected.
Categories of Terraforming
Modern terraforming is generally classified into three groups based on the scale of the intervention: minor, moderate, and total. A fourth, known as biosphere restoration, is sometimes grouped into this group but is generally regarded as a separate, though adjacent, technique. It’s important to recognize that terraforming is not only an ancient, but incredibly varied science that was developed separately by multiple races and nations simultaneously. As such, the below are mainly guidelines for a Spur-wide understanding, and individual cultures may view
Low-Intensity Terraforming is the cheapest form of modern terraforming, though it remains extraordinarily expensive and impractical for all but the wealthiest stellar nations. Planets deemed suitable for low-intensity terraforming by the Solarian Alliance’s Department of Colonization were those which possessed environments naturally suited for human habitation without terraforming, and the techniques employed were intended to simply increase the planet’s productivity and habitability beyond simply acceptable. As a result it can be performed on planets with a current population but this is generally advised against, as even low-intensity terraforming can wreak havoc upon a planet’s climate while it is being performed. Larger Galatea Platforms were avoided in favor of simpler methods such as small-scale planetary, orbital, or sub-orbital facilities designed to manage individual regions rather than entire planets. Perhaps the greatest success, and best example, of this terraforming technique is Vysoka, where the Department of Colonization modified the planet’s soil to nearly universally be ultra-fertile black earth. While Vysoka’s original role as a breadbasket planet for further colonization efforts never came to fruition the Department’s techniques remain stable to this day, and have outlasted the Department itself. Other examples of this technique include Biesel, where earlier low-intensity techniques unintentionally devastated its native flora and fauna, and Eridani I, where low-intensity techniques intentionally devastated the local flora and fauna.
Low-Intensity Terraforming is far slower and more resource intensive in the Nralakk Federation, but can be implemented on inhabited planets without as much risk to colonists or the environment, making it the most popular form of modern terraforming in the Nralakk Federation as the nation focuses on increasing the productivity of its pre-existing colonies rather than expansion. Terraforming on this scale is most notably used in the ecological repair of Qerrbalak, which was on the brink of ecological collapse prior to the Skrellian space age.
Medium-Intensity Terraforming is, historically speaking, the least utilized of the three terraforming categories due to the legacy of earlier efforts on Mars which far overshadow the technique’s later successes on Persepolis. At this level massive Lebedev Engines, titanic devices situated at planetary poles and used to stabilize atmospheres, are employed, but the Galatea Platforms themselves are not. This level is intended to make a partially-inhabitable world fully habitable and is extremely expensive, and only the Solarian Alliance in its hegemonic era was able to effectively carry out these operations. Atmospheres are strengthened, temperatures are modified, and the native environment is almost always wreaked by devastation as a result. Performing Medium-Intensity Terraforming on an inhabited planet is a horrendous idea and the disastrous consequences of it going wrong are demonstrated no more clearly than on Mars, where out-of-control planetary terraforming equipment resulted in millions of deaths and requires decades of work to stabilize. Mars itself has never truly recovered from the aftermath of its terraforming disaster.
This terraforming category is seldom seen in Skrell space, being seen as morally questionable on worlds that are already inhabited by complex life and unnecessary when a barren world could just as easily be terraformed to the Skrell's liking instead. The only planet that still uses this form of terraforming is Aliose, mostly as a means to slowly warm up the planet to more livable temperatures.
Total Terraforming is the most expensive form of terraforming by far and has only ever been widely employed by the Solarian Alliance during its pre-Interstellar War hegemony where it claimed domain over more territory, and wealth, than any known entity in the Spur’s history. This technique is capable of turning a barren rock into a more-or-less Earthlike planet and requires time, great amounts of resources, and large amounts of advanced equipment. The Galatea Platforms were designed to carry out this terraforming in a time-effective, if stunningly expensive, manner and are the only system capable of coordinating atmospheric manipulation on a planet-wide level, though they must rely on the earlier Lebedev Engines to first create an effective magnetic sphere and primitive atmosphere. Planetside terraforming efforts are coordinated by the Galatea Platform but are typically carried out by smaller platforms in orbit and, at a later point, planetary facilities. The immense resources required are gathered by massive mining platforms in the designated system. Total Terraforming wreaks utter havoc upon the planet chosen for terraforming, causing freak weather patterns and often ravaging existing landmasses. Doing it in a populated planet is entirely out of the question and the Department of Colonization, which managed terraforming, never attempted such. Planets only partially touched by the Galatea Project, such as most of its targets in the modern Weeping Stars, have been left with devastating environments featuring extreme weather, and are commonly known as “storm worlds” throughout the Coalition as a result. Few settlements endure for long on one.
Skrell are the only other species in the Spur besides Humanity to both possess the knowledge and resources to conduct terraforming on this scale. Thanks to their extreme life spans, Skrell are more willing to take a "slow and steady" approach to completely terraforming a planet, making the techniques used less destructive, but far more time-consuming. Many previously uninhabitable worlds within the Federation were terraformed pre-Glorsh-Omega using AI-assisted platforms within their orbit. The sealing of the Tzqul Archive, along with a complete ban on using Artificial Intelligence, has made terraforming of this category less feasible for the species. Aweiji was a product of total terraforming, turning the planet from a hot, dry desert into a lush breadbasket central to the domestic food production of the Federation.
Biosphere Restoration is a dated technique developed by Zeng-Hu Pharmaceuticals at the behest of the Solarian government in order to restore the devastated environment of Earth following decades of industrial pollution during humanity’s pre-interstellar and early interstellar eras. More expensive and slower than contemporary terraforming techniques used by the Alliance, biosphere restoration’s major strength is its ability to be used on a planet where major populations are present, such as Earth. The technique has been, by all accounts, a resounding success and most of its facilities, which were universally ground or sea-based rather than orbital, have either been decommissioned entirely or converted into museums for all of humanity to enjoy. The Solarian government has revived the process in order to assist in the restoration of Mars following the Violet Dawn Catastrophe of 2462, and is rumored to be in negotiations with Zeng-Hu Pharmaceuticals concerning the restoration of Mars alongside Einstein Engines, but no allegedly involved parties have confirmed or denied these rumors. A similar process is currently underway at the behest of the Izweski Hegemony, for restoring the environment of Moghes following the devastation of nuclear war. While the aims of this project are similar to those of prior Solarian restoration efforts, it is largely based on K’laxan technology rather than human methods. Due to the phoron scarcity and ongoing famine in the Hegemony, restoration efforts have largely stalled for the time being - though their accomplishments remain on display at Camp Integrity, where Vaurca and Unathi scientists have worked to push back the harsh Wasteland.
While poorly documented by the Spur’s wider scientific community it has long been rumored the Dominian Core World of Alterim Obrirava was, long prior to its colonization by the Empire, touched by a terraforming technique unlike any utilized in the Spur’s history. But the Empire has long been hesitant to allow access to the planet, citing its strategic Helium-3 infrastructure, and stories of Alterim Obrirava’s unknown terraforming benefactors are more the realm of idle chatter between starfarers and voidsmen than investigation by researchers. The Empire has officially claimed all rumors of terraforming by an unknown alien entity are nonsensical, and the planet’s lush environment is instead a clear sign of the Goddess’ infinite generosity towards Her chosen people.
Terraforming requires immense amounts of equipment and resources, and infrastructure to support both this equipment and any associated resource gathering ventures. The Solarian Alliance, in its prime, designed and built much of the equipment utilized in human terraforming techniques to this very day. Much of this equipment has been mothballed or scrapped by the Alliance or its successor states in the years since the Interstellar War as terraforming is, following the War, simply not economically practical on a large scale. A significant amount of terraforming equipment was lost during the Interstellar War due to the current Weeping Stars region having been targeted for intensive terraforming by the Galatea Project.
One of the fundamental building blocks of modern terraforming is the humble Lebedev Engine, a massive piece of machinery which can trace its roots to the Soviet colonization of Pluto. They were developed from the large-scale gravity generators used on Pluto to give the planet, and its moons, a relatively Earth-like gravity despite the small size of Pluto and its moons. The Lebedev Engine is positioned at the poles of a planet and is designed to manipulate its magnetic field to assist in the crashing of a primordial atmosphere. They are also typically used to manipulate the planetary core in order to modify temperature and tectonics after this. The success of the Lebedev Engine is required to proceed to later phases involving the use of massive Galatea Platforms.
