Author Topic: What if Mars is barren of life?  (Read 13161 times)

Offline robertinventor

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #180 on: 06/21/2012 04:58 PM »
Quote from: Robert
That depends also on whether we want to terraform it first as human colonists could get in the way of terraformation...

Well, after you've inherited a swamp in Florida, you don't first design the entire house down to the gold plated toilets, then verify whether or not it will fit the site.  First, you visit and study the site carefully, and then design the house.

So it should be, and most probably will be with any martian terraforming.  A couple of bases here and there, which slowly grow, hopefully.  Should it turn out to be a worthwhile endeavor in a century or two, ya terraform it.

Yes, true. With the terraforming you still have the issue that introduced life is going to start transforming the planet anyway, just a little to start with. Then there's the issue that the introduced life might start up feedback loops that go the opposite of the direction you want it.

So - as you increase the atmospheric CO2, the introduced life might just take it out of the atmosphere again. As you raise the temperature then it might form nuclei for clouds and so increase the cloud cover more than expected so the planet cools down again or doesn't warm up as much as you want. As you attempt to introduce oxygen, then it might just consume it as quickly as it is generated, and it could add gases like methane in quantities that make the air unbreathable for humans.

It's going to be tricky anyway to get the whole planet working like that. The sources I looked at about terraforming say that the only way it's going to work over any long period of time is if the planet itself sets up its own biological feedback cycles to keep it on track.

One of the papers suggested that you need to introduce micro-organisms in a particular carefully thought out order in order to achieve terraforming. Which makes sense. So that's what that's based on.

Another source pointed out "When we look at our own planet's most challenging environments, we are really looking for clues to what may be the normal conditions on other planets. We want a hint of what we may be searching for when we investigate those other worlds for signs of life.".

So just having feedback cycles doesn't by itself guarantee that it will stabilise to an Earth type climate, as it might instead stabilise to an environment normal for some kind of an extremophile. You may well have to do things to "nudge it" in the right direction to get there.

If you just introduce colonists without thinking about the effect on terraforming then it might be that you are making it much harder to terraform the planet. You might decide that doesn't matter, that you are never going to terraform it anyway. So, I'm just saying there, that's a decision that has to be made through proper thought and discussion, not just by accident because you didn't think it through in advance.
« Last Edit: 06/21/2012 05:09 PM by robertinventor »

Offline robertinventor

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #181 on: 06/21/2012 05:33 PM »
With potential cost of Mars real estate and resources of immeasurable trillions of dollars...

For sale:  Cheap, fixer-upper planet in desireable location within habitable zone of nearby star...

Nice way of putting it.

Actually another thought, if purely commercial, a commercial company if it's motivated by that rather than wanting to be in the media spotlight or privately funded by enthusiasts - then a purely commercial one I think would either be space tourism - in that case habitats orbiting the Earth or at the most on the Moon first, because flights to Mars would be too expensive initially, and anyway need to be a really keen tourist to want to spend several months travelling in a cramped spaceship to get there (probably different later on once conditions are easier for the travel and travel times are less).

The other would be exploitation of minerals and those almost certainly near earth asteroids are the way to go (easier even than the Moon to return the materials to the Earth) though with current costs it's probably not worth doing but as prices come down for space travel, also whether you like it or not, I think that might be the most likely commercial enterprise to develop in space.

The two might be combined, the same operation could mine an asteroid and use profits from the enterprise and also materials from the same asteroid to create space habitats for the tourists (initially) - and then maybe eventually those develop into independent space colonies.

You could convert an asteroid into a Stanford Torus type space habitat, and in the process also mine it to find valuable minerals or whatever is valuable at that point, which you probably don't need for the habitat, and use the ice and the other materials which are valuable in space but not valuable on the Earth to make the habitat.

Same of course also used for the Mars orbiting habitat - but I think initially that's not likely to be a commercial company doing it solely for profit, more likely to be sponsored by governments or very wealthy or large numbers of space enthusiasts who just want to do it for other reasons and make a loss on the enterprise in the near term like the first few decades at least.

Just a thought. Could be wildly wrong.
« Last Edit: 06/21/2012 05:38 PM by robertinventor »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #182 on: 06/21/2012 08:06 PM »
Quote from: Robert
That depends also on whether we want to terraform it first as human colonists could get in the way of terraformation...

...  First, you visit and study the site carefully, and then design the house.

So it should be, and most probably will be with any martian terraforming.  A couple of bases here and there, which slowly grow, hopefully.  Should it turn out to be a worthwhile endeavor in a century or two, ya terraform it.

Yes, true. With the terraforming you still have the issue that introduced life is going to start transforming the planet anyway, just a little to start with. ...

It's going to be tricky anyway to get the whole planet working [properly.]...

If you just introduce colonists without thinking about the effect on terraforming then it might be that you are making it much harder to terraform the planet.

You worry too much young Paduan.  As Jeff Greason mentioned in his recent ISDC talk:  Twenty year plans don't work.  Terraforming Mars will be done by trial and error, should it ever come to pass.

Study the planet carefully from above.  Eventually, should it so be decided, send a group down to try out the planet.  If that works, send some more.  Repeat every two years or so for a hundred years.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline robertinventor

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #183 on: 06/21/2012 11:06 PM »
You worry too much young Paduan.  As Jeff Greason mentioned in his recent ISDC talk:  Twenty year plans don't work.  Terraforming Mars will be done by trial and error, should it ever come to pass.

Study the planet carefully from above.  Eventually, should it so be decided, send a group down to try out the planet.  If that works, send some more.  Repeat every two years or so for a hundred years.

Could be :)

Though I wonder if successful terraforming of a planet might be something that few ETs manage to do successfully in the first few centuries after they attain capability for spaceflight? It can seem a fearfully advanced and high level of technology when you think of all the potential feedback loops.

It might be something that an ET usually fails at, until they reach the point where they can take on not only 20 year plans but 100 thousand year plans. Possibly when they have really long lives...?? Or just racial maturity.

Anyway but I may be worrying unnecessarily as you say, who can say at this stage indeed :).

Like - I've been following nuclear fusion just on and off partly out of interest and partly becuase I was involved in it as a right at the bottom of the heap coding "dogsbody" in a year at Culham before going to university. Anyway that's gone through many ups and downs. At one point just before I had that year at Culham (1971-2 was when I was there if I remember right) - at one point it seemed that it might never be achieved, until the Russians made a breakthrough with their "Tokamak"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power#The_tokamak_is_announced

Their idea lead to an immediate 10 - 100 times improvement, such a huge improvement that the international community of scientists researching into it were highly sceptical of their claims. I can't remember too clearly now but I think when I did my year at Culham it was probably just a year or two after that had happened and it had been accepted that the breakthrough was indeed a genuine one.

So I dare say there will be breakthroughs like that with terraforming which we can't anticipate at this point.

Robert
« Last Edit: 06/22/2012 12:27 AM by robertinventor »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #184 on: 06/22/2012 12:38 PM »
Quote
...that year at Culham (1971-2 was when I was there if I remember right)...

Okay.

Old Paduan.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline robertinventor

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #185 on: 06/23/2012 12:15 AM »
Quote
...that year at Culham (1971-2 was when I was there if I remember right)...

Okay.

Old Paduan.

:)

Offline robertinventor

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Re: What if Mars is barren of life?
« Reply #186 on: 06/23/2012 12:27 AM »
Video presentation of HERRO by Geoffrey Landis to the Mars Society (4 part video)


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