Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drunks

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

More Mars

Posted by on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 8:06 AM

Match this new image from Mars...

  • NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

With this experiment on Devon Island...

The Mars Society recently sent seven people to Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic to simulate a martian colony. For four months they lived in a “tin can” habitat, wore space suits when venturing outside, and ate freeze-dried food. They could communicate with Earth, but there was the same time delay Mars colonists would experience. They also gained 39 minutes each day, since Mars has longer days than Earth. Participants conducted science experiments, but also were experiment subjects: their sleep patterns were studied, as was their water use. The overall experience must have been good because one of the participants, Kim Binsted of the University of Hawaii, enthusiastically said she would volunteer for a real Mars mission.

A trip to Mars, however, will not be like a trip to the moon. What goes to Mars will most probably stay there...

The riskiest parts of space travel are the take off and landing, and by not coming back to Earth you reduce your risk by half. You also reduce the amount of zero gravity you are exposed to during space travel, which has significant hazards for health. Mars is the second safest place in the solar system, said Davies, and lava tube caves would make a good protected habitat.
Mars' atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide; Earth's is less than 0.05%. Meaning, the atmosphere on Mars is dead, and Earth's is life. I can't understand how any scientist can imagine a macroscopic animal or plant existing outside of life.


Comments (21) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
"Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution, we call it life."
Posted by DOUG. on August 28, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
Michael of the Green 2
They have greater imaginations.
Posted by Michael of the Green on August 28, 2012 at 8:52 AM · Report this
@1 Too be fair, so do plants.

I recall reading a plan to terraform Mars that involved releasing CO2 stored in the ground to thicken the atmosphere then seeding the place with algae and other CO2 breathing things to convert some of it to Oxygen. It'd take for fucking ever but nothing beyond our current technology.
Posted by giffy on August 28, 2012 at 8:55 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
@3 Utter nonsense. No point whatsoever. And humans have no need going to Mars. Our robots can do better, longer. I hope soon they will also fly on Mars to have extra mobility. We just shouldn't waste lives and money doing silly things.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 28, 2012 at 9:03 AM · Report this
Charles Mudede 5
I agree with 4 completely. mars must be the planet of our robots.
Posted by Charles Mudede on August 28, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this

It's that sort of short-term thinking that will doom humanity to extinction, because soon or later (as in roughly the next 1,000 - 2,000 years), we'll be looking at a high probability of a major asteroid strike on earth. All it would take would be a 1 km diameter asteroid to achieve the equivalent of the "extinction event" impact that killed off the dinosaurs - and most of the rest of life here - about 65 million years ago. And then there's the havoc we're wreaking on the planet ourselves; hell, at the rate we're going, we won't need to worry about getting hit by an asteroid. But regardless, if we haven't gotten ourselves off-planet and into some sort of permanent settlement situation by the time that happens - goodbye human beings.

Mars is the only truly viable candidate for such a colony in the solar system, due to availability of resources, particularly water (it's there, but it's not going to be easy to extract), and its ability to protect humans from cosmic and solar radiation, considerations that are much more problematic with purely space-born habitats. 2,000 years may seem like a pretty leisurely time-frame, but there's a huge amount of work that will need to be done to prepare Mars for even a moderate-scale human presence; the sooner we get started on all that, the better our chances of survival.
Posted by COMTE on August 28, 2012 at 9:37 AM · Report this
Man Charles, you really need to bone up on your science.

Earth's early atmosphere had almost exactly 0% oxygen. It did however, have a tremendous amount of CO2, and it stayed that way for a few billion years until all of the happy photosynthesizing organisms could oxidize all of the iron out of the oceans. And it's a good thing that there was so much CO2 and so little oxygen, because oxygen was a deadly waste-product of early life. Oxidization gives you cancer.

So yeah, CO2 does not equal death, especially if you're looking at things other than today's Earth.
Posted by i wish charles would stop trolling us on August 28, 2012 at 9:38 AM · Report this
Mars lacks a magnetosphere. It will never be suitable for human habitation.