Once a planet’s magnetic field has been stabilized terraforming can proceed to use the massive Galatea Platforms which remain iconic symbols of the Solarian Alliance’s influence at its apex. A Galatea Platform is intended to centralize most of the rest of the terraforming process but is primarily intended to serve as an atmospheric modifier, effectively turning uninhabitable planets into habitable ones. Due to its massive resource cost the Galatea Platform has fallen out of use across the Spur, with the notable exception of the United Technocracy of Galatea, though the Alliance maintains several in a mothballed state. More can be read about the platforms and their history here [link to Sol history page].
While doubtlessly impressive Galatea Platforms require a tremendous amount of resources in order to carry out their terraforming efforts. The Brahma Planetary-Scale Mining Platform, a device so large it requires the use of a star to be effectively powered. The Brahma Platforms were intended to both assist the Galatea Platform by gathering resources and perform what the Department of Colonization termed “planetary scalpings,” — large-scale mining and terraforming where chunks of a planet’s surface were burnt off by the laser in order to expose minerals or reshape future oceans. Cripplingly expensive to operate, only the Federal Technology of Galatea retains a functional Brahma Platform. All others have either been destroyed or fallen out of use, with Hephaestus itself ceasing the use of these platforms in the mid-2300s due to intellectual property rights disputes with the platform’s co-creator Einstein Engines.
The Nralakk Federation uses a mix of terraforming methods depending on the desired result. The current focus on perfecting pre-existing colonies within the Federation means that planetary facilities that promote ideal weather conditions, iron-seeding to produce algae, and similar low-intensity methods are primarily used. Aliose is the only exception to this, as its lack of complex life and pre-existing Skrell population have forced the Federation to use more impactful methods to make the planet more habitable. Aliose previously used facilities that produced oxygen and greenhouse gasses, increasing atmospheric oxygen levels and warming the planet up to more tolerable levels. Today the focus is on intentionally increasing greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of giving the planet a similar environment to Qerrbalak.
In the past, the Federation also used what is known as "Seeding-Platforms", large, AI-assisted orbital facilities that would constantly change and monitor planetary conditions to turn barren planets into Qerrbalak-like worlds. The Seeding-Platforms would then be repurposed when their task was complete, usually as orbital spaceports or as a staging ground for future colonisation. These megastructures were used widely throughout Federation space, both before and during Glorsh-Omega's reign, but the reliance on AI in using these platforms and the locking of the Tzqul Archive means that they can no longer be produced or maintained.
Galatea Terraforming Platform
A truly massive design produced by the Solarian Alliance in the period prior to the Interstellar War, the Galatea Platform was humanity’s first attempt at the creation of a centralized system designed to coordinate the terraforming efforts needed to render a planet inhabitable by humans. Created directly in response to the complexity of attempts to terraform Mars, it was intended to serve as a command center for all aspects of the terraforming process in order to streamline the effort required to transform a planet into a livable environment. In addition to serving as a command center, the Galatea features gigantic facilities which directly pump gases and liquids into the planet’s atmosphere in order to carry out the process. Prohibitively expensive even in its heyday, the Galatea Platforms were built to ensure a stable future for the Alliance and its economy. Much of the platform’s equipment can trace its origins to Zeng-Hu Pharmaceuticals, which has long been viewed as an expert in the craft of terraforming. Their first tests, on Callisto and Ganymede, proved to be a resounding success and multiple platforms were built and sent to the Solarian frontier to create more worlds for colonization.
Unfortunately for the Galatea-class many of the platforms sent to the frontier were destined for a region of space now known as the Weeping Stars: the location of the most bitter, hard-fought fighting between the Alliance and Coalition where whole worlds, such as Gadpathur, were claimed by war. The large Galatea-class platforms found themselves choked of the supplies they desperately required to continue functioning and many crews, desperate to escape the ravages of the Interstellar War, fled back to Sol as soon as they were able. Coalition forces who seized Galatea platforms often had little clue as to how to operate their machinery and most were, by this period of the war, badly neglected and barely functional. The planets they were created to terraform, so prized by the Alliance, were left as half-complete ruins — uninhabitable maelstroms entirely unsuited for extended human habitation and barely fit for animals. With every Galatea platform sent to the frontier considered to be lost by the Alliance, it and Zeng-Hu were left with a huge bill which could no longer be paid off using the taxes of these terraformed worlds. Most remaining platforms, already expensive to maintain, were sent to the Solarian Navy’s boneyard around Uranus to be salvaged. Two, Galatea and Arcadia, were retained and remain in the orbit of Neptune, dutifully awaiting terraforming orders which will never come.
But the failure of the Galateas was not felt by all equally. Enterprising scavengers and governments have long picked at these ancient, hulking, and increasingly hazardous corpses, hoping to find some terraforming technology or technique within the massive cadavers. Many salvagers have met their end inside what was meant to create great paradises for humanity, and most find next to nothing in these hulks which have been picked over by decades worth of salvage operations, but some have been successful beyond imagination. Rumors, of course, endlessly swirl about “lost” or otherwise uncharted Galateas forgotten in the chaos of the Interstellar War that still contain the riches they were built with. Many theorize a major funder of Galatea salvage expeditions has long been House Volvalaad of the Empire of Dominia, which has been infamously tight-lipped about where the advanced techniques used by it to genetically engineered species and environments have come from.
Brahma Planetary-Scale Mining Platform
A titanic creation of the pre-Interstellar War Solarian Alliance, the Brahma planetary-scale mining platform is the single largest mining platform designed by humanity. Designed in a rare cooperation between Hephaestus Industries and Einstein Engines at the behest of the Solarian Alliance’s government the class is designed to, as the designation implies, strip resources from a planet at a planetary scale in order to meet the demands of the ever-growing Solarian Alliance of the 23rd century. The Brahma was designed to perform “planetary scalpings” wherein the upper layer of a planet’s crust would be burnt off by the extreme heat of its laser and made easily accessible for mining operations. The extreme power requirements of the Brahma-class mean its laser can only be powered using the power of a star, ideally a binary one, as the Helium-3 and fusion-based engines of the 2200s provided an insufficient level of power for its mining laser. It draws the star’s power via the use of a stellar scoop which syphons He3 from the star, and attempts to make this mechanism smaller than the massive Brahma scoop have failed. The Brahma was designed in response to the incredible resource requirements of the Galatea terraforming platforms designed to turn the worlds of the Solarian Frontier into Earth-like worlds for humanity, and generally accompanied the larger platforms on their expeditions into the region.
But much like the terraforming platforms they were designed to accompany, the Brahma did not have a happy end. The region most were sent to became the Weeping Stars and was consumed by war, as were many of these massive platforms. While not victim to the supply issues of the larger Galatea platforms the Brahma’s crews mostly abandoned their platforms and fled back to the Alliance as fast as they could. Many Brahmas were sabotaged by their crews in final acts of defiance and were often consumed by the very suns they were meant to draw power from, falling into their surfaces with very little effect on the stars themselves. Those rare platforms the Coalition did seize were often rendered inoperable and simply left where they were found, with the deep trenches they gouged into the surfaces of the planets below them standing as silent reminders to the Solarian Alliance which once was. Most functioning Brahma platforms are in Solarian space and are still used there. There they are hulking relics of an earlier Alliance, one freed from the machinations of corruption and corporations. Those rare platforms found in the Coalition are closely-guarded by their member states and rarely leave without a significant escort, if ever.
The abandoned ruins of Brahma platforms in the Weeping Stars have, like the Galatea platforms, long been picked over and looted by scavengers and governments hoping to find valuable supplies or long lost engineering secrets. Many an unprepared scavenger has perished inside of these decaying platforms which have been picked nearly dry over the centuries, but some brave souls still attempt to drag valuable materials out of the deepest reaches of the Brahma’s superstructure. There are, of course, rumors of Brahma platforms lost in the chaos of the Interstellar War which have laid untouched for two centuries and salvage expeditions are occasionally launched in attempts to discover these platforms. Many are funded by the mining syndicates of Himeo, which are never ones to pass up an opportunity to improve their techniques.
Examples of Terraforming
In the Sol System the Jovian moons of Callisto and Ganymede were the first test of the Galatea Platform’s ability to transform uninhabited rocks into perfectly habitable worlds. Highly publicized throughout the Alliance, the transformations of both moons into habitable worlds took a shorter amount of time than projected and the project was, by all conventional measures, a resounding success for the Galatea Project. Following additional, and far less publicized, terraforming work the moons were declared ready for habitation and remain important population centers even centuries later. The success of this terraforming initiative can be readily attributed to the Sol System’s large amount of gas giants and asteroids alongside its already highly developed infrastructure, which ensured the terraforming effort had no lack of supplies and readily available infrastructure to transport necessary equipment. Prior to its demolition the Department of Colonization’s headquarters in Guangdong, Earth, featured a large painting of a Galatea Platform above Callisto.
Mars is perhaps the least successful terraforming effort outside of the Galatea Project’s Interstellar War-related failures in the Weeping Stars region, and this failure has long hung over the Red Planet. While the Catastrophe of 2298 was ultimately caused by the neglect of simple technicians, what brought the Martian terraforming project to this point is far more complicated. Mars was initially terraformed using a slow form of terraforming which predates modern techniques and the Solarian government, frustrated by the glacial pace of Martian terraforming, eventually accepted a request by the Martian government to install then-modern Lebedev Engines in the mid 2100s in order to accelerate the process. These engines, which were still considered experimental at the time, were installed at the Martian poles in order to stabilize its thin atmosphere. Its designers, Soviet engineers who had pioneered the gravity generators of Pluto, advised against this. There massive structures were supported by a network of terraforming “relay” stations which managed the process on a more local level. Damage to these relays sustained during the Martian World War, and a lack of safety features at rhe engine, caused the process to go critical in 2298, sparking a disaster which would kill millions.
Qerrbalak is one of the most prominent examples of the Federation's use of terraforming. Skrell Industrial Revolution saw a rapid industrialisation across the planet, and the War of the Tides' focus on technological supremacy resulted in a unmonitored polluting of the planet. By the time Skrell approached their space age and began to colonise their moon, Qerrbalak was on the verge of ecological collapse. The three nations on Qerrbalak at the time brokered a treaty, which included an agreement regarding the moving of all industries off-world in an attempt to prevent total environmental collapse and draconian environmental policies. This agreement also established the terraforming project that would slowly revert the damage done to the planet, and over the centuries the project has been able to revert much of the damage caused during the early history of the Skrell. Qerrbalak's environmental restoration actually saw most of its progress during Glorsh-Omega's reign, where it sought to turn the planet into a menagerie for itself and its most loyal followers - though many historians in the Federation argue that its the momentum the project already had before Glorsh's takeover that allowed this progress in the first place. Despite the progress already made, the goal of the terraforming project is to bring Qerrbalak back to its pre-industrial state, and the Skrell stubbornly continue towards this ambitious, albeit potentially unrealistic goal.
Aweiji is considered a major success for the Federation. The once barren planet was transformed into a verdant tropical world comparable to Qerrbalak during it's pre-industrial era, and is now known as the Federation's breadbasket. Aweiji used a pre-AI version of the Skrell's Seeding-Platforms to terraform the planet from a hot, dry desert into the agricultural centre of the Federation that it is today. Due to the lack of AI and the early design of this Seeding-Platform, the process was considered quite destructive for the planet, resulting in the unintended side-effect of harsh tropical storms being prominent on Aweiji. Though there were no identified signs of life prior to terraforming, meaning no real devastation was caused, the unintentional weather was used as justification for the future iterations of Seeding-Platforms to require AI management, as well as explaining why the Federation is not willing to go back to the old designs in the modern day. The K'lax Hive, meanwhile, has taken the task of restoring the Moghes atmosphere in a different direction. While possessed of advanced technology, the Vaurca share few biological features with the other species of the Spur and have had to adapt much of what they understand regarding environmental re-shaping to accommodate their new air-breathing hosts. Consequently, the techniques utilised are highly experimental, and the Hive has in the past been accused by some Hegemony scientists of lacking caution when testing out a new hypothesis, a charge they vehemently deny. Thus far, the most notable effort has been the construction of "Growth Facilities" across the Moghes coasts. At the core of these facilities is a variety of the radiant-energy spire, a device used by the Hive on Tret to absorb ambient radiation for power generation. This serves the dual purpose of powering the facility and cleaning away the radiation. This collected power is redistributed to the water pumps of smaller towers nearby, which utilise wind turbines and a relatively mundane evaporative cooling system to release the chilled air into the atmosphere and generate even more energy, which can then be put back into the cycle. The concept is similar to a human downdraft tower, minus some of the more exotic tweaks made by the Vaurca. This technique has several advantages, primarily that, outside of the requirement for water, it is mostly self-sustaining and can turn a nearby desert into a humid jungle. It is not without its downsides, however, it's speed or lack thereof the most obvious. It would take a long time indeed for Moghes to recover through these alone.