Techdirt Podcast Episode 102: Can We Really Colonize Mars?

from the where-no-one-has-gone-before dept

Elon Musk got plenty of attention recently for announcing his plans to colonize Mars. But that’s not exactly a new idea — so we wondered if it was really a different, exciting and realistic plan, or just a reiteration of the standard far-flung dream. To answer that question, we brought in three experts: Amy Shira Teitel (a space and flight historian and creator of YouTube’s Vintage Space videos), JPL’s Fred Calef (a Mars geologist and “keeper of the maps” for Mars rovers), and the New Space Intiative’s Tanya Harrison (who worked on Curiosity and several other Mars missions). The result was a fascinating discussion about Mars and whether or not we’re actually headed there any time soon.

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Companies: spacex

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Comments on “Techdirt Podcast Episode 102: Can We Really Colonize Mars?”

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Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Why Mars?


Colonization means having children. You want their bones to develop normally. The problem is that in micro-gravity we LOSE calcium from our bones.

We don’t know the minimum amount of gravity needed. The Centrifuge Accommodations Module would have done research on this, but its launch to ISS was cancelled in 2005. It’s sitting in a parking lot.

So all we can assume is that you want gravity as close to Earth-normal as possible to promote the kids’ bone growth. With Mars’s gravity being twice that of the Moon and 13 times that of Ceres, its the clear winner.

Eventually our colonies may have stadium-sized carousels with living quarters, schools and offices, tilted inwards and spinning to give a full 1G for children and pregnant women. But that’s further into the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Why Mars?

Ummmm – I know this is a waste of time but wth.

According to the theory to which you infer, man evolved from apes, not monkeys.

I realize detractors of the theory like to use monkey rather than ape, apparently this error on their part is comforting somehow although I still do not understand why.

I doubt you will around to actually see any of the changes which could occur as these things, in humans, takes much longer than your life expectancy.

Durham says:

WalMart on Mt Everest

Mars Colonization is absurd at its face.

Don’t need 3 alleged “experts” to discuss this silly issue.

Makes more sense to build a WalMart on top of Mt Everest… or colonize the bottom of the Pacific Marianas Trench. How about a railroad bridge from New York to London (?) — the technology exists now… it’s just a matter of time & money!

The entire US and Russian “manned” space programs were an outrageous waste of scarce economic resources. But nothing is too absurd or expensive for the space cadet/Trekkie “dreamers” when they are spending other peoples’ (taxpayers) money.

Personanongrata says:

Magnetic Fields and Radiation

Can you say cosmic ray bombardment and solar flares?

Any prolonged journey outside of Earth’s magnetic field into deep space will expose astronauts to lethal doses of radiation.

Life on Earth is protected by the Van Allen radiation belts.

Mars has a much weaker magnetic field in comparison to Earth thus allowing lethal levels of radiation to reach the planets surface placing any astronauts there in danger.

Technically feasible? Yes

Survivable for humans? No (at least with our current technology)

Personanongrata says:

Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

For the most part, the required technology is "a few feet of dirt over the habitat." We’ve also already located a few lava tube skylights.

Astronauts will not have the luxury of a few feet of dirt over the habitat while they zip through deep space in their shiny space ship.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

No, but we’re talking about colonies on planet surfaces here.

Sure, there’s some danger on the trip over. The ships will need “storm shelters” – an area in the center of the ship surrounded by its bulkheads and water and fuel and years worth of food. (Even the tiny amount of water in “dry” food is effective shielding.)

That doesn’t reduce the danger to zero. But it’s pretty good compared to the danger from real storms faced by colonists in the 1500s, and there were plenty of those colonists willing to take the risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Magnetic Fields and Radiation

“Sure, there’s some danger on the trip over. “

LOL .. danger, as in you will probably not make it there alive and if you do, you will not be able to land because your muscles have atrophied and your bones have whithered away .. it would kill you to land.

But yeah, lets convince some poor fool(s) that it will be glorious – idiots.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Magnetic Fields and Radiation

Those to which you refer were not forced to stay within the protective surroundings of their radiation room for extended periods of time, thus causing a lapse in their exercise routine … a condition that is highly likely to be encountered upon the lengthy trip to Mars. But do continue.

Anonymous Coward says:


In the podcast they talked about the inability to explore using rovers. One because of the time lag and two because they just can’t see like being there. But every other day we read stories about robots taking jobs and AI becoming smarter than we are. Where are these smart robots when we need some exploration done?

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