Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Mars likely to have enough oxygen to support life: study (phys.org)
234 points by daegloe on Oct 23, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 209 comments

AFAIK, the ability to tolerate oxygen is an advanced property of terrestrial life — the simplest, oldest life forms were totally unable to survive in the presence of oxygen.

The Great Oxygenation Event [0]. Arguably the planet's first mass extinction.

To say that nothing we have done to the planet is as bad for the environment as the Great Oxygenation Event would be to pat ourselves on the back for not literally poisoning the atmosphere.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event

Geologist here. Yeah, there are a few places you can find microbial survivors of the GOE:



Obligate anaerobic photoautotrophs: they photosynthesize, and need light to survive, but don't produce (and are killed by) O2. Unfortunately for them, post-GOE, there aren't many habitats that are anoxic but still have much light!

There's at least one clade of "green sulfur bacteria" that apparently lives off the basically-invisible glow from a black smoker at a mid-ocean ridge: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1166624/

fascinating stuff!

PBS Eons is a great youtube channel on Earth's biological history. It's very well done stuff. Their 'Purple Earth' video is a good layman's intro to some of the per-oxygenation earth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIA-k_bBcL0

The early biological history of Earth has a few 'Colored Earth' phases: Red-Purple-Green-White-Blue(hypothetically).

Not only that but it's possible that life surviving in the presence of oxygen might be a rare occurrence as far as life goes. One of the reasons terrestrial life is mostly aerobic might be because we're all the very few survivers of the Great Oxygenation Event which killed almost all the life on earth. If something like that didn't happen in the history of evolution in other planets, they might not have evolved to ingest oxygen.

Mightn't this indicate that life on Mars is less, not more, likely than we thought? Respiration is complicated, so I would expect any life that might have existed on Mars to be anaerobic. If there's actually enough oxygen to support aerobic life, that doesn't bode well for any anaerobic life, does it?

Geologist here. I would tend to agree, considering that present-day oxidizing conditions on mars are generally thought to be due to photolysis and hydrogen loss, not life/photosynthesis, e.g.: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ast.2013.0999 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001910350...

Heck, Mars is so oxidized it has soils that are 0.5% perchorate: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perchlorate#On_Mars and that stuff's so oxidizing it's not even common on Earth outside of fireworks and rocket propellants

What are the current thoughts on what caused oceans on Mars to disappear (with some remainder concentrating in ice caps)? Was it some impact of a really big meteor/comet? It is accepted that Mars used to have liquid water oceans and rivers in the past, correct? You can see geological remains of rivers and oceans, for example, quite clearly on Mars.

It seems increasingly likely that there was originally quite a bit of liquid water on Mars during the Noachian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noachian) and Hesperian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesperian) -- the Martian geological time periods more or less contemporaneous with what we call the Archean Eon on Earth. It's not clear that this would have been quite as extensive as "oceans" yet, but it's definitely possible.

As to why the water was lost, it basically all boils down to "Mars is too small". Too small to have a strong gravitational field that makes escape velocity hard for gas molecules to achieve, too small to have enough primordial+radiogenic heat driving a magnetic field to protect from solar wind, and too small to have primordial+radiogenic heat to drive plate tectonics and the silicate weathering feedback (https://doi.org/10.1029/JC086iC10p09776) that stabilizes liquid water on Earth on billion year timescales

As for how: ions and molecules reaching escape velocity. For water in particular, a lot of this would have been through hydrogen escape, which actually happens on Earth too (just slower). If you photolyze H2O, it's very easy to lose the H because it's so light, thermally or by solar wind, etc. There's more info on the how here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_escape

That's why those schemes for terraforming Mars seem so unrealistic. In order to sustain an atmosphere over the long term we'd have to keep dropping ice comets down the gravity well. There's no way to make it self sustaining.

ugh, mars lost that atmosphere over millions and millions of years.

if we can smack enough comets into it to accomplish anything in the first place, then the maintenance is trivial.

oh, forgot about this paper (https://www.nature.com/articles/nature05873) which makes a pretty reasonable argument for paleo-shorelines on the northern basin of the Martian dichotomy. If this is correct then it'd be entirely reasonable to call the body of water responsible an "ocean"

Mars gravitiy is not strong enough causing it to very slowly lose gases to the solar wind. Water vapor included.

Yep! Plus the lack of a magnetic field, which is largely also due to Mars being too small, and losing heat too fast to have any liquid metal convecting in the core anymore

I wonder if it's the solar wind or just the escape velocity vs. the termal escape.

I'm sure in a couple of centuries humans would be able to build superconducting magnets powerful enough to shield Mars from the solar wind (those would double as energy storage as well), but we can't do anything about the fundamental properties of gases and escape velocity.

There's a bit of comparison of the two (thermal vs. non-thermal escape) here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_escape#Thermal_esc... but I don't know the relative proportions on Mars. There have been some recent studies of the xenon isotopic composition of the paleo-Martian atmosphere that might provide a bit more insight, and in particular suggest most of the loss happened early: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X1...

So how can we Terraform Mars to make it like Earth then? It seems impossible due to the gravity being so small. Even if we melt ice caps and get liquid water running again, it will slowly evaporate to space? How could a colony on Mars then be self sustaining with this problem?

As the other reply mentioned, this is a millions of years sort of problem. But there are two straightforward solutions. First, in the new atmosphere make sure there's enough oxygen to breath so that an ozone layer forms. That's something we want to do anyways. Also, give Mars a magnetic field. That's a stupendously large but straightforward engineering problem, sort of like terraforming is in the first place but smaller.

Definitely a problem long-term, but we'd be talking in millions of years at least

I never understood why colonizing Mars is needed.

Even if a meteorite hits Earth or Yellowstone erupts, Earth would be more "hospitable" to life than any other planet in our solar system because Earth has a lot of resources that are right under our noses: breathable atmosphere, radiation shielding, easily mined metals and organic matter.

It's much easier to build and maintain a bio-dome in the Sahara desert, Arctic region, Cheyenne mountains or underwater than on Mars.

Earth at it's worst is much better than anywhere else in our solar system.

>I never understood why colonizing Mars is needed.

Personally I see quite a few positive things behind colonising Mars.

I think it's not about having a "backup", it's not about resources (or in a really long time) it's about the challenge.

If we can put our best engineers to solve how we re-use and recycle water, how we grow crops in extreme condition, how to control the O2 CO2 cycle (at a larger scale than on the space station), how to engineer a space craft that survive such harsh conditions we will end up with:

- technology to help our crops on earth

- technology to help with our water crisis

- technology to build sturdier structures

- international collaboration, that usually keep engineers from working on mass weaponry (The USA/Russian space program is actually motivated by exactly that: keeping the rocket scientists busy instead of working on ICBMs)

Mars just happen to be a goal silly enough that we'll get interesting discoveries and advances that I can't even foresee.

Another way to keep engineers busy and force international collaboration is to have a common threat. For that I believe the asteroid threat is both a real enough threat and a good subject to work collaboratively.

It's kind of like learning how to program when you don't have any task to complete. Especially for a data store of some kind. If you've ever tried to learn SQL, even if you've got an example database, you'll find it's incredibly difficult not because the syntax is all that difficult or the logic is particularly daunting. No, you'll find it's difficult because you don't have any questions to answer. You'll feel, "Okay, now what?" When you try to make up a question to answer, it's difficult to tell if you're answering the question correctly. You need the focus that a real problem gives you. You need the guidance that understanding what the data means gives you (or someone else) to know if your answer is right or wrong.

