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Inhabiting Mars


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#1 toastywombel

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:10 PM

I am working on a new blog about inhabiting Mars sometime in the future. I am aware there are many issues we would have to confront before we could actually pick up and migrate to the red planet, but I would like to hear some suggestions from you guys, issues that might not be included.

I would say that the biggest problem is the fact there is no dynamo effect on Mars, thus limiting the ability of the Martian atmosphere to hold in certain gasses essential to life as we know it.
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#2 SH3RL0CK

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:25 PM

The cost of transporting even ourselves there (let alone the equipment needed for a colonization attempt) is prohibitive. For orders of magnitute less, we can very significantly improve Earth.

Which brings up the obvious obstacle that there is no reason to do this, even assuming we have (or at some point will have) all the necessary technology to do so. The opportunity cost is prohibitive.
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#3 toastywombel

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:49 PM

I believe there will be a reason in the future to move to another planet, how far into the future? I do not know. But population growth, the need for new raw material and expansion for survival are all reasons to consider going to Mars. Plus, Mars could also be used as a base to harvest minerals and materials from other parts of the solar system.

Of course the cost would be expensive, but humankind will eventually need to expand beyond Earth if we want to survive.

The moon is another good option, especially since the recent discovery of ice-water.
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#4 Sisyphus

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:49 PM

We wouldn't be transporting "ourselves" there, we would be transporting very few people. If the population of Mars is ever more than a few people, it will be through reproduction, not immigration.

And of course there are reasons for doing so, but they're mostly very "big picture" reasons. Survival of the species, etc. I will say that I find the "we shouldn't send people into space until we fix all the problems on Earth" argument extremely silly.

Anyway, things like thin atmosphere and no magnetic field are obstacles to unprotected life on the surface, but I would have to assume that any kind of terraforming effort would be extremely long term compared with living in self-contained habitats, anyway.
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I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

#5 D H

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 01:14 AM

I would say that the biggest problem is the fact there is no dynamo effect on Mars, thus limiting the ability of the Martian atmosphere to hold in certain gasses essential to life as we know it.

That's only a problem on the timescale of millions of years. On timescales of human concern, loss of atmosphere (what atmosphere?) isn't a huge problem. That parenthetical remark (what atmosphere?) represents a a *huge* problem. How exactly are you going to generate a planet-engulfing breathable atmosphere on Mars?

That is problem #1.

There's an even more basic problem, call it problem #0: What about life on Mars? This is an open question right now, one that has taken on bigger proportions since the discovery of trace amounts of methane and formaldehyde in the Martian atmosphere. Life on Mars may well put the kibosh on any grandiose terraforming plans. The Prime Directive and all that.

There's an even more basic problem, call this problem #-1: By the time we get to the stage we can even think of colonizing we will have to solved the basic problem of escaping a gravity well. WTF are we doing diving back into another one?


Two pieces of essential reading:

Astrobiology Magazine's Great Terraforming Debate, http://www.astrobio....aforming-debate

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. Yes, it's science fiction. This is a science fiction question, and the Mars Trilogy was/is one of the best, particularly if your political leanings are well left of center.


Addendum:
Neither of the above addresses problem # -1. You'll have to address that on your own.

Edited by D H, 16 December 2009 - 01:21 AM.

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#6 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 01:30 AM

Well, we have a very thin atmosphere, which presents problems for both breathing and radiation protection. No magnetic field means less protection from radiation as well. These are not the biggest problems, however. The biggest problem is actually getting there with the necessary equipment.

Some possibilities:
*Mars is colder than Earth,and with less sunlight. We can put very thin mirrors in orbit around Mars, reflecting sunlight onto the surface to warm things up.
*Mars has a very thin atmosphere. However, the poles contain a lot of frozen CO2 and other gases. Again orbital mirrors (or a heat source) can be used, aimed at the poles they will melt them and increase the atmosphere. The atmosphere will leak away over geologic timescales, so eventually we will need to do something else as well. As a bonus, the CO2 will help warm the planet.
*Mars has a very weak magnetic field, which lessens protection from particle radiation. My idea of a solution would be to put a couple of giant inductors on the poles, which will also serve as an energy store. See http://en.wikipedia...._energy_storage
*Industry. Yup, we need to take a whole bunch of stuff there to have any sort of mining and production capabilities, as importing everything would be prohibitively expensive. Mining equipment is heavy...
*Life support. Unless we want to wait very patiently to terraform Mars, we are going to need life support. And not the crappy ones we used in our silly simulation of a trip to Mars.
*Low gravity. Mars gravity is rather weak, but it is there. If the low gravity environment is not suitable for us, it is probably even worse than zero gravity, as making artificial gravity (by spinning) would be more complicated. Not to mention we again have a gravity well, making Mars a poor place to use as a launching base to colonize other portions of the solar system.
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#7 toastywombel

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 02:34 AM

Good points Mr. Skeptic, I have heard by some that Venus might be a planet which is easier to colonise if we lived in the upper parts of the atmosphere. Even mercury has been suggested. There is a small area near the poles that remains within a safe temperature range, and it would be very easy to obtain energy through solar panels. Also Titan, which is warmer than one would think because of tidal heating by Jupiter. Titan would be tough though because it is so far away.

Merged post follows:

Consecutive posts merged
As for the gravity well thing DH, why would it be hard escaping the Martian atmosphere, maybe I am missing something here.
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#8 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 16 December 2009 - 02:50 AM

The problem of a gravity well is that to get out of it you need to expend a whole lot of fuel, proportional to your weight. For earth craft based on chemical rockets, this fuel is necessarily the major portion of their mass at liftoff.

Without such a strong gravity well, we could use ion engines to leave, or carry tons more chemical fuels after leaving.

This makes planets and even moons very poor as a base for space travel to other parts of the solar system.
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#9 AOC

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Posted 21 December 2009 - 02:16 AM

With out current technology it is not possible to do a large scale immigration, but a small trip like the lunar missions could be arranged I believe, if it was necessary.

But in the future I almost guarantee it will be, 100 years ago anyone would have laughed about going to the moon.
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