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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 1:12pm

    I here there are already 3 Trump towers that are 3 miles high. Book now and bring warm clothes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 1:57pm

    No

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 2:21pm

      Re:

      Oh good, thanks. This comment was much more interesting than listening to three space experts dissect the subject from multiple angles.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve, 13 Dec 2016 @ 2:31pm

    Why Mars?

    Let's go to Ceres. Way smaller gravity well, easier water access, no storms (except the solar sort). What the hell is so great about Mars?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 5:14pm

      Re: Why Mars?

      Gravity.

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Dec 2016 @ 5:35pm

        Re: Re: Why Mars?

        Maybe it would be best to change and adapt to our new environment. It will be interesting to see what the monkey turns into next.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 11:11am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 2:49pm

    The human pestilence

    The human pestilence spreads beyond it's birth-world. Not a very good idea. We need to fix our shit before we infect other worlds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Durham, 13 Dec 2016 @ 3:10pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 13 Dec 2016 @ 4:12pm

    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.

    https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/rbsp/mission/fun-facts.html

    Technically feasible? Yes

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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 5:23pm

      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.

      But yeah, there'll be some days when you don't want to linger in the greenhouse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Personanongrata, 13 Dec 2016 @ 5:41pm

        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.

        https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/real-martians-how-to-protect-astronauts-from-space-radiat ion-on-mars

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 6:25pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 5:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Roger Strong (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 6:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

              Nonsense. We have a growing number of people who have spent a year in micro-gravity, much longer than the trip to Mars. Afterward they land in three times the gravity of Mars. They're neither killed nor incapacitated.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 6:46am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: 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.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Roger Strong (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 7:18am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

                  Solar flares last from minutes to a few hours. Taking shelter a couple times during the trip would not cause any significant lapse in their exercise routine.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 7:48am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

                    Interruptions to their exercise regimen caused by a CME can last for days.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • icon
                      Roger Strong (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 8:54am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

                      And...? It's still only a few days.

                      And you get much more warning time. Enough to get in more exercise BEFORE it arrives, let alone after.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 3:18pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Magnetic Fields and Radiation

                        I am not an expert, but I thought I read that it only takes a day or so of lost exercise for the effects to become apparent and once you get behind it is difficult to catch up.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 4:45pm

    Robots

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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