It's easy to see what a tool is designed to do. It's very difficult to see what a tool can be used for and why you might want to use it that way, let alone when you might want to deviate from that or find alternatives due to limitations or new requirements. Or when you might need entirely different tools.

We learn best when we're working on a problem. Just like going to the moon required solving a lot of problems which led to major advancements in the 20th century, going to Mars, colonizing Mars, and colonizing the moon have even more challenges.

Goals give research and development a clear purpose beyond, "I dunno, make something people want that we can sell."

I'm saving this answer. Love it.

Not to mention that Mars gives humanity an opportunity to improve skills essential to expanding to other solar systems.

Besides the obvious - large-scale terraforming - a "practice" settlement of Mars gives us an opportunity to innovate and refine practically every engineering skill, form of social organization, or general skillful endeavor in humanity's repertoire.

Metallurgy, genetics, geology, farming, medicine, psychology - all of these fields are bound to discover new phenomenon and methodologies under the constraints and conditions of an alien planet.

Not to be glib, but necessity is mother of invention. And there is no necessity as powerful as the drive for survival.

There's an old sci-fi idea, that if I recall Carl Sagan agreed with, that we should be working to colonize Venus now (which I believe "now" meant the 1970s at the time), because worst case if the greenhouse effect spirals out of control unstoppably (as climate change predictions have feared since the 1970s), surviving on Earth is going to be the same problem as colonizing Venus.

Others already mentioned benefits for us currently living humans.

Long term it is also interesting from an evolutionary aspect. Humans communities on earth are less and less isolated from each other, making it near impossible to evolve in different directions. That increases the risk of getting stuck in a bad local optimum.

Gravity well's are an isolating factor. Living on mars will require a highly isolated economy producing essential goods. Once that prove of concept exist can it be reproduced everywhere else in the solar system (or beyond).

Those communities would not be subject to many of the tragedy of the commons situations we have here on earth with our shared ecosystem. No climate change. No plastic in water. No gene manipulation. Hell, you can even build a space station for only white people, if you are into that. Down the line, we'll see what works best.

Earth being that highly interconnected / -depended makes it more peaceful than ever, so war might become a problem again. Communication is still somewhat easy, so working together will likely still be beneficial.

> Humans communities on earth are less and less isolated from each other, making it near impossible to evolve in different directions. That increases the risk of getting stuck in a bad local optimum.

That is not how evolution works. You want more mixing to increase fitness, not less. Small, isolated populations are notorious for harboring deleterious genetic variants that decrease overall fitness.

> That increases the risk of getting stuck in a bad local optimum.

This is an important concern, but I don't think it really improves on a space colony. To make it habitable the pool would be limited by size - and worse - by heavily controlled environment.

I don't think you can really "justify" extraterrestrial colonization on critical, legible, practical grounds. There is no roi.

The real, immediate reasons are inspiration related. Some of that gets very practical, though it's always at least speculative. Technological spillover, for example, can be justification in itself. Earthen solidarity is maybe another, and I do actually think that the existence of a few of us elsewhere helps form the concept of "us." Both of these are "on mission" in the sense that they might be key to human survival.

Anyway... Mars colonization is a horizon goal. It's something to focus our minds. Practical activities are dictated by minor goals (eg visit Mars, generate energy locally, etc). A self sustainable mars colony that can survive earths vogon destruction is so far ahead that it's more of a symbol than anything.

We didn't have true practical reasons for going to the moon, or for the ISS either. The main reason is (imo) that space faring is a human mission, for its own sake.

No matter what though, I dont think space faring is something you could sell to your conservative money manager. It's imagination dependant (and inspiring)... a job for da Vinci, not Medici.

I can't see any path to colonising the galaxy that doesn't start with colonising the solar system. It's always going to be a long term project, there are always going to be things on earth that look like more immediate priorities, but I want humanity to spread among the stars, and if we don't start now then when?

Personally I think colonizing planets is a waste of time. There's plenty of minerals and water in asteroids and other space junk, and they don't have large gravity wells to deal with. When it comes time to think about colonizing other star systems, it's going to take a really, really long time to get to them and we'll have little idea what their worlds are like. Seems to me it'd be better to work on colonizing space itself, because you'll pretty much have to anyways to make interstellar travel viable, and once you've done it there really isn't a good reason to live on a planet instead unless it happens to be a lot like earth.

Isn't a planet just a big spaceship with things built in? You can dig inside it for things, you don't need to capture asteroids, planets can travel through space and have a protective shield - the atmosphere, and Earth is already traveling at huge speeds, which are at very least on the level with the fastest spaceships we can currently make. Sure guiding a planet maybe harder than a spaceship made specifically for that purpose, but all the benefits of having resources right underneath, and planets are a proven space ships, with billions of years of testing, no man-made spaceship can match that for billions of years.

> planets can travel through space and have a protective shield - the atmosphere

Most worlds in our system don't have a significant atmosphere, most of those that do have too much of it. Like gravity, atmosphere also poses a problem for getting back to space.

> no man-made spaceship can match that for billions of years.

Not unmaintained, no, but if it was unmaintained that probably means everyone who lives there is dead anyway.

> Personally I think colonizing planets is a waste of time. There's plenty of minerals and water in asteroids and other space junk, and they don't have large gravity wells to deal with.

I more-or-less agree with this much, but the most suitable place to start learning to colonize space rocks is probably Phobos.

Humans are terribly designed for space exploration: die quickly, require sustenance, can't handle high G forces, can't handle radiation.

I always believed that if humanity is to colonize something, it would be through robots that do all the exploring and mining for us.

Humans were terribly designed to cross the Atlantic by swimming as well, but we designed boats so eventually we did.

Yes, robots are a cheaper and more reliable way to explore and extract resources but I doubt mankind will be happy with just that. We like to explore, and expand, and face challenges so I'd bet that no matter the setbacks or price tag, we will eventually prefer to do this things in person.

As an alternative: we could even redesign ourselves for space exploration if needed be.

Humans can physically swim from Eurasia to the Americas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynne_Cox

As to your wider point, the ability to breath oxygen and have long term fat stores makes an Atlantic crossing very easy. We moved from one palace with humans to another place with humans, hardly a massive feat of engendering. Meanwhile people in far more primitive craft ended up living in Hawaii (2,200+ miles from the nearest land mass) of all palaces.

Astronauts have traveled further on the moon on the three missions that included the Lunar Roving Vehicle than all our mars rovers managed combined.

If you give a mars rover a command, it takes an average of 12 minutes for that command to reach mars, and another 12 minutes for the confirmation to come back. That makes remote control very hard, and we aren't all that good with autonomous robots.

So until we figure that whole artificial intelligence thing out humans are a much better bet for getting significant amounts of science and mining done than robots.

The rovers we've sent to Mars weren't designed to travel great distances. Autonomous rovers built for maximum travel distance would be pretty easy except for supplying them with enough energy and protecting their delicate parts from the elements. Both problems are harder for humans, even on a one-way mission.

What's wrong with low G tolerance for interstellar travel? If speed of light is ~310^8, 1G ~ 10m/s^2, you would need (ignoring reletivistic effects) 310^7 seconds to reach the speed of light. There are 86400 seconds in a day, so you would need ~347 days to reach the speed of light if you were accelerating at 1G, were it not for relativistic effects.

Except relativistic effects are at play and iirc we don’t have “permanent” acceleration tech.

> iirc we don’t have “permanent” acceleration tech

Which is exactly why low G-tolerance doesn't matter. You have a limited amount of delta-V, whether you apply it all in one go or spread out over a year makes little difference given the timescales that are already involved in interstellar travel.

Humans may also be the best at handling what you stated. You’re comparing us to robots but if you say humans were designed then our collective knowledge limits us to 1 at present. So we’re the best and worst.

Humans build tools though.

more and more it sounds like the raw materials we need are available in the places we’d like to colonize - except energy. I’m starting to wonder whether once we have moved past fossil fuels if colonization beyond earth becomes dramatically easier.

You're assuming colonization is needed, when in reality we are just another species and are nothing to the universe on the cosmic scale. And yet, relative to the pointless wars and countless trillions spent primate-posturing, putting humans on a second floating rock is just as, if not more, sensible.

For me, it's something inspiring, a grand adventure, and may allow us to confirm the presence of life outside of our own globe. That alone would pay the cost of tickets, since shattering the illusion that our globe is the only one endowed with life by a creator, that is an outcome devoutly to be wished by rational beings.

What about an impact like what formed the moon? If the entire crust liquifies, I have a hard time believing it would be easier to survive on lava-earth than Mars.

You might enjoy this 4 minute video of Dr. Robert Zubrin giving three reasons why we should go to Mars.

I find it very inspirational/motivational to re-energize my focus on my own work, even though I'm not working on anything Mars related:


I concur. It's an interesting endeavour though - which mashes well with humanities impulse to progress and push the boundaries. Not everybody cares about that, but there are enough dreamers that marvel about humanity becoming an space faring civilization. The demand for science fiction is proof of that.

However, I personally don't understand why everyone wants to land on a dirtball that has a fraction of earths gravity. It will be crippling for the human physiology and pretty much precludes travel back to earth after a few generations of adaption.

I'd much prefer to build rotating orbital space stations that provide 1G centrifugal force. Easier on the body, better view out the window and no need to enter/escape gravity wells all the time. The dirtballs can be colonized by robots that don't care about gravity that much and can harvest resources for the stations.

Not that I have a say about this at all.

It is a very good point but consider Mars as a stepping point with very different conditions from the ones you can find on the desert. Gravity for example. Isolation, communication difficulties, technological difficulties that we need to overcome if we are to colonize other parts of the solar system.

I am surprised that as travel to Mars is becoming more of a reality, there are not a lot more folks trying to reach Mars for commercial gain.

I am correlating this back to when the Europeans are going around the globe and colonising every land mass they can land on. Why are should Mars be any different?

As Elon Musk said you could have crates of cocaine on the surface of Mars ready to be transported back to Earth and it would still make more sense to buy it locally. It's just too expensive right now. Future spacecraft might change that but as with everything else this will come with scale and this scale right now doesn't have enough customers to justify itself.

Bringing a ton of gold to Europe from South America is waaaaaay cheaper than bringing a ton of anything to Europe from Mars.

>Earth at it's worst is much better than anywhere else in our solar system.

Today, yes. But the first step to terraforming a dead planet is to colonize a dead planet. If we take the first steps and commit to our colony there, maybe someday we can have a second Earth.

Indeed, but you are forgetting that Earth also has the biggest threat of them all... Humans

but you are forgetting that Earth also has the biggest threat of them all... Humans

So will any place we colonize.

Well in the absence of government regulations you could populate the new place with clones of yourself and institute a personal theocracy.

A Little Prince fantasy?

I don't think there is contention in saying that it is a better place to live than earth in any circumstance.

Rather, I think it is the power of the process of a global collaboration in what would be the most exciting adventure for humanity in a generation. Us embarking on such an adventure would lead (I think the majority) of people to consider the importance of a "global" perspective and would probably be good for people to treat others better and make countries less likely to kill each other over seemingly "trivial" matters.

If we colonize mars, and reach the point where we have a full fledged society there it can act as a means of quickly recovering from a catastrophe on earth. The benefit of a fully functioning city/nation sending resources to assist a ravaged earth would boost earths recovery time if the worst were to happen.

Secondly, it acts as a separate bed of innovation. On earth we solve for earth problems, on mars they would solve for different problems, potentially leading to scientific and tech breakthroughs we would otherwise overlook.

On the time frames we ought to be planning on I see Mars as a scientific research base and waystation on journeys further out. In the long run population growth is going to start back up again as the genes people who desire kids in the modern world prosper so it'd be nice as a source of living space, though really O'Neil cylinders are the real solution there.

Much like the space program [1], colonizing Mars will be a focal point for developing technologies for improving life on Earth.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spinoff_technologies

http://www.basicknowledge101.com/subjects/space.html has interesting details about Earth e.g. Earth day was only 6 hours long 4.5 Billion years ago

The same reason you do hello world before proceeding to more complex software engineering.

Sort of agree - BUT I would think that colonizing the moon would be a better bet than Mars (for now). Less travel, easier to supply and we can still prove out stations, growing food etc

> Earth would be more "hospitable" to life than any other planet in our solar system because

That's a false statement. A large enough meteor could cause a sterilization event.

> I never understood why colonizing Mars is needed.

For the same reason in tech we have backup servers, HA clustering, disaster recovery sites, etc. A bit of redundancy helps in case something goes wrong.

> Earth would be more "hospitable" to life than any other planet in our solar system

Currently, sure. But other planets, especially mars, can be terraformed and made habitable one day ( it would take hundreds or thousands of years ).

> It's much easier to build and maintain a bio-dome in the Sahara desert, Arctic region, Cheyenne mountains or underwater than on Mars.

Sure but a terraformed mars can support more life eventually.

> Earth at it's worst is much better than anywhere else in our solar system.

The same goes for siberia, alaska, canada, etc. There are far more hospitable places to live on earth than those places. But people still explored, migrated and settled. It's human nature.

Edit: Not sure why I'm being downvoted but if anyone is interested in a talk of mars colonization, here is an interesting TED talk.


>I never understood why colonizing Mars is needed.

Correct, but short-sighted.

However much Earth has, we'll quickly gobble it all up.

To quote Bartlett : "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."


The only way out is up, and the first stepping stone is the Moon, next is Mars.

Neverending exponential growth is not possible through space colonization. We can grow at most as the surface area of a sphere that expands at the speed of light, realistically much slower.

In sufficiently long term, it is not entirely correct, because colonized planets will eventually start sending out colonizers themselves.

That doesn't work. They'll only reach places already colonized.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

In which case the second greatest must be to assume that all growth is exponential.

Setting a moon base would teach us things quite a lot faster than going to Mars because of the distance and close proximity to earth. The moon is different than Mars, i know, but Mars would come up next after this. I think space travel would be much easier if started from a moon base due to the low gravity. A disaster on Mars would delay this project by a few centuries. Let's make small firm steps.

But it may not have enough carbon dioxide:


there are other, significantly more effective, greenhouse gases.

I thought the absence of a magnetosphere would mean that any atmosphere would be stripped away by solar radiation anyway?

Over millions of years.

Things I know about Mars:

>No oceans

>No plants

>No phytoplankton

>Massive planetwide dust storms lasting several months

>Average surface temperatures at or below freezing

>Space suit required

Things I know about Earth:

>Drinking water falls from the sky

>Food grows on trees

>Breathable atmosphere

>Clothing optional in most areas

>I can feel actual sunlight on my face every day

To be fair, most of your Earth facts don't apply to the more inhospitable areas of Earth, where people live anyway. The Sahara and the Arctic both feature a breathable atmosphere. The Arctic is missing the other four items. The Sahara will let you feel sunlight on your face if you want, but it isn't really recommended.

"Breathable atmosphere" is a much bigger deal than everything else.

True, and heat. We can tolerate heat better than cold, also from a technical perspective. Heat can be used for energy production as well.

Our comfortable temperature is around 25°C. Let's set that as our baseline. In dry conditions we can bear about 90°C above that for a few minutes and only about 20°C above baseline sustained. In comparison we have many permanent settlements where days 75°C below baseline are a yearly occurrence.

If we talk about the more humid climates found in much of Europe and the US, the weaker members of our society start dying on days just 15°C above baseline.

I think we handle cold much better than heat.

From a technical perspective, no. It's easier to heat a dwelling from -100 degrees Celsius than to cool a dwelling from boiling, or above, temperatures.

To produce energy you need a temperature gradient.

But surely terraforming a barren wasteland is going to be easier than terraforming a (relative) oasis of life!

But in all seriousness, the point of colonizing Mars is not to be a replacement for Earth (although redundancy is quite motivating).

It's because colonization and population growth has been our MO for the last 200,000 years.

But, why fixate on turning one planet into “habitable” while we do the opposite to the one we are already on? I’d like to see us address those issues of society first before we spread our influence across the literal galaxy.

We have to start somewhere that isn’t earth. Interstellar travel over the next 100-1000 years will be a requirement for the next 5000-10000 years if humans expect to survive that long. Starting development now to understand terraforming and building out the primitives that allow for it in the future is something we owe to generations to come.

If you're arguing species-level survival, really we're going to survive longer than that, short of a meteor strike or maybe nuclear war.

Sure, 99% of the population might die, the equator could become uninhabitable, and we might lose advanced tech in the ensuing wars, but it'll take much more than climate change to completely wipe out homo sapiens.

We do need to be colonizing other stars within a quarter billion years or so though. The sun won't last forever!

> We do need to be colonizing other stars within a quarter billion years or so though. The sun won't last forever!

If we don't start now, when? It's the kind of thing that you can always put off for another million years.

We should have done it a million years ago. Once we had fire and the ability to sharpen rocks, there's no excuse not to start colonizing the galaxy.

We spread as far as we could, with the technology we had at the time. Going over the next hill, over the next ocean, and so on was for the best even when we hadn't fixed all the problems at home.

I think the important part is the survival of a technological civilization. It's unclear whether we'd ever manage to reach the current level of development again if we happened to lose it for a few generations.

>Sure, 99% of the population might die, the equator could become uninhabitable, and we might lose advanced tech in the ensuing wars, but it'll take much more than climate change to completely wipe out homo sapiens.

Why? Tons of other species have been wiped out very easily, and they didn't even contribute to their own demise as much as we did.

I think it's mostly because the same abilities enabling us to do so much long-term (self-)destruction in slow motion will enable at least some of us to always be able to conquer the immediate threats to survival.

No other species on the planet has attained a comparable ability to bend the environment to its needs like we have. Everything's had to evolve to live in differing conditions. We start fires, invent and build air conditioners, etc.

Tons of other species have been wiped out very easily

Most of them due to an external force they could not begin to comprehend actively or accidentally trying to kill them (ie humans). Also we are on the whole smarter, more creative and better with tools than they where.

they didn't even contribute to their own demise as much as we did.

The fact the we actively contributed to our (potential) demise gives us a massive head start in that we understand and can see the problem coming in a way no other species could. Realistically anything that could wipe out humans would have to be something so completely alien and beyond our current understanding or control that we cannot even currently imagine it. Basically anything we can comprehend we can control for and counter.

Capitalism is built on the belief that ownership creates value and thus entitles owners to some portion of the value created in perpetuity. In a free market profit should be driven to zero through competition. As a result capitalism requires constant growth.

And so in the same way 'it is easier to imagine the end of civilization than to imagine the end of capitalism' the idea that we could survive for even a year without exploiting the planet beyond steady-state seems so unrealistic as to not be mentionable.

I am going to ask the philosophical question that is practically begging to be asked:

Who cares?

If no one is around to care, then who will care?

Suppose we do discover ABC and achieve XYZ, if at some point things end then no one will be around anymore to care. So what was ultimately the point of doing any of it, I mean long term?

Eventually everything will end in the physical universe. What’s the point of escaping the sun’s growth and keeping things going for a billion years versus 10 million years?

Humans will be very different. Will they even be considered human? In a few generations, cyborgs may start to replace humans and computer data can be cheaply replicated and thus the idea of self-preservation and “the self” may change. In that case, what is the goal of a hive mind?

But I would ask the question about even the next generation. Why do you care what happens when you’re not around? Maybe you care out of empathy. But I don’t see how you extend that to 50,000 years in the future.

Most people don't care about the future of the species in the scale of thousands of years. But the accumulated effects of our individual selfish desires add up, and we can then say that humanity cares, even if that's just for the short term. And when all this adds up in 10k years, we will claim that humanity engineered their future, even though it wasn't a grand vision or anything like that.

I may not care individually about the specie or the planet, but I suppose all our desires/visions/goals add up in an objective sense. If that makes any sense.

>Interstellar travel over the next 100-1000 years will be a requirement for the next 5000-10000 years if humans expect to survive that long.

Given the mechanics, interstellar travel will most likely always be a pipe dream, because techies still have to believe to some fairy tales...



Nuclear pulse propulsion[1] was deemed doable with 1960's technology and can accelerate several hundred tons of payload enough to reach the nearest stars in a couple of generations. This doesn't require any magic, just lots of money and nukes.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_pulse_propulsion

It also requires:

1) the ability to avoid debris at those speeds (which would obliterate the ship) 2) to survive radiation, 3) the nearest stars to be of value life-support wise, 4) a couple of generations to pass, 5) us not to hear back from the mission for years upon arrival,

So, a more far-fetched version of solar system exploration, with the next steps even further...

Did you expect it to be easier than solar system exploration or what? The engineering problems have plausible solutions: You'd need a lot of water anyway so a shield of ice can handle debris, the ice, together with the ship's own mass, also shields radiation quite a bit.

This is pretty different from a "fairy tale" and not addressed at all by the blog posts you used as arguments.

Unless you are moving at near light-speed, where a proton is already a problem, debris do mostly not exist in space. If you want to reach one, you'll have to target, and even then it's hard.

Hello I just wanted to say that out of the infinite numerical odds of you not existing, you are sentient, alive, breathing, and sharing someone’s journal, human.

“If u breathin u achievin”

  ㅓㅁ.먀 - ㅌ

>Hello I just wanted to say out of the incredible numerical odds of you not existing, you are sentient, alive, breathing, and sharing someone’s journal.

Numerical odds are not the same as laws of nature like e.g. the speed of light or the economics of the energy required and so on. Odds are quite low to win the lottery too, but someone always does. Few have travelled faster than the speed of light though (superman comes to mind), or any other of the many physical limitations to overcome.

And the fact that we went from carriages to planes doesn't guarantee any continuous growth to interstellar travel. Not the fact that we're "ingenious" (whatever that means) or that we "really want it".

Plus, I'm not even sure about the odds being that low (for all we know life can also be easy to develop over time as long as they have some basic conditions, similar to which we know tons of planets in the universe to have).

But sure, no actual on-topic arguments needed, whatever keeps the faith alive...

The irony is being alive and breathing are impediments to traveling the galaxy. Sentience is kind of a hassle when you have long spans of travel time, as well.

I agree with this entirely. I don't think we will be jumping in starships and shooting ourselves all over the universe.

I think some form of self replicating technology we create will be dispatched en masse into the universe where it will float around for millions of years relying as much on probability as anything and blindly utilise resources as it goes. It will have no intelligence, just programmed to reproduce itself. And we will be the scurge of the universe.

I don't think 5-10k years is a major risk and doesn't require interstellar travel. I think we have closer problems on the horizon to deal with.

Hey, we already doing interstellar travel. At some point, we will reach an another star and even another galaxy (Andromeda).

Also, there is lot of planet size bodies between us and nearest stars. I expect 10 planets with mass of Jupiter between Solar system and Alpha Centaur system, or 1000 planets with mass of Earth. We can colonize them one by one.

Why??? Why downvoted? What wrong with this site?

I really doubt it’s that critical to get to another planet. Or at least, if it is, we could correct that without leaving ie start treating this planet with a little respect.

Because a fresh start allows us to try out different ways of running societies and escape established structures. It's so hard to change things in established systems.

I think there's pretty good historical evidence of this. The establishment of the USA is an example.

It can be a good way to, over time, enact change within the established societies.

A similar argument can be made that the unique technological challenges involved will spur innovation that will again help deal with problems in the established societies.

I live in the central pacific. Out here, ecological collapse is real and happening now.

>Massive coral die off from ocean acidification.

>Rising sea levels salinating farm lands.

>Rising sea levels causing saltwater contamination of aquifers.

>Falling fish populations due to above factors as well as over fishing and pollution

And then we have the space-people telling us that Terraformed Mars is achievable/desirable/affordable when I'm not even sure my family will be able to grow food on our land in 40 years.

I'm sorry to hear you're going through that. However, the fact that there are pressing problems here and now does not invalidate the argument I gave.

Perhaps taking your frustration out on the people who don't even believe climate change is real, and not the people looking to move humanity towards the stars would be more productive at getting people to care about these issues. Not the ones who have dedicated their careers to a certain scientific pursuit.

> ... when I'm not even sure my family will be able to grow food on our land in 40 years.

I'm sorry. You won't. It won't get better. Please move before everyone starts moving.

Eh I’m not convinced. “This rewrite will be different, we will make all the right choices!”. Next conversation “it’s just wrong in different ways”.

Like you’re right, the inertia of established countries probably holds us back a lot, but I’m unsure that we have evolved sufficiently to do better. It’s possible to imagine, but it doesn’t seem like an obvious outcome just yet.

Despite what we hear in the media, the world has gotten so much better in many ways in the last couple of hundred years. That's not to say there aren't big issues, or no things that have gotten worse, but there's a clear and very strong overall trend.

See for example

The Better Angels of Our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity, by Steven Pinker https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/...

Or the first chapter of Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, by Rutger Bregman https://www.amazon.com/Utopia-Realists-Build-Ideal-World/dp/...

The world has gotten much much better in some ways (health, longevity, child-mortality, education, economy, violence).

But it has also gotten much much worse in others (environmental destruction, military capability).

We can't just focus on one aspect and neglect the other. One doesn't take away the magnitude of the other. The magnitudes of the bad as well as the good are both enormous.

> We can't just focus on one aspect and neglect the other

Who is doing that? I said "That's not to say there aren't big issues, or no things that have gotten worse, but there's a clear and very strong overall trend."

When you look at the magnitudes it's clear that overall the direction is overwhelmingly in the positive direction.

You say it has "gotten much much worse in others (environmental destruction, military capability)". I agree in the case of environmental issues. But if you're talking about wars and violence (and in what other sense could military capabilities be bad?) things have gotten much better not worse.

> When you look at the magnitudes it's clear that overall the direction is overwhelmingly in the positive direction.

No, we are quickly and increasingly progressing towards depleting all our means for life on Earth. And our current response to that is massively inadequate. This nullifies all other progress.

> and in what other sense could military capabilities be bad

With more military power it becomes easier to oppress and harder to revolt against bad politics. Democracy relies in some part in the potential of people to revolt.

> No, we are quickly and increasingly progressing towards depleting all our means for life on Earth. And our current response to that is massively inadequate. This nullifies all other progress.

All our means for life? That's hyperbole.

It's a serious problem, but it doesn't allow you to pretend that all that progress hasn't happened and hasn't made a difference to people's lives.

> With more military power it becomes easier to oppress and harder to revolt against bad politics. Democracy relies in some part in the potential of people to revolt.

It's unclear what you're referring to. Are you saying there has actually been greater oppression because of greater military power? That this has increased over time?

Wouldn't a self sustainable pod in Antarctic or the bottom of the ocean be the starting point?

And you'd start a settlement on Mars just because you don't like some of the social systems?

just buy yourself an island from a govt somewhere, that would be cheaper and far more manageable.

The difference I think comes down to a few things.

- One is that it is a hell of a lot harder to cheat on Mars than it is in the remotes of Earth. Once you establish the outpost, its not like you can just call in a maintenance team and have assistance at your door within a few days. This forces teams to find ways to make it work. This also makes it much harder for changes in leadership to cancel the mission.

- The other is that developing tech for extraordinarily hostile remote environments tends to produce more potent solutions because the cost of not being sustainable is so much greater.

To echo the previous post, why Mars? Why not the moon? Why not the Lagrange points? Why not the upper atmosphere of Venus? I'm not saying no to Mars, but there's plenty of other frontiers we should be looking into, some of which are better candidates in terms of proximity or more similar gravity.

There are a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is that Mars has the greatest chance of being a self sustaining civilization in a fashion that's somewhat close to Earth standards. The major negatives on Mars are unbreathable low pressure air, and radiation dangers. Those are big negatives to be sure but outside of that:

- Near identical day/night cycles to Earth, and it even has seasons.

- Extremely calm weather. One thing some may not know is that the 'sand storm' used to create the precipitating disaster in 'The Martian' was intentionally faked. Mars minimal atmospheric density means a hurricane would feel like a slight breeze. That a hard sci-fi book had to turn to complete fiction to create a disaster scenario speaks for itself.

- Extensive mineral and elemental resources. Another issue 'The Martian' got wrong was accidental. One of the big problems that was solved in the movie was finding water. This was before Curiosity discovered there's water everywhere. You can get about a liter of water from a single cubic foot of Martian soil. And of course the atmosphere is loaded with CO2. That's not only what plants crave, but you've also got great potential there for something like the Sabatier reaction which combines CO2 and hydrogen to produce methane (which can be used, among other things, as rocket fuel) with water as a byproduct. Of course you can even just split the CO2 into carbon monoxide and oxygen -- this will be one of the critical experiments on MOXIE, part of NASA's Mars 2020 rover. We haven't been able to discern the exact mineral resources, but there's no doubt they're there - and vast.

- It's big. The surface area of Mars is oddly enough near identical to the land area of Earth above sea level.

- Comparable temperatures. The moon ranges from -260 to +280 degrees fahrenheit. By contrast Mars ranges from -195 to 70 degrees. And there are seasons. That -195 on Mars is during winter on the poles, granted that 70 degrees is on the equator during summer. But in general there are many places on Mars where the temperature would regularly be quite reasonable at many times.

There are many other reasons as well. These are mostly just off the cuff, though it's obviously a topic I'm invested and interested in. By contrast when you look at places like the Moon, really it's only benefit is that its close to Earth. But in terms of potential and environment, the Moon is to Mars, as Mars is to Earth.

Venus is not as cold and unprotected as Mars:

- Very dense rich atmosphere, carbon dioxide 96.5%

- The pressure at its surface is equivalent to that at a depth of nearly 1 km under Earth's oceans; while it is 20 times less dense than fluid water

- It is the closest planet to Earth and has similar mass and size

- It has stable constant surface temperatures everywhere at any time around 450 C

Most semiconductors will not work in this conditions. This is the problem we may need to solve first.

Settling on the Moon first would certainly be the more logical and cost effective starting point.

Once all the techs have matured on the Moon then Mars is just a longer trip.

Robert Zubrin argues that Mars is a much better target than the Moon. A summary of the argument is in the second paragraph of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_for_Mars#Risks_confro... The full details here: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Mars-Plan-Settle-Planet/dp/14516...

The Moon is right next door. It is obviously a much better ground to learn to live in a self-sustained way on another planet.

He writes "It is ultimately much easier to journey to Mars from low Earth orbit than from the moon".

His argument is completely different and unrelated and not the point at all. No-one is arguing about where to start a journey to Mars from. The point is that settling on the Moon is an obvious first step.

> The Moon is right next door.

Yes it is.

What benefit do we get from this?

It means we could go there more frequently. I don't see why that itself is reason enough for it, once you consider all the other pros and cons.

It does not mean it requires less fuel to get there. The fuel requirements are primarily for getting into orbit. Once there it doesn't really matter the distance you travel.

> It is obviously a much better ground to learn to live in a self-sustained way on another planet.

It is not obviously so. The wikipedia link I provided goes into this a bit, and Zubrin goes into much more detail in his book.

If it's so obviously better, why don't you outline the reasons why it's meant to be better.

> The point is that settling on the Moon is an obvious first step.

But you haven't argued this point, aside from saying it's closer to us and asserting that "It is obviously a much better ground to learn to live in a self-sustained way".

Because mars is a dev server. Earth is prod.

Mars is the remote backup, but it's empty. Now that's a terrifying thought.

simulation operator issues `delete earth`


When we start on Mars, with a difficult challenge, make a bit of headway and then wipe-it out for some short term benefit on Earth, then it can serve as an object lesson.

Surely that will convince us to conserve life on earth when none of the other obvious arguments seem to do that convincing.

Space exploration is simultaneously a legitimately hard problem to solve with strict and unforgiving parameters, a blank slate socially speaking, and inspiring. It has served for many years to fuel innovation that would not otherwise happen. It is worth pursuing for that reason alone.

Imagine for a moment that tomorrow we create a technology capable of safely and completely filtering out all unwanted greenhouse gases from human carbon emitters tomorrow, and then expelling them into space - all for a price that was practically $0. And now consider what would happen following that. It's not like suddenly we'd be living in a world where everybody's happy and peaceful with no outstanding issues. Instead we'd just promote one of our countless other issues to the top of the zeitgeist. Maybe rising cancer rates, decreasing fertility rates, increasing mental/psychological disorder rates, increasing obesity rates, decreasing educational outcomes in certain nations, maybe it's just the whole slew of issues afflicting places like Africa, or whatever else. Whatever it is, it'd be something. And it'd be pretty grim.

Taking in mind that we'd simply come up with a new clear and present enemy #1 to focus on, would you then suddenly become supportive of interplanetary colonization just because humanity's contribution to climate change was curbed? We will always have issues, and indeed dire issues.

If the scale is from Mars to Earth, then we are doing nothing to make the Earth measurable less habitable than it is now.

> But, why fixate on turning one planet into “habitable” while we do the opposite to the one we are already on?

Because we will eventually turn this into an inhabitable and will be needing a new one, you stupid. :D

But seriously, "saving the planet" makes us less likely to expand (expansion needs some gradient where the new place has something better than we have here), so why would life want that?

I always wonder why people think that there's so much money you can take away from space exploration R&D when the whole sector is basically really tiny and funded on a comparable magnitude of public broadcasting in some countries (e.g. NASA's yearly budget of 16 billion EUR vs. Germany's public broadcasting budget of 8 billion EUR).

The discussions ensuing about the usefulness of space exploration are always passionate and of course argue the humanitarian point of using that money to better our planet before doing anything somewhere else.

How much combat ship, Nth generation fighter, railgun and hypersonic weapon R&D do you get for the same price?

> NASA's yearly budget of 16 billion EUR vs. Germany's public broadcasting budget of 8 billion EUR

Please note, every household in Germany pays a special tax, so called "GEZ TV tax" which is approximately 250 USD per year per household. Additionally, every company, every small business in Germany pays 250-44000 USD per year (depends on how many people are employed by this business).

Fair point, I'm German myself so the public broadcasting budget could just be inflated - the yearly budget of the BBC is about 6 billion iirc.

Still, it's a drop in the bucket against the military budget of the US.

Well people often argue that part of the reason we're making this planet inhabitable is because there are too many people on it, so they have a fanciful notion of moving some of those excess people to another planet. which is sort of nonsensical.

However spreading your species across two self-supporting planets makes a planet ending catastrophe less likely to destroy your species.

The knowledge gained from any large engineering/science project is often applicable in unforeseen ways, although I have to think it should be easy enough to see how doing a trial run making mars habitable might translate into ways to save the Earth from becoming inhabitable.

I doubt outside of gamma ray bursts if anything can actually wipe out all humanity. And even then, a nuclear bunker on the Earth is far more habitable than any non settlement.

In fact, I'll argue that any money spent on vanity Mars settlements is going to save more lives in a calamity if it is spent helping developing countries lift people out of poverty.

> although I have to think it should be easy enough to see how doing a trial run making mars habitable might translate into ways to save the Earth from becoming inhabitable.

That is hilarious. It is far easier to save the earth than make Mars habitable. It is far easier to study self sustainable pods on Earth than a settlement on Mars.

Atleast be frank why you are interested in a Mars settlement, it has nothing to do with saving humanity.

Meteor or comet strike can easily wipe us all out just as it did Dinosaurs. And new science is suggesting impacts such as the one that killed off dinosaurs are more frequent than previously thought. So a big one (not necessarily as big as to completely end life on Earth but with potential to kills hundreds of millions if not billions of people and/or at the very least end our civilisation and set us back hundreds of years) could be happening every couple of tens of thousands of years instead of hundreds of millions of years as previously thought.

And smaller impacts that might not completely wipe us off but could cause millions of casualties are possibly even more frequent. Something like Tunguska meteor can potentially kill millions of people if it hits a big metropolis given our current population density. If it hits Tokyo or New York instead of middle of nowhere in Siberia, it would be devastating.

I am not seeing what you mean to say. Will starting a costly Mars settlement dependent on Earth for resources prevent these asteroids? Isn't a self sufficient pod on Earth/space/moon much easier starting point? Isn't a nuclear bunker under the Earth as safe from these calamities as a settlement on Mars itself?

Finally, I don't think a meteor which wiped out dinosaurs will wipe out humans. We can always use a nuclear bunker and save a few hundred humans with years of food to survive on.

Moon has no atmosphere so there is very little protection against cosmic impacts. For Earth, at least, small meteorites burn when falling through upper atmosphere. I am not sure about Mars' atmosphere and how much it protects against impacts.

Just because I outline reasons why people might want to have a Mars terraforming project or similar does not mean that I am interested in a Mars settlement.

I’d like to see us address those issues of society first

Those problems cannot be solved - finding balance is a continual process and part of being human, they will always be with us.

Also what impact have you made on those issues on Earth? Far less than Musk with Tesla and Solar City I’d wager. It’s easy to commentate on decisions others make, and hard to make real progress.

There is a school of thought that it is only a matter of time until an asteroid or or supervolcano causes another extinction event and unless humanity develops mass spacefaring and colonization capabilities, it won't matter how well we cared for our planet.

I think both efforts are absolutely necessary for the survival of our species.

1) humans aren't going extinct, given how much we can change our environment to our comfort, human species will survive meteorites and volcanoes. And even if we do, a self sufficient colony in a nuclear bunker or in Antarctica or on the surface of the ocean is likely to survive these events too. Being spacefaring makes no sense for survival, it does for science, but not for survival. projects

2) I would argue that putting too much money in vanity space projects is actually more harmful. We would same more lives if we spent that money here to help educate people out of poverty so that they'd survive a calamity.

A Mars settlement is basically rich idiots (read Musk) trying to have a legacy while fear mongering common people.

This sounds like a short-lived view to me and the exact kind of sentiment I hear in the climate-change skeptic circles. It is one thing to have a handful of humans survive in an underground bunker somewhere, and a whole different thing to have the species colonize the Galaxy. One is barely surviving and the other is thriving.

You cannot deny that our best bet for long-term survival is to get off this planet. Musk is perhaps a rich idiot, as you put it, but at least he has the right vision.

I am saying that building a self sustaining pod on earth should be the first step. Not going to mars and establishing a settlement utterly dependent on earth for resources.

And when such pods are built, and self sustaining technology mastered, what use is mars really? Why not make big self sustaining spaceships? What do you really need a planet for?

The universe will end eventually and our species will die. Dreaming of keeping the species going is kind of pointless.

How do you suggest human species to survive a big impact of meteor or comet? Something like the one in Younger Dryas which ended the ice age (11-12k ago). Tsunamis tall several hundreds of feet wiping out all coastal areas (where most people live as those are most comfortable areas), huge earthquakes and fires that burn down majority of fauna overnight.

Then followed by a plunge in temperature that will be the last nail in the coffin of whatever agricultural capability we have left after most of the civilisation was washed away. It seems difficult for me to imagine how we could survive that. I agree that it probably wouldn't kill of entire species but it would definitely end the modern civilisation and set the survivors back hundreds/thousands of years.

Yes it will collapse the civilization, without doubt. It will not kill off the entire species as you said, which is what I am arguing.

Does having a settlement on mars change any of that? Should we not first create self sustaining pods on the earth? After that, what do we need mars for? Just for access to water, sunlight, protection from radiation, and gravity? Surely, a settlement on a big spaceship would be viable too?

It might though. When ice age ended, whole species went extinct (saber-toothed tigers, mammoths etc). Our species somehow clinged on but the population was decimated to couple of hundred individuals at the worst point. Back then we were hunter gatherers so we were much better at surviving out in the wild.

If something like what happened 10,000 years ago happened today, I'm less optimistic about our ability to survive very long. If we were reduced to couple of hundred people back then when we were used to living in the wild, we might go to 0 this time. There are some small tribes of indigenous people in Amazon rain forrest and couple other places who might be better equipped to survive but that is not guaranteed.

I think you are overestimating resilience of our species, we have not yet been tested by any serious cataclysm since modern civilisation, compared to our ancestors, who were much tougher than us though, and they only barely survived.

Why try to help sub-Saharan Africa before solving problems in the Western world.

Oh, I'm pretty sure we will trash Mars too given enough time.

No need to trash it! It's already trashed!

It also happens to have a relatively shallow gravity well; if we can figure out how to economically exploit the rare (on earth) materials in space, Mars could be a good balance between habitability and low-delta-v accessibility.

The Anthroposcene is terraforming Earth...into a planet less-suited to support life. Maybe "retro-terraforming" would be more accurate.


>> But surely terraforming a barren wasteland is going to be easier than terraforming a (relative) oasis of life!

Actually, terraforming a barren wasteland might indeed be easier than preventing the oasis we have from being turned into a barren wasteland.

Bc u guys are pretending not to know that everything we are doing to destroy earth could terraform mars. Thankfully an inviolable astronomical honor code not only preserves the native conditions of another planet, it prevents countries from having a destructive proxy war on the planet to try to invasively experiment and “reform” it to their own ends. Anyway, space junk in the Earth’s orbit was also a very dangerous problem. The explosive substrate starting w/a p or something on the surface of Mars that activates in contact w oxygen or something could make things difficult if I recall correctly. Giant 3d spaceprinters are sweet. There is also the largest known cloud of water vapor floating Out there diamond planets and more inhabitable moons etc

You could not destroy Earth even if you tried. You can have some success in killing most of the humans and some other life forms.

anything we use to make mars more habitable can be used 1000x easier on earth.

I’m sorry I haven’t made it obvious that I’m committed to working for this sinking ship rather than pitching quantum computers, consciousness transference in mice, or antimatter cubes, all of which i’m assuming most ppl who hack are aware of.

> It's because colonization and population growth has been our MO for the last 200,000 years.

Then it can probably wait another 2,000 years or so, while we figure out how to not trash civilization on this planet. It's practically a blip in the grand scheme of things.

It’s because Mars is a fixer-upper. You cannot make it worse.

I'd advise never telling mankind they can't make something worse. Humanity will surprise you.

The radiation on the way and while on Mars is a pretty big obstacle https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/real-martians-how-to-pr...

It looks like Stanford has their top men and women on it - https://arxiv.org/abs/1603.03775

Things I know about Mars:

No established legal or social framework.

Things I know about Earth:

Probability of finding a place to be left alone with a small group of like minded people. 0

A certain type of person is interested in living a life where they have a large amount of control over the political and social systems they live with. The American frontier was an ideal place for such people to move to. Many took advantage of the opportunity. This frontier is now closed.

Off Earth is the only viable place for similar frontier to exist and Mars is the best place. It has a ~24hr day, decent gravity(0.38g), Ok solar radiation, H,C,O,N readily available on the surface, and possible terraforming to a open-air livable planet.

>Probability of finding a place to be left alone with a small group of like minded people. 0

Probability of doing the same on Mars, where even getting there means submitting to all kinds of established legal and social frameworks to be accepted on a mission, and where you'd need to stick close to other members (whatever minded they are) to survive and constantly report back home: below zero.

>A certain type of person is interested in living a life where they have a large amount of control over the political and social systems they live with.

Mars is the last place that type of person should be concerned with.

(On top of total establishment control of any "political and social systems" there for the next 100+ years, they'd also relinquish control over the environment to whatever capsules of livable space said establishment can build and give them in its own terms).

There's always Western Sahara and Antarctica, much more realistic (and already habitable) places, with internet and everything.

Maybe the US could designate some areas for "free towns" in northern Nevada and western Oregon (currently almost uninhabited) where all national, state, and county laws (except maybe pollution laws) are not enforced. People there just deal with the local laws and taxes. Would be cool to see how some of these areas would develop.

The upper atmosphere of Venus is actually the closest to Earth conditions we have in the solar system.

Just float around in an airtight habitat. Gravity is the same as on Earth, pressure is the same, temperature is 25C. You literally only need to be airtight to keep the noxious atmosphere at bay.

Another benefit is that getting to Venus is a lot cheaper than getting to Mars.

But where do you get additional resources?

By closed-system agriculture and farming and so on.

Why, where would you get them on Mars?

It's easier and much more efficient to get resources such as raw materials and metals from the ground. Being in the air without option of landing means you are completely dependent on import of raw materials to repair/expand your habitat. Very inefficient as well as not economical.

It might be cheaper to get to Venus than to Mars but on Mars you can actually start mining and building factories on the ground. At some point, it becomes much cheaper and more economical. It's just the initial hurdle of getting there with enough stuff and people to start a colony which can self sustain itself and grow.

Once you have brought enough initial stuff to Mars, you get to a point where you can start extracting materials from the ground and free up all the cargo in the ships for just people and perhaps some special items you still cannot manufacture on Mars. But majority of cargo space is freed up.

>It's easier and much more efficient to get resources such as raw materials and metals from the ground. Being in the air without option of landing means you are completely dependent on import of raw materials to repair/expand your habitat. Very inefficient as well as not economical.

Assuming you overcome all the other difficulties and have a colony on Venus' skies, what prevents you from having ships that can go to the ground, get stuff, and come back?

It was my understanding that the surface of Venus is infernal, with super high temperature (hotter than Mercury which is closer to sun), rains of sulphuric acid and very high density. Building machines capable of landing there and being able to return seems like a tall order.

Since for humans it is inconceivable to go down to Venus ground (they'd die immediately from the heat), mining materials and then lifting again and returning back to the habitat in the upper atmosphere, then you'd need to automate the whole process.

The automated machine would have to be incredibly durable to survive the hellish ground environment and be able to fly away again. Also drones that would do the mining work would need to be made from incredibly strong materials. There's a reason we only send suicide probes to Venus that live maybe for couple hours before dying.

Also for humans, cold temperature is easier to survive compared to very high temperature. We can generate heating for astronauts (batteries in space suites can generate heat, we can recharge batteries from solar panels brought by the mothership or on previous automated mission, or from RTG). I'm not sure how would a cooling system for astronauts to be able to survive in 700 degrees Celsius for longer than few minutes even work.

High temperature and strong winds on surface can be beneficial to machinery. You can fight with them or you can use their help to reach goal. IMHO, an AI system and physical simulator can develop some pretty interesting ideas how to use these conditions for efficient mining and transportation.

First idea: use wind to power instruments directly via mechanical or pneumatic link.

Second idea: use silicon to produce machinery and tools.

Third idea: high temperature means it's much easier to melt ores, some metal can be collected directly in liquid form.

Fourth idea: air balloons should be very inexpensive way of transport ores to top of atmosphere, where they can be picked up by colonists.

Fifth idea: use mechanical computers to control equipment. It's not so hard to create surfaces which will perform calculations required to navigation, landing, mining, and floating back to surface. Mechanical computers can be crawled out of silicon, with liquid metal for transportation of messages, and vibration can be used to power such computer. 100kHz vibration is easy to reach. At 100kHz, it will be equal to 1kHz electronic computer.

The atmosphere of Venus on ground level is incredibly hostile. 467 °C temperature, pressure equal to 900 m underwater, winds with speeds of 100 m/s and covered in clouds of sulphuric acid it even has lightning strikes. The longest we have been able to keep a probe operational on the surface of Venus was 2 hours.While the gravity is slightly lower than on earth the pressure itself would make it incredible hard to launch anything from the surface back up. It's like launching an armoured rocket from 900 m below the sea while being bombarded by lightning and acid eating away at you + lifting up resources at the same time.

Check out what happened to the Venera landers. It's really hostile at the surface.

From the ground. Building materials etc.

If you want to build a closed system, it doesn't make sense to put it into a gravity well.

Literally out of thin air.

I'll get the Zeppelin...

No established legal or social framework.

Not true. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

And where are the weapons to enforce this?

- "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"

If you can get to Mars then the US military can certainly do so. The government would certainly deploy some power structures (police force and/or soldiers) on Mars once a sizeable colony is built there (let's say couple hundred colonists that can self sustain themselves). To keep order and enforce laws and potentially, if the colony grows enough to have a functioning economy, to collect taxes.

You think they'd let random "mavericks" go there without a police and guns and laws?

The whole reason of spending trillions to get people there would be to exploit and control the shit out of the place...

We can put that another way: the odds of a populated Mars being an anarchist utopia are nil. Politics and power dynamics would remain.

Moving planets doesn't let you escape power-structures, and anarchism is still stupid - you still have to hope you get a good power-structure.

It appears you are setting yourself up to a series of sound disproofs, such as having to point out how communities with purpose without the damaging effects of power dynamics are more efficient, intelligent and effective.

Even in a frontier society there are power structures, and they are better off that way, no?

Good luck trying to be 'left alone' when you're literally at the mercy of an Earth government for the importation of the very air you breathe.

Terraforming is an interesting concept. Are there even ideas how to keep the thin atmosphere near the surface?

IMO there is plenty of space left on Earth - oceans, deserts...

Not saying that we should colonize all Earth, but IMO it'll happen way before any significant Mars population due to costs.

Its also worth mentioning there are plenty of places on Earth with pretty hospitable environments, it's not just deserts and the article circle. Yes cities are overcrowded, but that's just because people go there for jobs.

My wife's grandmother lives in a remote part of Eastern Europe, the nearest small town with a supermarket is half an hour drive away and the nearest neighbour is a few km away. She (aged 78) grows most of their food, and milks cows for a living. In the winter it can get down to -20c, but with modern insulation that's nothing to worry about. The fire/boiler is fueled by wood they chop down on their property. There are plenty of similar places in even more favourable climates like Spain or the US.

Yes, agreed! There is so much space left, I really don't see any overpopulation (that's not isolated to certain places) happening anytime soon.

However these places lack the advantages like no government. Oceans are ideal for that, deserts less so.

Plenty of international sea available.

I would not mind if all misanthropes went somewhere else and left humans on Earth alone.

We can start with bacteria or other organisms that don’t care for much of what you describe.

Agree. This whole race to mars is interesting to watch from afar, but it's ultimately just a big rock with 110% less going on that we gratefully have here.

Can anybody explain: the article mentions 0.14% of oxygen in a low pressure atmosphere to be insufficient for aerobic life. Where does the higher oxygen concentration (mole/m3) in subsurface brine come from? Obviously it is not in equilibrium with the atmospheric concentration. Is it non-equilibrium due to historic circumstances? Is it an equilibrium with surrounding rocks? Do rocks outgas oxygen?

The only reason the Earth has enough oxygen to "support life" is because life produced it as a waste product. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event

Oxygen yes, magnetic field no. Without magnetic field you can't really live on a planet.

the main problems of mars are not oxygen but the missing magnetosphere and associated high levels of radiation

Nobody tell this to Cohagen

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact