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Old 27th February 2021, 08:44 AM   #1
Cainkane1
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Could humans actually colonize Mars?

If the gravity wasn't so weak it would be possible but human evolved to handle earths gravity might not be able to live on Mars. Studies of the Martian soil reveal very few nutrients so if you have a pot of Martian soil and put a plant in it the plant would starve to death watered or not. Humans would have to bring fertilizer.

Its possible humans could warm the planet up and use the water on Mars but it keeps coming back to the weak gravity.

The question is this. Could humans thrive there or is colonization of Mars a pipe dream?
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Old 27th February 2021, 04:21 PM   #2
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We have adapted to life on earth. We are the shape and size we are because that is the optimal way we can thrive in our earthly surroundings. If Mars were to be colonised, I dare say there are scientific and mechanical adaptions that can be made to make ourselves heavier and warmer, and then after a few thousand years of evolution we will adapt to the Mars environment naturally, and look very different. Perhaps more amphibian-like.
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Old 27th February 2021, 04:27 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
We have adapted to life on earth. We are the shape and size we are because that is the optimal way we can thrive in our earthly surroundings. If Mars were to be colonised, I dare say there are scientific and mechanical adaptions that can be made to make ourselves heavier and warmer, and then after a few thousand years of evolution we will adapt to the Mars environment naturally, and look very different. Perhaps more amphibian-like.
Evolve to live with effectively no oxygen in the atmosphere? I don't think so.
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Old 27th February 2021, 05:03 PM   #4
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Amphibians would probably have issues with the lack of liquid water as well.
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Old 27th February 2021, 05:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
Evolve to live with effectively no oxygen in the atmosphere? I don't think so.
Well, that is one of the Perseverance experiments. Can Oxygen be extracted sufficiently from the Marian atmosphere, such as it is, to sustain human life.

What will the answer to that be? How would anyone know until they do the actual experiment?
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Old 27th February 2021, 05:17 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
We have adapted to life on earth. We are the shape and size we are because that is the optimal way we can thrive in our earthly surroundings. If Mars were to be colonised, I dare say there are scientific and mechanical adaptions that can be made to make ourselves heavier and warmer, and then after a few thousand years of evolution we will adapt to the Mars environment naturally, and look very different. Perhaps more amphibian-like.
Evolution takes a lot longer to work than that. We're much more likely to proactively engineer the desired changes.
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Old 27th February 2021, 05:34 PM   #7
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Anyway, we could probably sustain a human population on Mars indefinitely, with our current technology and resources. There's just no point. And in my opinion, there will probably never be a point. There's barely a point to sustaining a human settlement on Antarctica. The only point there is that it's still just earthlike enough that human science is more cost effective than robot science.

Mars has nothing to offer, that would justify sending people there, let alone sustaining a human presence there.

What would a self sustaining settlement need? First, energy. Fossil fuels are right out. So is wind, I think. Solar is weaker, but still viable. You'd need a lot more surface area for the same output, though. The maintenance cost per energy unit produced might not be break even.

Hydro might be good. Melt the edge of an ice cap and tap the gravitational potential. But with less gravity, hydro won't generate as much power there as here. Still, it's probably good. What about nuclear? I don't know. Are there substantial deposits of uranium to be mined, on Mars?

So let's say energy has been solved. What's next, that a self sustaining settlement would need to sort out?
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Old 27th February 2021, 08:51 PM   #8
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Next might be: How to win that war with Earth?

Problem is, individually as well as collectively, we often hurtle in to doing things before working out clearly the why-exactly-s. On the other hand, that blinkered don't-look-too-hard-before-the-leap-ism is probably why we do many of the things we otherwise wouldn't have done, at least some of which turn out well, sometimes. Progress, in other words, of a kind.

Should we go to Mars, and live there? If I were Elon Musk we wouldn't bother. But unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, and probably inevitably, I ain't Elon Musk.
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Old 27th February 2021, 09:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
If the gravity wasn't so weak it would be possible but human evolved to handle earths gravity might not be able to live on Mars. Studies of the Martian soil reveal very few nutrients so if you have a pot of Martian soil and put a plant in it the plant would starve to death watered or not. Humans would have to bring fertilizer.

Its possible humans could warm the planet up and use the water on Mars but it keeps coming back to the weak gravity.

The question is this. Could humans thrive there or is colonization of Mars a pipe dream?
My guess is that if humans can live for a year in orbit in zero-g, then 3/8 g would be fine for a very long time, and perhaps indefinitely. If that's the case, the gravity problem would not be a show stopper.

I don't know if there is any informed speculation about pregnancy and child development in low gravity environments. It might be that an adult could live a (mostly) normal life in 3/8 g, but a human baby born on Mars would not develop normally. I don't know. Obviously it hasn't been tested, but I don't know if it has even been studied in a meaningful manner. My guess, though, is that the people born there would live and be relatively normal. They might be a bit skinnier, and might have lower life expectancies.

If that problem is not insurmountable, everything else could be dealt with, in theory. The question is whether it would be worth the effort. I doubt it.
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Old 28th February 2021, 02:59 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
Well, that is one of the Perseverance experiments. Can Oxygen be extracted sufficiently from the Marian atmosphere, such as it is, to sustain human life.

What will the answer to that be? How would anyone know until they do the actual experiment?
That isn't evolution in the sense that was proposed. It's manipulation of the environment.

Then there's the lack of magnetosphere and the need for routine protection against incoming radiation. It might become technically possible to establish a long-term colony on Mars, but it won't 'thrive' in any meaningful sense of that word. 'Survive' is the best that can be hoped for.
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Old 28th February 2021, 03:35 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by abaddon View Post
Well, that is one of the Perseverance experiments. Can Oxygen be extracted sufficiently from the Marian atmosphere, such as it is, to sustain human life.

What will the answer to that be? How would anyone know until they do the actual experiment?
At first glance it seems like the kind of experiment that could be performed on Earth, but I guess the vacuum chamber that would mimic the Martian atmosphere would have to be gigantic. The energy input to oxygen extracted ratio will make interesting reading.
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Old 28th February 2021, 09:14 AM   #12
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if we could figure out what kind of animal can live of Mars, we might come up with ways to genetically modify humans to cope, too.

Probably wouldn't be humans anymore, though...
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:02 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Chanakya View Post
Next might be: How to win that war with Earth?
I was thinking next would be figuring out self-sustaining atmosphere, or self-sustaining food supply. I can't imagine any scenario in which a war with Earth would be desirable, or even winnable, from the Martian side. About the only advantage the Martians would have would be lower gravity-related launch costs.

Quote:
Problem is, individually as well as collectively, we often hurtle in to doing things before working out clearly the why-exactly-s. On the other hand, that blinkered don't-look-too-hard-before-the-leap-ism is probably why we do many of the things we otherwise wouldn't have done, at least some of which turn out well, sometimes. Progress, in other words, of a kind.

Should we go to Mars, and live there? If I were Elon Musk we wouldn't bother. But unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, and probably inevitably, I ain't Elon Musk.
Who's we? Why do you begrudge Musk his hobbies?
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:19 AM   #14
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With no magnetosphere and next to no atmosphere, humans could survive there long-term if they were in a pressurised habitat underground to protect them from radiation. What useful purpose we could find for having that habitat on Mars instead of Earth I can't say.
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:26 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I was thinking next would be figuring out self-sustaining atmosphere, or self-sustaining food supply. I can't imagine any scenario in which a war with Earth would be desirable, or even winnable, from the Martian side. About the only advantage the Martians would have would be lower gravity-related launch costs.

Sure. I meant eventually, and possibly.


Quote:
Who's we?

People? Individuals, as well as humanity generally?


Quote:
Why do you begrudge Musk his hobbies?

I don't, not the slightest bit! My point was, in his place I probably wouldn't take the trouble to do all of what he's doing, in that particular area. Because I'd ask "why, what for?", and not proceed unless I were presented overwhelmingly good reasons, both personally and generally. And which trait is probably why he is who he is, and who I am not. That trait, as well as a dozen others I'm sure.

And that kind of thing is also how we end up, more generally, with progress, of a kind. Which of course is the only kind there is.

Nope, not begrudging the man anything. Just thinking aloud, in response to your post.
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:31 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
With no magnetosphere and next to no atmosphere, humans could survive there long-term if they were in a pressurised habitat underground to protect them from radiation. What useful purpose we could find for having that habitat on Mars instead of Earth I can't say.
I'm a huge fan of space exploration, NASA, and all that rocket stuff, and I would love to see people go to Mars.

However, actually coming up with some reason that it's a good idea to go there is a lot tougher.

Unless we come up with a rationalization for doing Mars mining that makes economic sense, I can't see a reason to keep people there.
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:34 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Jack by the hedge View Post
With no magnetosphere and next to no atmosphere, humans could survive there long-term if they were in a pressurised habitat underground to protect them from radiation. What useful purpose we could find for having that habitat on Mars instead of Earth I can't say.
The usual response to that is "Ah, but what if a monstrous asteroid were heading our way and about to pulverise the planet? The Mars colony would be our lifeboat, the seed of the human race!"

Personally I don't see it as a life worth having, but ...
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Old 28th February 2021, 10:45 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
..snip..

So let's say energy has been solved. What's next, that a self sustaining settlement would need to sort out?
Assuming the necessary elements are there as well.

I’ve mulled this over several times and the more I think of it the more I am convinced that the only way we could set up anything like a self-sustaining colony (if we don’t have grey nano-goo) is if it is all based on technology and processes we had access to up to around the early seventies. The reason for this is because of microprocessors. Today everything will have silicon in it, whether it is your toaster or latest hand drill or bedtime fun pal (Kindles what were you thinking off). The supply chain and support industries required to create the silicon we use today is mind boggling in its complexity.

On first thoughts you may think we could send a silicon fabrication plant as part of the initial colony so they could manufacture their own replacement silicon BUT if that plant fails they can’t build a replacement fabrication plant so they aren’t self-sustaining. They have to be able to manufacture everything that is essential for life from very basic components.

Of course because they would have access to the knowledge of better technology they could much more quickly move their industrial base forward but I’d still think it would take a few generations to get back to where we are today in the twenty-twenties.
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Old 28th February 2021, 12:18 PM   #19
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Old 28th February 2021, 12:20 PM   #20
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As the great business guru Michael Porter said, 'Adapt or die!'

So, if the OP wants to consider colonising Mars, he will need to consider how to adapt to it.

Here on earth, we need a whole ecosystem to survive, much of it symbiotic - dependent on other life forms - and a fine balance. This will need to be worked out for Mars and it is a massive project. Can't just say, oh we'll just turn up as we are and hope for the best.
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Old 28th February 2021, 12:41 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
The usual response to that is "Ah, but what if a monstrous asteroid were heading our way and about to pulverise the planet? The Mars colony would be our lifeboat, the seed of the human race!"

Personally I don't see it as a life worth having, but ...
In that case you need a much bigger and more elaborate Martian habitat which can survive without resupply virtually indefinitely. And you have to build it before the Earth gets hit (or at least all the stuff has to leave Earth before then). So you'd probably need a scenario like a near miss by an object whose plotted trajectory brings it back around for a second go in several years.

You might get to commit the entire resources of human industry to the project, though you'd have to win the argument over whether it wouldn't make more sense to come up with a Bruce Willis scheme to save the Earth instead.

And the end game of the project must surely be to return to a recovering Earth at some point. You can't hope to terraform Mars with a few thousand tons of tech you might fly there so you need to hope the Earth gets habitable again before all your technology fails from old age. You might have lots of solar panels for power but you'd have no way to make new ones from scratch and they're not going to be in very good shape after 20 years, let alone 100 years, or 10,000 years or whatever it takes.
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Old 28th February 2021, 01:13 PM   #22
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I suspect that in 99% of scenarios, Earth would make a better lifeboat for displaced Earthlings than Mars would. And in those other 1% of scenarios? Well, we had a good run, and nothing lasts forever.

And no, I don't buy the "we're genetically hardwired to perpetuate the species!" excuse, either. Your genes might be hardwired, but you are not. You have a romantic idea of humans still existing in some form millions of years from now. Not an evolutionary mandate to make it so.
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Old 28th February 2021, 01:38 PM   #23
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To save space, I totally agree with posts #33 and #34
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Old 28th February 2021, 01:42 PM   #24
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I love how everyone craps on Armageddon as a movie, but we still think it's a better idea than colonizing Mars.
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Old 28th February 2021, 01:58 PM   #25
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There is no good reason to colonize Mars. There are good reasons to send people to spend some time there, maybe even establish a base, but no good reason to keep any individual there for years. Nobody should have to spend more than a few months there before being relieved of duty and coming home.
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Old 28th February 2021, 02:10 PM   #26
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I don't even think there's a good reason to send people at all.*

As far as science goes, robots have much more better cost-benefit-risk ratio than humans. And any advances that make humans more worthwhile will also make robots even more worthwhile. This is a race that humans cannot win.

---
*Not quite true. Adventure tourism is a perfectly cromulent reason, in my opinion.
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Old 28th February 2021, 02:35 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I don't even think there's a good reason to send people at all.*

As far as science goes, robots have much more better cost-benefit-risk ratio than humans. And any advances that make humans more worthwhile will also make robots even more worthwhile. This is a race that humans cannot win.

---
*Not quite true. Adventure tourism is a perfectly cromulent reason, in my opinion.
If anyone has enough money to afford a tourist trip to Mars, we really need to adjust our tax structure.

But, who knows? Someday it might be cheaper. I just know that ever since I discovered the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, my optimism about ever making space flight cheap, or interstellar travel possible, went way down.
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Old 28th February 2021, 03:03 PM   #28
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I don't think we should colonize Mars. The Weekly World News once reported it's full of ghosts.

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Old 28th February 2021, 03:38 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
If anyone has enough money to afford a tourist trip to Mars, we really need to adjust our tax structure.
.....
I suspect Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg could share a ride.
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Old 28th February 2021, 03:50 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
..... but it keeps coming back to the weak gravity.
I solved this problem year ago. Elon Musk simply needs to install thousands of huge centrifuges on Mars, which I call ROTORS. These rotors would simply turn around and create a centrifugal force equal to Earth's gravity. Humans could then exercise, have normal sex, eat and go about their daily business in the ROTORS.

Strangely, I wrote to Elon Musk and told him about my terrific idea and he never wrote back. However his lawyers did send me a cease and desist court order to stay away.
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Old 28th February 2021, 03:59 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
If anyone has enough money to afford a tourist trip to Mars, we really need to adjust our tax structure.
Is this a serious policy proposal, or are you just cracking wise?
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Old 28th February 2021, 04:04 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Spektator View Post
I don't think we should colonize Mars. The Weekly World News once reported it's full of ghosts.

Actually, that makes me more likely to want to go.
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Old 28th February 2021, 07:01 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Is this a serious policy proposal, or are you just cracking wise?
Both.


The actual serious, underlying, issue is that it will be phenomenally expensive to go to Mars. Hitching a ride as a tourist along with a government flight would cost many millions, and probably at least a billion, dollars, I think, but that assumes you are only paying the incremental cost of one additional passenger.

What you suggested was that the only valid reason for going to Mars is space tourism, which would imply that the tourists also have to split the initial cost of providing all the infrastructure. That would be many billions of dollars, each. If there are enough people who have that much money lying around, we're doing something wrong. In my humble opinion.
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Old 28th February 2021, 08:48 PM   #34
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Seems very dubious in the near term, but it's fun to imagine. Lots of science fiction has been written on the topic:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_trilogy

Once you get past the initial excitement phase of "Holy *****, we're on Mars!!!", the practical upshot is that Mars isn't actually a very nice place to be. One of the reasons why we sort of stopped sending people to the moon after the 1970s.

If we could somehow terraform it to the point where it actually is livable, maybe, but that seems rather far-fetched. One of the big problems being that it lacks the kind of magnetic field that protects the earth from lots of nasty radiation. So you would probably need to build domes to protect the colonies from radiation.
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Old 1st March 2021, 04:24 AM   #35
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Problem is by the time we could do something like terraform Mars why would we? The sort of technology required would mean we could colonise or build habitats pretty much anywhere.
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Old 1st March 2021, 04:54 AM   #36
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unless we get to a stage where moving things up and down a gravity well is trivial (*cough* space elevator *cough*), space habitats, possibly build on and from an asteroid, are a much simpler backup option for human existence.
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Old 1st March 2021, 06:34 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Problem is by the time we could do something like terraform Mars why would we? The sort of technology required would mean we could colonise or build habitats pretty much anywhere.
Because it's nearby I guess. Other than the moon, it's the closest planet besides Venus, and Venus seems much less hospitable than Mars. Venus and Mercury are too close to the sun for comfort, and everything else is rather farther away than Mars, so it seems like the most logical place to go next.
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Old 1st March 2021, 07:13 AM   #38
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As Neil DeGrasse Tyson points out, for the time, effort, and money it would take to terraform Mars, you could more easily fix the problems here on Earth.

I can see a small underground colony, perhaps functioning with above-ground solar energy, cracking underground water sources for oxygen and fuel, growing plant foods hydroponically... But it would be a small and fragile colony, and would take a huge amount of engineering and construction to get up and running. And it’s not like you could work for 10 hours and go home....
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Old 1st March 2021, 07:29 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Because it's nearby I guess. Other than the moon, it's the closest planet besides Venus, and Venus seems much less hospitable than Mars. Venus and Mercury are too close to the sun for comfort, and everything else is rather farther away than Mars, so it seems like the most logical place to go next.
"Because it's there" is an argument for adventure tourism, not building a viable, self sustaining colony.
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Old 1st March 2021, 07:49 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Problem is by the time we could do something like terraform Mars why would we? The sort of technology required would mean we could colonise or build habitats pretty much anywhere.
Yes, and by quite a large margin. We actually have the knowledge to build habitats right now in Earth orbit that could provide a more Earth like environment than any other planet. But true terraforming appears impossible for a very long time. And given the vast amounts of energy and material it would require, terraforming would seem to presuppose that we already have a fully functioning society living in space that has industrial capacity that dwarfs the current human society.

Originally Posted by Puppycow View Post
Because it's nearby I guess. Other than the moon, it's the closest planet besides Venus, and Venus seems much less hospitable than Mars. Venus and Mercury are too close to the sun for comfort, and everything else is rather farther away than Mars, so it seems like the most logical place to go next.
It's not all that near by. The first logical nearby place is in Earth orbit. Yeah, we've got to build from scratch but we can get something far more Earth like from a spinning colony that any planetary surface. Right atmosphere, right gravity (even a mix of gravities is easy), right day/night if we like. Can't get wide open spaces in the first ones but since we'd be living in domes for centuries anywhere else, it's still a vast improvement. Plus it's far easier to visit Earth when you want to. And to perform services for Earth which is a good reason to justify them in the first place.

In space, "nearby" is probably best measured in energy rather than distance so the asteroid belt is actually a better second destination.
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