Better off negotiating our own problems here on Earth than attempting to tackle a whole new set of problems on another world.
Posted by Central Scrutinizer on August 28, 2012 at 9:47 AM · Report this
Charles, Mars is really cold. It's not completely frozen due to all the carbon dioxide. What makes you think that carbon dioxide is dangerous to life in general? Greatest extinction in Earth's history was when oxygen started getting released. There's a real poison, extremely flammable too. Yet life adapts.
Posted by Sean on August 28, 2012 at 9:49 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 10
@6 Why, if we're so interested in life on Mars, did we not land on the ice cap where there is at least a slim chance of life? Why in some crater? And why don't these craft have little helicopters with cameras? When it comes to being shortsighted, NASA has some explaining to do.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 28, 2012 at 9:51 AM · Report this
Charles Mudede 11
@7, you need to bone your reading skills. did i not say macroscopic life?
Posted by Charles Mudede on August 28, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Report this
prompt 12
@11 Large quantities of CO2 are necessary to create large amounts of O2 which are necessary for macroscopic life. What @7 said was totally correct, especially before the advent of aerobic respiration.
Posted by prompt on August 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 13
The asteroid belt is calling ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on August 28, 2012 at 11:13 AM · Report this
I think the current problem with helicopters or flying probes on Mars is twofold. First is the transmission delay between earth and Mars is at least several minutes if not longer. This delay would make flying a remote craft from earth very difficult. The other problem is that Mars has numerous rather violent wind/dust storms.
Posted by Senor Guy on August 28, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this

Mars' "ice caps" are actually frozen CO2, so I think you're pointing in the wrong direction there. Besides, getting a space craft into a polar orbit is a pretty tricky procedure even here on earth; trying to get one into a polar orbit around Mars and successfully deploying a landing vehicle in addition is just several orders of magnitude more difficult.

Besides, if you want to search out evidence of past (or present) life on Mars, the polar caps aren't necessarily the most ideal locations. Preferably, you'd want to get into the deep canyons, such as the Valles Marinaris, where slightly higher atmospheric pressure, combined with the potential for geothermic energy, would make for more congenial conditions for life to exist. But, accessing those, particularly with tele-robotic probes, is very problematic.

Just one more reason to support sending humans to Mars...
Posted by COMTE on August 28, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
Cascadian 16
@8, the lack of a magnetosphere is a problem, and Mars has no way of generating one even with terraforming (at least with conceivable technology). On the other hand, Venus also lacks a magnetosphere yet has a thick atmosphere, so this factor might not be a total deal-killer.

We'd have to perform some grandiose experiments (if you can even dignify them with the word) with diverting water and more CO2 in large quantities to the surface of Mars and trying to develop an atmosphere that can support simple plants. It's probably easier to use smaller-scale resources within controlled environments in an attempt to make a station sustainable. I suspect that in any reasonable time period (tens of thousands of years or less) it won't be possible to support human colonization of the solar system without Earth, so the idea that we can outlive the destruction of life on Earth is probably impossible within this solar system.

A more plausible long-term survival strategy would be to send robots to a planet with an identified human-supportable atmosphere with pre-programmed instructions (and some degree of soft-AI) that would enable them to gather resources from the local environment without human intervention and use them to build a human-friendly environment. With advances in biological engineering/nanotechnology, they might even be able to create artificial humans from local materials. If it's possible to encode human consciousness as data, then we could even create bodies designed to hold the minds of people alive on Earth, so it would be a kind of reincarnation of another planet, with an illusion of continuity for the target. Small robots with the necessary data and the minimal assemblers to bootstrap the process could be sent to every identified potentially habitable planet. Many would fail but some would not, and that would help keep our species going for quite a bit longer than otherwise. If this idea is even possible then it will be centuries from now. But that's better than the multi-thousand year terraforming strategy that still shackles us to a single solar system in the end.
Posted by Cascadian on August 28, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Unregistered User 17
@4 How exactly do you decide what is worth doing and what makes you the ultimate authority?
Posted by Unregistered User on August 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Teslick 18
@10 & @14: Mars' atmosphere is 1% as dense as Earth, so flying of any sort will be difficult. The density problem was why Curiosity couldn't just deploy parachutes to slow down for touchdown.
Posted by Teslick on August 28, 2012 at 1:07 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 19
@17 It's just my opinion. Please feel free to ignore it.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on August 28, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Sandiai 20
Hey you guys! this looks like stratified sedimentary rock such as that which forms along the banks of a deep and huge body of water that filled a crater for millions of years! That's kind of new and important. Just thought I'd mention that. Also the picture shows evidence of plate tectonics in the distant past, since the layers are tilted slightly relative to "sea level."

As far as colonization, lichens can live in a CO2 environment with very VERY low atmospheric pressure, and they slowly produce oxygen. Plant them in a Biosphere II of sorts on Mars and in a few hundred years we could move in.…
Posted by Sandiai on August 28, 2012 at 8:27 PM · Report this
I don't get why Charles is the "Science guy" at The Stranger. He can't apparently even google the faq from NASA as to the intentions of the mission:…
Posted by fotoeve on August 29, 2012 at 12:59 AM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy