Author Topic: Value of Biologically Pristine Mars for Science and Humanity  (Read 15691 times)

Offline robertinventor

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 227
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 0
Perhaps you may be interested to discuss this? My aim was to try to explain why it is that some scientists care so much about a biologically pristine Mars. I have found in debates here and elsewhere, and also most of the news stories about Mars colonization that there is little appreciation of this. Even amongst space scientists, it is rarely emphasized. I hope this will help promote mutual understanding between those who care for the current biologically pristine Mars and those who are keen to land humans on the surface.

Value of Biologically Pristine Mars for Science and Humanity

I posted this before but just as one link amongst several, also  have done a lot of work since then and added several new sections. Hope you enjoy it and find it a good read and interested in any comments.

Offline gospacex

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3028
  • Liked: 537
  • Likes Given: 604
Looks like few appreciate the extraordinary value and uniqueness of a colonized Mars.

Throwing away political correctness, I'd classify people who want to ban Mars colonization as eco-nazis.

Offline robertinventor

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 227
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 0
Looks like few appreciate the extraordinary value and uniqueness of a colonized Mars.

Throwing away political correctness, I'd classify people who want to ban Mars colonization as eco-nazis.

In what way is a colonized Mars of extraordinary value and unique? Let's have a proper debate, not just name calling. Also what is the huge urgency to colonize Mars right away before we have a chance to study it?

I'm not against colonizing Mars for ever. In the article I just said that the time for the great debate about that is not yet as we don't yet know enough, and suggested a time line of perhaps 50 years before we can do it, could be sooner if a really extensive exploration of Mars by telepresence is carried out right away.

I would then probably still argue against colonizing Mars as my own POV but it would at least be a debate based on knowledge about Mars's biological past and present, which we don't have yet.

Also, though I am against colonizing Mars surface for now, I am keen on sending humans to orbit Mars and eventually orbital colonies around Mars.

Also those humans would explore the surface via telepresence, including driving rovers on the surface at similar speeds to those you can achieve on the Earth, make fuel on Mars, eventually factories and export things to orbit. All the things you see in the Mars colonization of surface, except that the humans remain in orbit.

You can also operate telepresence humanoid bots on the surface, like the robonaut but more developed with legs as well, haptic feedback etc so e eventually I see being able to run, walk etc on the surface in a natural way just as if you were there, using avatars on the surface.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 09:19 AM by robertinventor »

Offline QuantumG

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8654
  • Australia
  • Liked: 3586
  • Likes Given: 843
In what way is a colonized Mars of extraordinary value and unique? Let's have a proper debate, not just name calling. Also what is the huge urgency to colonize Mars right away before we have a chance to study it?

I think the burden of proof is on those calling for restraint, or is it restriction?
I hear those things are awfully loud. It glides as softly as a cloud. What's it called? Monowhale!

Offline gospacex

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3028
  • Liked: 537
  • Likes Given: 604
Looks like few appreciate the extraordinary value and uniqueness of a colonized Mars.

Throwing away political correctness, I'd classify people who want to ban Mars colonization as eco-nazis.

In what way is a colonized Mars of extraordinary value and unique?

Mars surface area is about the same as Earth land mass.

Total Earth's economic value is quite hard to quantify, but by all estimates it is well above 1000 trillion, and likely is 5 times that.

Mars populated to the about same density as Earth would be worth about the same (within an order of magnitude)

Quote
Also what is the huge urgency to colonize Mars right away before we have a chance to study it?

What is the problem with studying Mars while it is being colonized?

Contamination argument doesn't hold water: Genesis probe crashed on landing, contaminating all samples; yet, scientists aren't as dumb as some might think. They managed to sort out contamination from the samples. I don't see why a bit of ingenuity wouldn't help scientists to unravel Mars mysteries even if some "evil Earth bacteria" contaminate Mars soil.

Quote
I'm not against colonizing Mars for ever. In the article I just said that the time for the great debate about that is not yet as we don't yet know enough, and suggested a time line of perhaps 50 years before we can do it, could be sooner if a really extensive exploration of Mars by telepresence is carried out right away.

Okay. You are entitled to your opinion.
But there is a problem.
What shall be done if someone would try to fly and land on Mars, disregarding your opinion? Should this evil person be arrested and thrown to jail? What if he is not a US citizen? What if his rocket departs from e.g. Russia?

