Author Topic: Mars Express discovery reopens questions for future Martian Exploration  (Read 5445 times)


Offline Bob Shaw

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I’m wary about claims like this from the Mars Express team - they always seem a bit out of step with everyone else in their enthusiasm for water. Anyone else remember the ‘frozen sea and icebergs’ announcement?
« Last Edit: 07/27/2018 08:47 pm by Bob Shaw »

Offline sghill

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I’m wary about claims like this from the Mars Express team - they always seem a bit out of step with everyone else in their enthusiasm for water. Anyone else remember the ‘frozen sea and icebergs’ announcement?

The Italian team used two years worth of analysis and observation to gather extraordinary proof before making this extraordinary claim.

For those in the know, I have a question. Is there an upcoming orbiter that could be equipped with an instrument better optimized to look for and map more lakes? There can't be just one.

Btw:

https://www.theonion.com/world-eating-leviathan-awoken-from-500-million-year-slu-1827928509?utm
« Last Edit: 07/28/2018 01:20 am by sghill »
Bring the thunder!

Offline su27k

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

Offline Russel

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As I said on the other thread, even if colonisation were a good idea (and I'd dearly love to to start a thread pointing out why it isn't), this is a source of water that is useless to colonists. Or put simply, there are easier ways to get water on Mars.

I'd rather talk about the scientific value of this.

Offline Star One

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I’m wary about claims like this from the Mars Express team - they always seem a bit out of step with everyone else in their enthusiasm for water. Anyone else remember the ‘frozen sea and icebergs’ announcement?

The Italian team used two years worth of analysis and observation to gather extraordinary proof before making this extraordinary claim.

For those in the know, I have a question. Is there an upcoming orbiter that could be equipped with an instrument better optimized to look for and map more lakes? There can't be just one.

Btw:

https://www.theonion.com/world-eating-leviathan-awoken-from-500-million-year-slu-1827928509?utm

I thought it was three years of data?

Offline ThereIWas3

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I do not think human explorers on the surface of Mars would be able to resolve this any better than specialized radar satellites in orbit.  The evidence one way or the other is way down, not lying about on the surface.
"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea" - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Offline Robotbeat

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I do not think human explorers on the surface of Mars would be able to resolve this any better than specialized radar satellites in orbit.  The evidence one way or the other is way down, not lying about on the surface.
You need the humans to build the drill rig necessary to reach this. We did exactly the same thing at Lake Vostok in Antarctica.
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Offline Selenaut

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If the goal is to confirm the liquid water existence the easiest way is with geoelectrical methods (like for example http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.402.1082&rep=rep1&type=pdf). The weight butget for all the equipment can be well bellow 300 Kg.

If the goal is to pump this water out for analyses we need to drill deep and  consider the following:

- The weight budget just for drill pipe (@ 10Kg/meter) is 15 tons.
- Without any knowledge of the geomecanics and borehole stability we'd better use a secure casing design. Add at least 30 tons more of tubes.
- In any case the chances of success (reach the planned depth without getting stuck) remain high for any well drilled far from well known areas in earth: hence the name wildcats. This is just the next level of wild

I personaly believe that there is a lot of geo-value to collect by other means before we venture into mars drilling ops.

Offline TripleSeven

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

Humans would be the worst tool for this...sophisticated probes and robots would be far better

Offline fthomassy

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I really appreciate the perspective of this article. Nice work by Chris Gebhardt :D 8) It is important to think about these questions and we may as well "navel gaze" before we take serious steps along the path of human presence where there might be life. Kudos to Chris for posing the right questions, I'd be interested in OpEds posing answers.

I don't have a strong opinion on the effort we (humans) should put into preserving Mars (or any other object) in some pristine state (do we create a Mars Polar Preserve for Microbial Life?, seems unlikely). I certainly bias toward exploration and (if possible) exploitation.

Even without the consideration of life, what about changing the face of these objects? Is it "right" to change the way Mars (or the Moon for that matter) looks? What rules do we follow? There are many other questions!!
gyatm . . . Fern

Offline Torbjorn Larsson, OM

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The infection scenario in the article seems to be beside the point, those are most often evolved between close lineages and autotrophs do not infect. Besides the specific lake is likely sterile (too salt, too cold).

If the goal is to confirm the liquid water existence the easiest way is with geoelectrical methods (like for example http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.402.1082&rep=rep1&type=pdf). The weight butget for all the equipment can be well bellow 300 Kg.

If the goal is to pump this water out for analyses we need to drill deep and  consider the following:

- The weight budget just for drill pipe (@ 10Kg/meter) is 15 tons.
- Without any knowledge of the geomecanics and borehole stability we'd better use a secure casing design. Add at least 30 tons more of tubes.
- In any case the chances of success (reach the planned depth without getting stuck) remain high for any well drilled far from well known areas in earth: hence the name wildcats. This is just the next level of wild

I personaly believe that there is a lot of geo-value to collect by other means before we venture into mars drilling ops.

The mass and drill difficulties is why projects have looked at melt probes, right?

That specific lake has likely less science value than others. But it looks like a good target for technology development compared to the ice moons that are the most exciting target; it is closer, have higher surface gravity and higher insolation.

Offline Bob Shaw

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I’m wary about claims like this from the Mars Express team - they always seem a bit out of step with everyone else in their enthusiasm for water. Anyone else remember the ‘frozen sea and icebergs’ announcement?

The Italian team used two years worth of analysis and observation to gather extraordinary proof before making this extraordinary claim.

For those in the know, I have a question. Is there an upcoming orbiter that could be equipped with an instrument better optimized to look for and map more lakes? There can't be just one.

Btw:

https://www.theonion.com/world-eating-leviathan-awoken-from-500-million-year-slu-1827928509?utm

Perhaps, true, but...

http://www.psi.edu/pgwg/images/oct07image.html

Offline redliox

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I'd say 2 things might help to figure out how to handle Mars, both of which current or upcoming missions will delve into:

1) Where is methane being emitted from?
2) How extensive is Mars' underground water?

Robots probably could land anywhere and not really contaminate much.  Except for ensuring extra cleaning for missions to the lakes regions, I don't think the discovery changes much for robots overall.  Humans on the other hand...

Based on what Odyssey found regarding surface ice, most of the Martian equator is dry and (assuming a water-based ecology) probably sterile.  The closer to the poles, the more water and ice in general.  The lake discovery seems to fit this, although it's not unreasonable to suspect ice and lakes could exist near the equator; however in the 15 years 'Express and MRO have been orbiting we've only found water by the south pole, not the equator.  So the lakes probably only exist where water ice is abundant.

Eventually I would think the IAU and UN would make a call on where humans could land and eventually settle.  I would assume the equator and most of the mid-latitudes would be alright.  The lakes and ice caps could be treated as an interplanetary reserve.

Too soon to make any calls; just send a few more robots to pin down the lakes and methane and, assuming humans spearhead swiftly, keep humans near the dry equator.
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Offline su27k

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

Humans would be the worst tool for this...sophisticated probes and robots would be far better

You may have misunderstood me. When I say " need to get this done", I meant landing humans on Mars (and building a base/colony), not investigating this lake.

Offline Robotbeat

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The infection scenario in the article seems to be beside the point, those are most often evolved between close lineages and autotrophs do not infect. Besides the specific lake is likely sterile (too salt, too cold).

If the goal is to confirm the liquid water existence the easiest way is with geoelectrical methods (like for example http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.402.1082&rep=rep1&type=pdf). The weight butget for all the equipment can be well bellow 300 Kg.

If the goal is to pump this water out for analyses we need to drill deep and  consider the following:

- The weight budget just for drill pipe (@ 10Kg/meter) is 15 tons.
- Without any knowledge of the geomecanics and borehole stability we'd better use a secure casing design. Add at least 30 tons more of tubes.
- In any case the chances of success (reach the planned depth without getting stuck) remain high for any well drilled far from well known areas in earth: hence the name wildcats. This is just the next level of wild

I personaly believe that there is a lot of geo-value to collect by other means before we venture into mars drilling ops.

The mass and drill difficulties is why projects have looked at melt probes, right?

That specific lake has likely less science value than others. But it looks like a good target for technology development compared to the ice moons that are the most exciting target; it is closer, have higher surface gravity and higher insolation.
I just looked at the small melt drill rigs used in Antarctica for just this purpose, and even for a hole down to just 500m, you need about 500kW of heat. That's a dozen of the biggest kilopowers you've got. That's about the same mass as the drill, and again, that's just for 500m.

Maybe you can be more efficient, but this is a very energy-intensive way of drilling.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline ThereIWas3

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If the goal is to get water as feedstock to ISRU processes, I think it would be easier to just melt the ice you are drilling through and use that water.  You have to melt it anyway and there is no point in going very deep for it other than to be getting H20 and not CO2 ice.

If the goal is to look for microbes for research, you do not need a very wide hole, and you might even be able to design a "one-way" probe that has a heated cable back to the surface with instruments on the end (particularly a microscope).  Once it melts its way to the water, the heat to the cable can be turned off and it just makes observations which are sent back to the surface over the cable.  Entire process automated?  Maybe.
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Offline Russel

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There is an easier way to create a hole. Just build a simple nuclear "reactor" designed purely to output heat (should be fairly compact). Start it up and let it melt its way down. Let gravity and physics do the work.

Not entirely sure if this isn't too unfriendly to the microbes you might wish to discover, but it does have the bonus of sterilising everything it touches, so cross contamination is less of an issue.

Offline Archibald

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Reminds me of Bradbury Martian chronicles, where the unfortunate martians are turned to ash by chickenpox.
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Offline Robotbeat

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There is an easier way to create a hole. Just build a simple nuclear "reactor" designed purely to output heat (should be fairly compact). Start it up and let it melt its way down. Let gravity and physics do the work.

Not entirely sure if this isn't too unfriendly to the microbes you might wish to discover, but it does have the bonus of sterilising everything it touches, so cross contamination is less of an issue.
Still needs like ~1MWth output, a lot more than the 43kWth output Kilopower units.
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Offline Star One

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There is an easier way to create a hole. Just build a simple nuclear "reactor" designed purely to output heat (should be fairly compact). Start it up and let it melt its way down. Let gravity and physics do the work.

Not entirely sure if this isn't too unfriendly to the microbes you might wish to discover, but it does have the bonus of sterilising everything it touches, so cross contamination is less of an issue.

I’d thought we got passed this kind of thinking in the fifties that nuclear power was always the solution to these kind of issues. I very much doubt that NASA’s plans in this area, which seem the most advanced, are suitable for melting kilometres of ice. Especially as you’d need hundreds of Kilopower generators.
« Last Edit: 07/30/2018 12:00 pm by Star One »

Offline Selenaut

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If this is a Subglaciar Lake like earth's Vostok the liquid water occurrence is bound to the increased pressure of the ice tapper above.

If we drill through we need to choke the well or all the water will start sublimating and flowing out as vapor. This would make the biologists freak out but may actually be a viable geothermal-like resource. And a quite low tech one since it just needs a regular turbine system. Considering that the Lake is 20Km across...that is a significant energy reservoir right there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subglacial_lake#/media/File:Phase_diagram_of_water.svg

Offline Russel

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There is an easier way to create a hole. Just build a simple nuclear "reactor" designed purely to output heat (should be fairly compact). Start it up and let it melt its way down. Let gravity and physics do the work.

Not entirely sure if this isn't too unfriendly to the microbes you might wish to discover, but it does have the bonus of sterilising everything it touches, so cross contamination is less of an issue.

I’d thought we got passed this kind of thinking in the fifties that nuclear power was always the solution to these kind of issues. I very much doubt that NASA’s plans in this area, which seem the most advanced, are suitable for melting kilometres of ice. Especially as you’d need hundreds of Kilopower generators.

The generators are designed for electrical output, not heat. And they're limited because of the need for radiators amongst other things.

A device designed to put out hundreds of KW or even a couple of MW isn't nearly as complex. All is has to do is to melt everything around it and keep on doing so for long enough.

Offline Russel

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If this is a Subglaciar Lake like earth's Vostok the liquid water occurrence is bound to the increased pressure of the ice tapper above.

If we drill through we need to choke the well or all the water will start sublimating and flowing out as vapor. This would make the biologists freak out but may actually be a viable geothermal-like resource. And a quite low tech one since it just needs a regular turbine system. Considering that the Lake is 20Km across...that is a significant energy reservoir right there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subglacial_lake#/media/File:Phase_diagram_of_water.svg

I suspect that it would come to the surface as water, then form a rapidly boiling lake.
Not much use having a power generator that's located hundreds or thousands of Km from where you'll need it.

Offline Selenaut

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If we could proof the concept you would have water and energy sourced together, making for a truly nice place for a settlement.
Sadly it doesn’t work as I thought: If you have a closer look at the phases diagram you will see that even with a large pressure differential (250MPa to 600Pa) at the expected temperatures the water transforms into ice first and only part of it would become vapor. This would mean that the borehole and the surface equipment would get plugged with ice in no time.
It’s just a matter of a few degrees but if we had to heat the process the efficiency may come to a ridiculous figure considering how energy intensive it is to heat water.
To make things worse we know that surface conditions are pretty close to the vapor/solid interface given the stationary growth and shrink of the caps. At some seasons it may function but not on a permanent basis.

Offline tesla

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

I agree. But I believe that it is already too late for this. NASA has already declared special zones on Mars and might extend those zones to the entire planet. Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

Scientific evidence that hundreds of kg of martian rocks impact Earth every day and that recrystallization structures inside the rocks prove that live could have survived inside the rocks for thousands of years is being brushed aside for science fiction fantasies.

The implementation of the precautionary principle won't just end the nuclear industry (in which I am working), but also the space industry.
Go SLS and Orion! God bless America.

Offline Dalhousie

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If the goal is to get water as feedstock to ISRU processes, I think it would be easier to just melt the ice you are drilling through and use that water.  You have to melt it anyway and there is no point in going very deep for it other than to be getting H20 and not CO2 ice.

There is water ice at the surface, you don't have get through 1.5 km of ice to get it.

Quote
If the goal is to look for microbes for research, you do not need a very wide hole, and you might even be able to design a "one-way" probe that has a heated cable back to the surface with instruments on the end (particularly a microscope).  Once it melts its way to the water, the heat to the cable can be turned off and it just makes observations which are sent back to the surface over the cable.  Entire process automated?  Maybe.

If it was this easy it would have already been done in deep glacier drilling in Antarctica,Greenland and elsewhere.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Online DigitalMan

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

I agree. But I believe that it is already too late for this. NASA has already declared special zones on Mars and might extend those zones to the entire planet. Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

Scientific evidence that hundreds of kg of martian rocks impact Earth every day and that recrystallization structures inside the rocks prove that live could have survived inside the rocks for thousands of years is being brushed aside for science fiction fantasies.

The implementation of the precautionary principle won't just end the nuclear industry (in which I am working), but also the space industry.

Another thing to consider is that regardless of any existing protection measures, the current administration would most probably take any action necessary if it could initiate boots on the ground on Mars during its administration.

Even without such interventions, my expectation is that after debate and reasoning out the various positions on planetary protection human exploration would eventually win the argument.

Offline Russel

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Just another reason to fast track landing humans on Mars, need to get this done before extremists can make an issue out of "protection of Martian microbes".

I agree. But I believe that it is already too late for this. NASA has already declared special zones on Mars and might extend those zones to the entire planet. Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

Scientific evidence that hundreds of kg of martian rocks impact Earth every day and that recrystallization structures inside the rocks prove that live could have survived inside the rocks for thousands of years is being brushed aside for science fiction fantasies.

The implementation of the precautionary principle won't just end the nuclear industry (in which I am working), but also the space industry.

Another thing to consider is that regardless of any existing protection measures, the current administration would most probably take any action necessary if it could initiate boots on the ground on Mars during its administration.

Even without such interventions, my expectation is that after debate and reasoning out the various positions on planetary protection human exploration would eventually win the argument.

Even if it were no threat to planetary protection, there are simply easier ways to get water out of Mars. So its a moot point.

Offline dsky

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I’m wary about claims like this from the Mars Express team - they always seem a bit out of step with everyone else in their enthusiasm for water. Anyone else remember the ‘frozen sea and icebergs’ announcement?

The Italian team used two years worth of analysis and observation to gather extraordinary proof before making this extraordinary claim.

For those in the know, I have a question. Is there an upcoming orbiter that could be equipped with an instrument better optimized to look for and map more lakes? There can't be just one.

Btw:

https://www.theonion.com/world-eating-leviathan-awoken-from-500-million-year-slu-1827928509?utm

Perhaps, true, but...

http://www.psi.edu/pgwg/images/oct07image.html



The reference to the PSI article is off-topic. The options of "frozen seas" or soil that is more ice than dirt is also probed by radars. See the article on Utopia Planitia published about one year ago.

On the topic of the work done on the underground lake, the Italian team was working on a sub-surface detection since many years, a work started painstakingly by the late prof. Picardi, the original PI for MARSIS.

The subtle unconfirmed features found justification when after many years a different mode to acquire data was used, taking advantage of some internal memory storage that provided unprocessed radar echoes data to the researchers (MARSIS normally performs some processing onboard to reduce the data volume required for downlink).

Overal this research took more than three years.

For what regards future orbiters with radars ... :) ... however that depth can be obtained only with a low frequency radar which also signifies a low vertical resolution.

A final caveat: the real depth of the lake depends on assumptions on the dieletric constant of the layers of soil above it, which affects the velocity of propagation of radio waves. Small changes can vary the depth noticeably.

« Last Edit: 08/18/2018 10:07 pm by dsky »
Why be a rocket scientist, when you can be a spacecraft engineer?

Offline dsky

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Even if it were no threat to planetary protection, there are simply easier ways to get water out of Mars. So its a moot point.

I am afraid I have to repeat here, with some additions, a post I just did on another topic (related to the discovery of the underground lake). Maybe Chris can edit the other one out.


It is always said that there are easier ways, but which ones?

One that is never mentioned properly is the discovery of HUGE quantities of most likely nearly pure ice ON (not UNDER) the surface of Mars. These are called Debris Covered Glaciers. They are in fact covered by an estimated 2 to 10 meters layer of debris.

The options to get that ice instead of any other fancy method of evaporating ice from soil is a game changing paradigm for Mars exploration.

The quantity of ice in the probed zones at mid-latitudes (very suitable for exploration) are staggering. This is going to have a far-reaching impact in plans for human exploration. It is time to stop thinking about drilling for samples, but to go claim the first ice mines on the Red Planet.

Without wanting to enter the planetary protection issue, it is also pretty clear that the same glaciers, having protected the soil on which they rest for hundreds of thousands of years, may hold a few surprises. And if so, these surprises will be widespread and will not require special rules if the mining activity is concentrated within a certain "dirty" zone.

These results come from SHARAD, MARSIS little brother, which has less penetration but higher resolution, and it is flying on MRO.

So I do not think that MEX/MARSIS discovery will reopen questions for Martian Exploration. Talks are already ongoing based on SHARAD discoveries which are way more useful for practical purposes. The underground lake has important implications for science (think also internal heat) but that's all.
« Last Edit: 08/18/2018 10:29 pm by dsky »
Why be a rocket scientist, when you can be a spacecraft engineer?

Offline Russel

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Exactly where has ice been identified, within a few metres of the surface, at a 'mid lattitide'?

I'm slso skeptical of the term 'mid lattitude'.

My impression is that anything beyond 30 degrees is pushing the limits of habitability.

Offline KelvinZero

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Exactly where has ice been identified, within a few metres of the surface, at a 'mid lattitide'?

I'm slso skeptical of the term 'mid lattitude'.

My impression is that anything beyond 30 degrees is pushing the limits of habitability.
These were pretty easy to find:
https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/24sep_martianice
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/midlatitudes

(Ice exposed by recent meteor impacts about 1.5m deep, halfway between poles and equator.)

Offline ThereIWas3

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Oh great, something else to worry about when designing habitats on Mars.  Or even leaving your spacecraft parked outside.   What size object, moving at what speed, would make a 6m diameter crater like that?   This seems more worrisome than radiation levels.  You can bury the habitats, but you can't put a cover over a 55m tall BFS that you would kind of not want to have a hole punched through.
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Offline KelvinZero

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Oh great, something else to worry about when designing habitats on Mars.  Or even leaving your spacecraft parked outside.   What size object, moving at what speed, would make a 6m diameter crater like that?   This seems more worrisome than radiation levels.  You can bury the habitats, but you can't put a cover over a 55m tall BFS that you would kind of not want to have a hole punched through.
Im sure they are very rare. I do favour underground though.

Mars is also a lot safer than LEO because the atmosphere removes micrometeors which are pretty common and have already been observed to hit the ISS. Im sure the BFS is in far more danger from mechanical failure during use than from meteorites sitting on the ground.

Offline Russel

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So confirmed shallow ice at 45 degrees?
None closer to equator?

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Additionally UN laws back planetary protectionist approaches by nations.

There's no such thing as "UN laws".  The United Nations charter gives the U.N. no such power.

Member states are not bound by the U.N. charter to follow resolutions of the General Assembly.

The only part of the UN that has any sort of real power over anything, even in theory, is the Security Council, and that power is only to the extent that member states choose to enforce its decisions.

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