Offline spectre9

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2403
  • Australia
  • Liked: 36
  • Likes Given: 67
Red Mars!!!!

Blow up the terraforming plants!!  :)

People will do plenty of science if/when they actually get there.

How about the value of a pristine Earth? It's only an ideal. People are a polluting and consuming virus, perhaps people will embrace this simple fact of human existence some day when they leave this garden planet.

Bringing Mars back to life will be vastly more valuable to Mars and humanity. It doesn't want to be a cold, dead world forever. Some day we will have the power to revive it and make it a home for plants and animals. Why seal it's fate as a red desert? To me that's a bit strange.

The human race doesn't even value rainforests here that highly. What's a little bit of red dirt?

Offline SiriusGrey

  • Member
  • Posts: 27
  • Europe
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 0
Thank you, Robert, for the great summary on your site; i am sure if more people would take the time to actually read and understand the reasoning they would be less inclined to resort to name-calling.

My TL;DR version: If we put too many earth microbes on Mars - and a manned landing would certainly do that - there is consensus that there is a good chance that they will eat up any evidence of past life on mars. And the importance of any insight about past or present life on Mars can hardly be overstated.

Even shorter: There is nothing "eco" about this. This is about science and the destruction of evidence.

Luckily, NASA as an institution agrees, see http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov

With regards to private efforts in space i expect to see regulations from the individual governments once this becomes relevant, in the U.S. this is explored e.g. in this thesis from MIT: http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/62036.

Offline robertinventor

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 227
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 0
Thank you, Robert, for the great summary on your site; i am sure if more people would take the time to actually read and understand the reasoning they would be less inclined to resort to name-calling.

My TL;DR version: If we put too many earth microbes on Mars - and a manned landing would certainly do that - there is consensus that there is a good chance that they will eat up any evidence of past life on mars. And the importance of any insight about past or present life on Mars can hardly be overstated.

Even shorter: There is nothing "eco" about this. This is about science and the destruction of evidence.

Luckily, NASA as an institution agrees, see http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov

With regards to private efforts in space i expect to see regulations from the individual governments once this becomes relevant, in the U.S. this is explored e.g. in this thesis from MIT: http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/62036.

Yes, exactly, that is just what I'm saying, thanks.

And you all might like to know, historically I started up as keen on colonization of the Mars surface as anyone else. I changed my views when I realised what the implications were for the scientific study of the origins of life on Mars.

Offline robertinventor

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 227
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 0
Mars surface area is about the same as Earth land mass.

Total Earth's economic value is quite hard to quantify, but by all estimates it is well above 1000 trillion, and likely is 5 times that.

Mars populated to the about same density as Earth would be worth about the same (within an order of magnitude)

Okay I can see that. Could have Mars to that density if the entire surface was covered in domes (paraterraformed) - I am doubtful it can ever be terraformed to be as close to Earth as that even in centuries, but paraterraformed, yes in principle.

And yes a populated Mars does have a value, as you say, I agree. So you potentially have a conflict between the value for humans and the value for scientists, yes.

What I say in the article though is that in space you can create living areas for a hundred or a thousand times the population of Earth. In Ceres alone there is enough material for habitats with total living area at least hundreds of times that of Earth.

With the Interplanetary Transport Network gravitational trajectories linking the whole solar system you can eventually get materials from almost anywhere in the solar system to almost anywhere else, apart from deep within planetary wells and on the planetary surface, for almost no use of fuel.

So you could build those colonies of trillions of people wherever you like. And they are not vulnerable to any single planetary catastrophe like impact from big comet or whatever.

And you can also house more people in space colonies more quickly, I would argue. First of all in the early stages, because you can supply from Earth all the high tech equipment they need, and the colonists themselves, for a far lower cost, so can get a larger colony started more quickly. Then later on, because it is so easy and efficient to move material (including manufactured goods) about in space as long as time is not of the essence. From almost anywhere to almost anywhere else outside the gravitational well.

And also there is no urgency about it right now. In the future it may be possible to evacuate people from Earth. When spaceflight is as easy as plane flight, then it would be possible, total flights per year something over a billion I believe. That means the population of Earth could emigrate to space far faster than it grows, if it was possible to have efficient air breathing, say, space planes just like aeroplanes.

So, that again could be an interesting future. Hard to say how far in the future that might be but doesn't seem impossible. But there is enough time before that happens to explore Mars scientifically and find out what is there, and get started on proper space colonies, and so we know what the situation is in space. By then Mars may become like Antarctica. With all the busy traffic on Earth and all our billions of people, Antarctica remains sparely populated and free from major contamination. Partly it helps of course that it is hard to get to, and though it has minerals of commercial value, they are easier to extract from other places in the world. But the same applies to Mars relative other places in space.

Quote
> Also what is the huge urgency to colonize Mars right away before we have a chance to study it?[

What is the problem with studying Mars while it is being colonized?

Contamination argument doesn't hold water: Genesis probe crashed on landing, contaminating all samples; yet, scientists aren't as dumb as some might think. They managed to sort out contamination from the samples. I don't see why a bit of ingenuity wouldn't help scientists to unravel Mars mysteries even if some "evil Earth bacteria" contaminate Mars soil.

But it does. Why do you think they are so careful to prevent contamination of Mars with the unmanned rovers? Why do you think the Outer Space Treaty has a specific clause preventing this, and the COSPAR guidelines classify Mars as Category IV?

Yes, with a small sample and a lot of work, in a situation where a lot of scientists working on a small amount of material is cost effective because it is so expensive to get more of it, and where you are not looking for life itself, just for a way of separating out individual dust grains that are of cometary origin from those of desert origin, then you can do it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_(spacecraft)#Sample_extraction_and_results

The problem with doing something like this with life is that

* Life replicates and evolves, so you don't know for sure that your "dust grain contamination" on Mars still looks the same as it did on Earth. That's especially so when you have a whole planet with many different microniches for it to evolve into, get adaptive radiation like Darwin's finches but on faster timescale because of the microbial faster generation time.

* Life on Earth is nowhere near fully characterized. We don't have an inventory even of all the species that live in spacecraft assembly clean rooms. The uncultivable archaea especially are so poorely characterized we only have a few gene fragments to go on. With those we don't even know how many genera there are.

Here is a report on the micro-organisms found in spacecraft assembly clean rooms.
http://aem.asm.org/content/71/8/4163.full

* Life on Mars can go extinct, either eaten or outcompeted

* Organic samples of early life can be eaten and decomposed, making it like trying to find out what it was you ate from your faeces.

====================

MORE ABOUT THE ARTICLE ON THE CLEAN ROOM MICRO-ORGANISMS

I know it is from six years ago, but it is a nice study.

Some highlights: typically less than 1% of micro-organisms have been grown in pure culture, and that is almost certainly the case in spacecraft assembly clean rooms. The micro-organisms in the clean rooms are likely to be especially hard to culture as they are adapted to an envionment where only a sparse population is possible. DNA analysis can help you to characterize what is there, without knowing anything about the micro-organism - what it does, looks like, or how it survives. These micro-organisms are also ones likely to be able to contaminate planets because they are extremophiles already, adapted to such harsh environments/

...

Then some actual quotes
"It will be difficult to exclude Earth-derived contamination as a source of observed microbes if we do not thoroughly understand the complete composition of communities that spacecraft might inadvertently deliver.
...

 Although it is becoming possible to overcome or minimize some of these known limitations of molecular biology-based metagenomic techniques (35), we must recognize that there likely will be unknown members of many microbial communities that will resist detection by the characterization methods developed to date.
...

In summary, as discussed by scientists such as Rummel (56), Mancinelli (39), and Horneck et al. (30), planetary protection issues of great importance include minimization of the inevitable deposition of Earth microbes by humans on the surface of Mars or other potentially life-bearing locations in our solar system (59) and prevention of Martian subsurface contamination by Earth microbes and organic material. The natural environments of places in our solar system that may harbor life or complex forms of organic chemicals should be protected so that they retain their value for scientific purposes as humans design planetary missions to search for organic material (60) on and beneath the surface of other planets or to study the chemistry and mineralogy (61) of extraterrestrial landing sites.
"

Also though that paper is from 2006 a more recent paper confirms that exactly the same situation still applies today. This is a 2012 paper

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/ast.2011.0735
=======================

Quote
Okay. You are entitled to your opinion.
Thanks, I appreciate it :)
Quote
But there is a problem.
What shall be done if someone would try to fly and land on Mars, disregarding your opinion? Should this evil person be arrested and thrown to jail? What if he is not a US citizen? What if his rocket departs from e.g. Russia?

Luckily at this stage all the space faring nations are members of the Outer Space Treaty. Also spaceflight is still at the stage where you can't just take off for Mars from your back garden or local aerodrome and just fly into space.

You will need permission to launch and the host country would be required to refuse permission by international law, and surely would. Russia is a signatory of the treaty. So is China, Japan etc.

Here is the list of signatories of the Outer Space Treaty:
http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/ost/text/space5.htm

I am hopeful that longer term it will be generally understood why Mars is kept pristine. Especially once a few expeditions have been launched to study it via telepresence, and with all the interest they would generate - and with video streaming of people exploring Mars via telepresence, and scientists explaining over and over, as they do, why it is being done this way.

Everyone would just understand as they do now with Antarctica. It's not really the fault of the private companies who want to go to Mars as this whole area of concern is not widely reported in the media, and it is rare that you get news stories about it (though I have turned up one or two).

There was this reasonably well informed article in Fox News last autumn

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2012/10/25/manned-mars-missions-could-threaten-red-planet-life-2094749311/

When there are actual telepresence colonies around Mars, and when the papers are full of news stories like this about the effect Earth life would have on Mars, I think the climate of public opinion will gradually change. Takes a few years, there can be a bit of a lag, and we could do with a present day Carl Sagan to take it up and champion it, someone with charisma, integrity, and widely respected for his science, that could help speed things up.

When that is generally accepted, which I think myself will happen eventually, the private companies that want to land humans on Mars will change their ideas and look for other objectives. Unless and until of course Mars turns out to not need protection and the international law is changed.

But, can't see that happening soon, longer term is hard to say. For a scientist as I said in the article, the most interesting outcome is if Mars turns out to be so utterly fascinating biologically that you wouldn't think to contaminate it. So I am hoping for that because it is much more interesting to science, and I think there is a good chance especially when you realize how interesting it will be if life never evolved there.

Mars surface colonization enthusiasts had better hope it turns out that Mars present and past is as uninteresting biologically as the Moon.

You can do what you like on the Moon, pretty much, the chance of contamination either forward to the Moon (at least replicating on the Moon), or backwards to Earth, is now understood to be so close to zero as to be insignificant, though there may be prebiotic processes in the ice at the poles, and if life turns out to exist even in comets for instance, it could exist on the Moon. But I think few scientists expect that.

There may be contamination issues even for the Moon actually, especially a big space colony, life contamination, also exhausts from the rockets landing and taking off, especially if close to scientifically interesting and sensitive areas.

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/LEA/presentations/tues_pm/Dworkin.pdf

These links are about the water ice on the Moon btw, though should probably start a new thread if anyone wants to discuss them in detail.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120319135245.htm

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2162505/More-water-moon-NASA-finds-mile-deep-crater-ice-scattered-quarter-surface.html

The same thing MIGHT happen on Mars, and we MIGHT also learn so much about life from the study of exoplanets and other locations in our solar system, and extensive experiments, to gain some confidence about what would happen if you introduce Earth life to Mars and decide it doesn't matter, and won't impact on long term terrafroming.

I can't see the future anymore than anyone else, all that MIGHT happen. But I would find the future with the biologically interesting Mars much more interesting, and on present evidence it seems the more probable too.

Is that understandable? You don't have to agree with me, just, does what I say make sense?
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 06:07 PM by robertinventor »

Offline veblen

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 253
  • Liked: 27
  • Likes Given: 1753
Quote
My TL;DR version: If we put too many earth microbes on Mars - and a manned landing would certainly do that - there is consensus that there is a good chance that they will eat up any evidence of past life on mars. And the importance of any insight about past or present life on Mars can hardly be overstated.

There is no "consensus" such as you describe, stop making stuff up.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 05:02 PM by veblen »

Offline robertinventor

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 227
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 0
Quote
My TL;DR version: If we put too many earth microbes on Mars - and a manned landing would certainly do that - there is consensus that there is a good chance that they will eat up any evidence of past life on mars. And the importance of any insight about past or present life on Mars can hardly be overstated.

There is no "consensus" such as you describe, stop making stuff up.

True it used to be thought that a mission by humans to the Mars surface could be done in a biologically reversible way, just a few years back. That was when Mars was thought to be so inhospitable to life that no Earth life could possibly grow there today. Just survive as dormant states or endospores and over periods of time, even if sheltered from the sun, eventually get degraded by cosmic rays. Also it used to be thought that any micro-organisms exposed to direct sunlight would degrade rapidly so you could sterilize the soil simply with a brief exposure to the sun. The oxidizing environment of the soil also was thought to be enough to sterilize just about anything too. Perhaps 10 years or so ago that was more or less the consensus.

Some still think it is possible, so not a 100% consensus the other way at least amongst space scientists generally. But a stream of research over just the last two or three years has changed the consensus.

* First many papers that describe possible niches for life on Mars that no-one had thought of so far.

* Also many papers on extremophiles and capabilities of various even ordinary seeming micro-organisms with hidden extremophile capabilities and polyextremophiles capable of living in those habitats

* Also many papers on microorganisms capable of surviving the hostile Mars surface conditions, remaining still viable after months of exposure to surface conditions, including full sunlight, something that used to be thought impossible.

By now from the evidence of published papers, amongst those biologists who directly study the subject of contamination of Mars and publish research on it, I'd say the consensus is pretty much 100% (as for instance in those two papers on the clean rooms). It's not like you have to search hard to find published research with conclusions like this, it is what they all say pretty much. I haven't yet come across a single recent paper in these fields of research with the opposite conclusion.

But takes a while for other scientists to "catch up" and amongst the general public the scientific view is probably similar to that of ten years ago. And that all goes to show how little we know about Mars, and extremophiles, that opinions can change in this way as a result of new published research.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 05:41 PM by robertinventor »

Offline Warren Platts

In what way is a colonized Mars of extraordinary value and unique? Let's have a proper debate, not just name calling. Also what is the huge urgency to colonize Mars right away before we have a chance to study it?

I think the burden of proof is on those calling for restraint, or is it restriction?

The Precautionary Principle says just the opposite.

Twisting ethics to suit personal desires isn't a very convincing argument...
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Warren Platts

Bringing Mars back to life will be vastly more valuable to Mars ... It doesn't want to be a cold, dead world forever.

Pretty radical statement: most would say Mars--being an inanimate object--doesn't "want" anything. A little more unpacking would be nice....


Quote
The human race doesn't even value rainforests here that highly. What's a little bit of red dirt?

Some people like deserts just the way they are!
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Warren Platts

My take (YMMV):

In the unlikely event there are macroorganisms on Mars, e.g., those lichens some people say (99% sure they are not real myself, nevertheless...) then the planet should be quarantined. Only scientists should be allowed to visit at least until we know for sure that human colonies would not cause their extinction. These would be truly unique specimens, and should be allowed to evolve unmolested.

The more likely scenario is that there is life, but it is microbial life confined to briny aquifers below the surface. If these organisms are able to exist in Mars's perchlorate-infested, poisonous ecosystem, then they are going to be very hardy creatures and unlikely to be displaced by microbes brought in accidently from Earth. After all, it's likely that there has been occasional transfers of life between the two planets in the past.

Yes, this option is risky, I admit, but if there are microorganisms on Mars, it's likely that they are practically everywhere in the solar system where there is liquid water; therefore, in the unlikely event that Martian life were to be caused to go extinct, other forms of extraterrestrial life would persist elsewhere.

And yes, I fully admit that causing extinctions of any kind is an intrinsic moral wrong, and therefore should not be undertaken lightly. However, in the case of Mars--arguably the most hospitable celestial body for humans outside of Earth--the value of extending human culture into space outweighs the intrinsic value of non-unique, Martian microorganisms. Meanwhile, places like Enceladus, Europa, Ceres, or other places thought or known to contain life could be placed off-limits to human visitation without a permit since they are less valuable as habitats for humans.

That doesn't mean that reasonable steps shouldn't be undertaken to avoid the extinction of Martian microorganisms, which raises the prickly question of whether terraforming should be undertaken, given the existence of Martian microorganisms. If the case could be made that terraforming would not cause the extinction of Martian microorganisms, then by all means go for it if you really want.

Yes, a cosmocentric ethic argues that Mars as it is is intrinsically valuable and that it as it is should not be destroyed without a very good reason. But in this case, the value of a terraformed Mars + human culture outweighs the intrinsic value of the primitive Mars.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline robertinventor

  • Full Member
  • **
  • Posts: 227
  • Liked: 5
  • Likes Given: 0
My take (YMMV):

In the unlikely event there are macroorganisms on Mars, e.g., those lichens some people say (99% sure they are not real myself, nevertheless...) then the planet should be quarantined. Only scientists should be allowed to visit at least until we know for sure that human colonies would not cause their extinction. These would be truly unique specimens, and should be allowed to evolve unmolested.

The more likely scenario is that there is life, but it is microbial life confined to briny aquifers below the surface. If these organisms are able to exist in Mars's perchlorate-infested, poisonous ecosystem, then they are going to be very hardy creatures and unlikely to be displaced by microbes brought in accidently from Earth. After all, it's likely that there has been occasional transfers of life between the two planets in the past.
I answer that in the article actually. Think about Australia. There has been a lot of exchange of life, after all not so long ago geologically speaking all our continents were part of one big super continent (200 million years ago as Pangea).

The life there is ideally adapted to its environment, as far as it goes, but for some reason placental animals never developed there. So the introduced life from Europe, although the Australian conditions were new to them, were able to thrive there and e.g. the Tasmanian wolf driven extinct, and many habitats and species under threat.

Actually the timing is rather similar, Gondwanaland broke up 184 million years ago and Australia separated from Antarctica 80 million years ago.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gondwana#Breakup

As far as I know (correct me if anyone knows of a more recent one), the last major ejection of Earth material to Mars, which might (no certainty at all) have brought Earth life to Mars was probably the impact about 66 million years ago the date of the Chicxulub crater (only the very largest impacts send material up through the atmosphere at over escape velocity, asteroids of about 10 km or larger, and then most of the material takes millions of years to reach Mars, which some extremely hardy extremophiles may be able to survive).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicxulub_crater

For extremophiles, the Mars habitat is not that different from habitats on Earth, not like e.g. Titan where if there is life there, the chances of Earth life being able to thrive there at all is remote in the extreme (at least as far as I know :) ). Even briefly goes above 0c on the surface every day in many locations on Mars.
Quote
Yes, this option is risky, I admit, but if there are microorganisms on Mars, it's likely that they are practically everywhere in the solar system where there is liquid water; therefore, in the unlikely event that Martian life were to be caused to go extinct, other forms of extraterrestrial life would persist elsewhere.
Yes that's possible. Similarly if all the marsupial life in Australia went extinct, you would still have e.g. the tree Kangaroos of Indonesia (assuming they survive) so some marsupials would still survive.

The thing is that the Mars life may be unique to Mars, almost certainly is.

Then amongst all those other locations, Mars is special because it is such a near twin to the early Earth, with its early history preserved much better than on Earth, so we can learn a lot about our planet, which currently is the only place where life is known to have evolved.

And at this stage it is all guesses anyway. Who knows yes might turn out that e.g. Encladus is the rossetta stone we are seeking and that life on Mars is just the same as all the other life in the solar system, and that there is nothing interesting on Mars to make it worth preserving and even the early life deposits are uninteresting, nowhere near the expected promise, and no-one cares what happens to them biologically.

I'd be surprised if that happens but who knows at this stage. But that's the point really. We simply have nowhere near enough information to make such a big irreversible decision about Mars. And there is plenty of indirect evidence to suggest that Mars may be of immense interest. Encladus and Europa probably too, but in a different way.
Quote
That doesn't mean that reasonable steps shouldn't be undertaken to avoid the extinction of Martian microorganisms, which raises the prickly question of whether terraforming should be undertaken, given the existence of Martian microorganisms. If the case could be made that terraforming would not cause the extinction of Martian microorganisms, then by all means go for it if you really want.

Yes, a cosmocentric ethic argues that Mars as it is is intrinsically valuable and that it as it is should not be destroyed without a very good reason. But in this case, the value of a terraformed Mars + human culture outweighs the intrinsic value of the primitive Mars.

I'd agree there if the case was made successfully. There is also the prickly question of whether terraforming is actually prevented by adding aerobes to the planet at too early a stage.

See my article here about the tricky question of whether and how to terraform Mars

http://robert-inventor.tumblr.com/post/49677771359/terraforming-mars-needs-great-care-it-is-far-too

The big thing though is, do we have enough information to debate this question. I would say nowhere near enough yet.

When the great debate happens then there will be many people arguing different points of view. The unique thing about the view of those that jump in and land there right away is that their approach is irreversible, once you have done it you can't undo it. That's why I think the present law that makes that illegal should continue for a fair while yet, until we really and truly understand Mars from a biological point of view at least reasonably well.
« Last Edit: 05/15/2013 08:09 PM by robertinventor »

Offline Jim Davis

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 560
  • Liked: 117
  • Likes Given: 0
And yes, I fully admit that causing extinctions of any kind is an intrinsic moral wrong...

The eradication of smallpox was an intrinsic moral wrong?

Offline rcoppola

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2017
  • USA
  • Liked: 1294
  • Likes Given: 567
A bit of Human arrogance in all of this.

Earth, like Mars, has and will forever be impacted by forces much greater then humankind. Earth has been made then re-made, re-shaped, frozen, heated, etc., with mass life-eruptions and mass life-extinctions well before us and will continue well after us until the sun goes super-nova and swallows up the entire solar system.

Not to say we shouldn't exercise care with regards to how we impact both our earthly and celestial environments. But let's not go about thinking we are all that either.
Sail the oceans of space and set foot upon new lands!
http://www.stormsurgemedia.com

Offline gospacex

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3028
  • Liked: 537
  • Likes Given: 604
Quote
What is the problem with studying Mars while it is being colonized?

Contamination argument doesn't hold water: Genesis probe crashed on landing, contaminating all samples; yet, scientists aren't as dumb as some might think. They managed to sort out contamination from the samples. I don't see why a bit of ingenuity wouldn't help scientists to unravel Mars mysteries even if some "evil Earth bacteria" contaminate Mars soil.

But it does. Why do you think they are so careful to prevent contamination of Mars with the unmanned rovers? Why do you think the Outer Space Treaty has a specific clause preventing this, and the COSPAR guidelines classify Mars as Category IV?

Yes, with a small sample and a lot of work, in a situation where a lot of scientists working on a small amount of material is cost effective because it is so expensive to get more of it, and where you are not looking for life itself, just for a way of separating out individual dust grains that are of cometary origin from those of desert origin, then you can do it.

Why the same can't be done on Mars?

Scientists on Earth managed to learn quite a bit about past history of Earth's life, despite _billions of years_ of constant erasing and rewriting by newer generations.

You are saying that on Mars, scientists will be much dumber and won't find a way to differentiate Earth bacteria from Mars ones.

I am plain out not buying it.

Next. Let's say for the sake of argument that indeed, Mars colonization can irreversibly erase enough evidence so that we won't find out some information about Mars. Say, we won't know whether the bacteria we see are genuine Martian ones or are from Earth. As I said, I don't believe in this happening, but suppose it will be so.

Newsflash! Nothing particularly horrible will happen because of this. No one will die. Just like we don't know some details about Earth's past, and its not killing us.

Try to get some perspective. If something is upsetting *you* a lot as a scientist, doesn't automatically mean it is a Galactic emergency.

I personally are far more outraged that right this very moment actual concentration camps are functioning on this planet, people are dying there and we do nothing, than fate of some theoretical Mars bacteria!

Offline gospacex

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3028
  • Liked: 537
  • Likes Given: 604
And yes, I fully admit that causing extinctions of any kind is an intrinsic moral wrong...

The eradication of smallpox was an intrinsic moral wrong?

I just don't know how Warren manages to brush his teeth in the morning. Millions are dying ;)

Offline guckyfan

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6769
  • Germany
  • Liked: 1797
  • Likes Given: 1787
There are two possibilities. Maybe we can't distinguish Mars life from imported earth life. In that case Mars life would not give us much information. Mars and Earth life would likely have common origin.

But if Mars life originated independently, there will be differences we can detect and that would be the great find on Mars. It would mean that life will evolve most everywhere, if the conditions are there. BTW that is what I personally believe but would like to be proven. So lets go and find out.

Tags: