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Old 25th November 2018, 09:11 AM   #1
HansMustermann
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What is with the obsession with Mars?

You know it's SF -- or Elon Musk's PR for why you should pay him to do it -- when humanity is colonizing Mars, has colonized Mars, or is already having a fight or standoff with the already colonized Mars.

But... why?

It doesn't even have a magnetic shielding. Atmosphere is somewhere between "buggerall" and "hardly any". So forget any protection against even the smallest meteorites, or for that matter a good solar flare can give you enough radiation that you won't need to turn on the lights to piss at night. Gravity is barely better than the moon, so you WILL have the same health problems as living long term on the space station, it will just take a longer time. Etc.

Why not, say, Venus? Making a floating city in the upper atmosphere is a rather trivial proposition. Most of you will know the idea, but whoever doesn't, well, look it up. And you have the thick atmosphere to protect you from meteorites and most of the solar radiation. Better yet. if you do spring a leak, it's not gonna lose air particularly quickly, because it's the same pressure inside as outside. It's rather warm up there too. And you have the equivalent of infinite geothermal energy, albeit taking energy from the sharp temperature gradient in the Venusian atmosphere. Just drop a mile long hose downwards and you have energy out the wazoo and/or yin-yang.

Just about the only disadvantage of Venus is that you won't be mining anything. And I don't mean just as in "the surface is too hot to go mining there", but as in, since it periodically melts its whole crust, anything heavier than silica has already sunk to the planet centre.
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Old 25th November 2018, 03:58 PM   #2
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Maybe it because scientists, you know, those really intelligent people who actually understand this stuff, think Mars is a better proposition for colonization.
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Old 25th November 2018, 05:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Y Making a floating city in the upper atmosphere is a rather trivial proposition.
Then why haven't you done it yet?
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Old 25th November 2018, 05:52 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Why not, say, Venus?
Because if I owned Venus and Hell I'd rent Venus out and live in Hell.

But to answer your broader question but if we want to establish a permanent off Earth population of people we have to pick a place and every single option sucks.

No planet that isn't Earth is going to be good. The Moon has no magnetic field and insufficient gravity. Mars has no magnetic field, insufficient gravity, and is far away. Venus is literally hell. Mercury and the Gas Giant, not even worth considering at this point. Some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter are potentially interesting but that's a longer term then what we're talking.

We focus on Mars because it's a good proof of concept. It's the closest world (that again isn't literal hell with your "Just build a floating sky city" plan being, I think, a bit more complicated then you're making it sound) that is really alien and distant.

Sure we can (and will and should) establish a permanent presence on the moon but the moon is... like right there. We got there and back with 1960s technology. A base on the moon will never be as "on its own" as a base on Mars. The moon will always be in Earth's literal and figurative shadow.
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Old 25th November 2018, 06:53 PM   #5
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Mars is closest in human affection because it's more visible to us, and always has been. Venus may be physically nearer, but it's got that thick atmosphere that makes observing its surface impossible from a distance, and due to its position doesn't stay in the sky that long. Mars hangs out more, it's distinctively colored, and we've been seeing its surface since telescopes were invented. Hence it figures more prominently in our cultural consciousness. Mars is the sexy boy next door. Venus is the probably psychotic chick across the street, the one always muttering to herself and who ran over that dog, she said it wasn't on purpose but there's always been doubt. And when the garbage men spilled her trash can that one time, it was ninety percent prescription pill bottles. So when it comes time to flirt which are you going to go with? Mars, obviously. He'll show us a good time, or at least probably not throw acid in our face which is something you can't promise about Venus.
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Old 25th November 2018, 07:19 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
Because if I owned Venus and Hell I'd rent Venus out and live in Hell.

But to answer your broader question but if we want to establish a permanent off Earth population of people we have to pick a place and every single option sucks.

No planet that isn't Earth is going to be good. The Moon has no magnetic field and insufficient gravity. Mars has no magnetic field, insufficient gravity, and is far away. Venus is literally hell. Mercury and the Gas Giant, not even worth considering at this point. Some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter are potentially interesting but that's a longer term then what we're talking.

We focus on Mars because it's a good proof of concept. It's the closest world (that again isn't literal hell with your "Just build a floating sky city" plan being, I think, a bit more complicated then you're making it sound) that is really alien and distant.

Sure we can (and will and should) establish a permanent presence on the moon but the moon is... like right there. We got there and back with 1960s technology. A base on the moon will never be as "on its own" as a base on Mars. The moon will always be in Earth's literal and figurative shadow.
A pretty good summary, which boils down to "when every place you want to go sucks, the place that sucks the least is the best option"

Thinking long term, Mars is also the best option for terraforming. Venus and Mercury are out of the question, and despite what some people will try to tell us, staying on earth simply is not an option. If we don't wipe ourselves out by making the planet uninhabitable (and given the recent "ten years to PNR" warning from climate scientists, and the current bunch of numpties running Governments, I have no confidence whatsoever that we will be able to do what must be done), then the Universe will do it for us.... it is not a matter of if another Chicxulub happens, its a matter of when... and we are statistically overdue for a big one.
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Old 25th November 2018, 07:22 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Universe will do it for us.... it is not a matter of if another Chicxulub happens, its a matter of when... and we are statistically overdue for a big one.
No matter how advanced we get, the only difference between us and the dinosaurs that actually matters is telescopes and a space program.
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Old 26th November 2018, 01:29 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by JoeMorgue View Post
No matter how advanced we get, the only difference between us and the dinosaurs that actually matters is telescopes and a space program.
I agree to a certain extent, but even telescopes and a space programme may not be much help. Take, for example our recent interstellar visitor Oumuamua. It wasn't discovered until it had already gone around the sun, crossed the Earth's orbit, and was on its way out of the solar system.


By nagualdesign; Tomruen - Own work made with , trajectory data from
JPL Horizons, redrawn by nagualdesign., CC BY-SA 4.0

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/inde...curid=64505953


That object came from a completely unexpected direction. Had it been on a collision trajectory with the Earth, we would never have seen it coming.
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Old 26th November 2018, 02:18 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Maybe it because scientists, you know, those really intelligent people who actually understand this stuff, think Mars is a better proposition for colonization.
You know it's the same kind of guys who came up with the venus blimp city, right?
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Old 26th November 2018, 02:31 AM   #10
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Old 26th November 2018, 03:17 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
You know it's the same kind of guys who came up with the venus blimp city, right?
Yeah, but you are misrepreseting their claims

""We aren't saying, 'Abandon all other planets and just go to Venus,'" Arney said. "We are saying, 'If we wanted to go to Venus, what would it actually take to do that mission?'"

Its a flight of fancy and I doubt it will ever happen.

For starters even though Venus is closer to the Earth than Mars, the tyranny of Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation means that getting to and from Venus is much harder than getting to and from Mars. This is because Venus is deeper into the Sun's gravity well; arriving spacecraft have to lose a lot of initial kinetic energy to get into orbit. This means it has to carry more fuel and less payload. Then leaving Venus to come back to Earth is also harder because the return mission is working against the solar gravity - again, more fuel so even less payload.

Secondly, there are highly corrosive sulfuric acid cloud layers near 60 ± 10 km in altitude that would make a mission there very difficult indeed.
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Old 26th November 2018, 04:47 AM   #12
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Am I? I don't think those guys are even the first to come up with the idea. Honestly, various ideas about how to go about moving to Venus go at least as far back as Sagan in the 60's. And specifically the city in a blimp one is at least as old as 1971. Heck, even NASA's having a look at it is at least as old as a paper by Geoffrey Landis in 2003.

That idea hasn't started nor ended with HAVOC. Nor with Dale Arney.
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Old 26th November 2018, 05:25 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
You know it's SF -- or Elon Musk's PR for why you should pay him to do it -- when humanity is colonizing Mars, has colonized Mars, or is already having a fight or standoff with the already colonized Mars.

But... why?
Get your ass to Mars.
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Old 26th November 2018, 05:50 AM   #14
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Well, the best reason I can think of to go to Mars is to rescue Matt Damon.
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Old 26th November 2018, 05:50 AM   #15
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Man, oh, man... now where am I going to find a spacesuit for that donkey...
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Old 26th November 2018, 05:54 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Loss Leader View Post
Well, the best reason I can think of to go to Mars is to rescue Matt Damon.
Just leave Matt Damon.

It's the Princesses of Mars that need rescuing!
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Old 26th November 2018, 06:29 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Am I? I don't think those guys are even the first to come up with the idea. Honestly, various ideas about how to go about moving to Venus go at least as far back as Sagan in the 60's. And specifically the city in a blimp one is at least as old as 1971. Heck, even NASA's having a look at it is at least as old as a paper by Geoffrey Landis in 2003.

That idea hasn't started nor ended with HAVOC. Nor with Dale Arney.
Mars has water, unlike Venus. Water can be used to produce oxygen and the two together enable plant growth. In theory, at least, a Martian colony could be self-sustaining whereas, afaics, a Venusian 'colony' would have to be regularly supplied from elsewhere.

My reading of the 'blimp city' idea is that it's a distant prospect that would enable exploration. Having allowed that, then flights of fancy occur in which people wonder whether people might actually live there.
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Old 26th November 2018, 06:46 AM   #18
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Oxygen can also be produced out of CO2, including, yes, via plants. Though more likely via MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment), which is what they plan to use on Mars too.

Water, yeah, that's a bit more of a problem.
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Old 26th November 2018, 07:41 AM   #19
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Actually, let me add one thing, since the cost of fuel keeps coming up.

While it's indeed true that the Sun's gravity well doesn't help much with the amount of fuel, nevertheless a mission to Venus takes half as long as one to Mars. No, really, about 3 months for Venus vs 6 months for Mars.

Why is that important? Because if you want to haul humans there, you're exposing them to some very energetic ionizing radiation for the whole duration of the flight. Every extra day in flight, is more radiation into your sickness.

And really at the moment that is THE biggest technical problem we have. We know how to dig a bunker on Mars or whatnot, but we don't know WTH to do about radiation on the way there.

If you don't want half your colonists to die of radiation poisoning and cancer within the next few months (and presumably half the rest developping superpowers), Venus seems to me like a safer bet. Maybe not cheaper, but, you know, at least you're not gonna glow in the dark so hard you won't need a light to piss at night
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Old 26th November 2018, 08:39 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, let me add one thing, since the cost of fuel keeps coming up.

While it's indeed true that the Sun's gravity well doesn't help much with the amount of fuel, nevertheless a mission to Venus takes half as long as one to Mars. No, really, about 3 months for Venus vs 6 months for Mars.

Why is that important? Because if you want to haul humans there, you're exposing them to some very energetic ionizing radiation for the whole duration of the flight. Every extra day in flight, is more radiation into your sickness.
And at least some of that radiation emanates from the Sun. Presumably as they get closer that radiation becomes more intense, so is there a net improvement from shortening the trip?

And what shielding will be available on the blimps?
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Old 26th November 2018, 09:15 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
And at least some of that radiation emanates from the Sun. Presumably as they get closer that radiation becomes more intense, so is there a net improvement from shortening the trip?

And what shielding will be available on the blimps?
Lead is a quite good radiation shielding material. I'm just not sure whether to go with "That'll go over like a lead balloon.", or go straight to the Led Zeppelin reference.
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Old 26th November 2018, 09:26 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
Lead is a quite good radiation shielding material. I'm just not sure whether to go with "That'll go over like a lead balloon.", or go straight to the Led Zeppelin reference.
Har har
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Old 26th November 2018, 10:30 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Pope130 View Post
Lead is a quite good radiation shielding material. I'm just not sure whether to go with "That'll go over like a lead balloon.", or go straight to the Led Zeppelin reference.
You should've stopped at the first sentence and let people figure it out.
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Old 26th November 2018, 11:07 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by GlennB View Post
And at least some of that radiation emanates from the Sun. Presumably as they get closer that radiation becomes more intense, so is there a net improvement from shortening the trip?

And what shielding will be available on the blimps?
The shielding once you get there there would be basically the thick atmosphere above you. It's getting there that's the radiation problem. But once you've got someone on either Mars or Venus, you're set.
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Old 26th November 2018, 11:49 AM   #25
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Venus? Eh. It just looks like a foggy Mars.



Admittedly, the fog is a little on the heavy side and a bit hot. All in all, Venus seems much more sultry than Mars. Which is what you'd expect from a planet where women come from.
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Old 26th November 2018, 02:37 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Elagabalus View Post
Venus? Eh. It just looks like a foggy Mars.
Admittedly, the fog is a little on the heavy side and a bit hot. All in all, Venus seems much more sultry than Mars. Which is what you'd expect from a planet where women come from.
Well that 'sultry' atmosphere is one reason Mars gets more attention. The longest time a probe has lasted on the surface of Venus can be measured in hours. Mars missions have managed years of exploration.

And InSight made a successful touchdown on Mars a couple of hours go, so I guess that Mars centric focus isn't going away.
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Old 26th November 2018, 06:37 PM   #27
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Well, the biggest issue landers had was heat when you go all the way down. Which is enough to literally make Hell seem like a place to go skiing, by comparison.

No, seriously, the temperature on the surface is about 467C (862F for you imperial barstards), whereas a lake of burning sulphur can be at most at the boiling point of sulphur, which is only 444.6C (832.3F). "Hotter than hell" is usually gross hyperbole, but in Venus's case, it's quite literal. (Well, unless Hell is also under pressure, anyway )

So anything that goes down on the surface, well, you can only delay the inevitable for so long, before your electronics overheat and die a horrible death. So the atmosphere is only sorta indirectly to blame, in that it creates the greenhouse effect that produces that kind of temperature. Otherwise, we CAN make stuff that isn't even slightly fazed by the tiny traces of sulphuric acid in the atmosphere.

We're talking 150ppm of sulfur dioxide and such. If it weren't the temperature that killed you first, even your skin could withstand that.

So, yeah, it's heat that's the killer on the surface.

However, by the time you're high enough for atmospheric pressure to be about 1 Earth atmosphere, that drops to about 30C or about 86F or so. It's the kind of temperature that Texans would call a slightly chilly autumn
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Old 26th November 2018, 06:40 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
The shielding once you get there there would be basically the thick atmosphere above you. It's getting there that's the radiation problem. But once you've got someone on either Mars or Venus, you're set.
Seems to me that once you've got someone on either Mars or Venus, your problems have only just begun.
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Old 26th November 2018, 06:50 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Seems to me that once you've got someone on either Mars or Venus, your problems have only just begun.
Well, ok, I'll grant that it's nowhere near smooth sailing from there, but I was talking about the radiation problem only. On Venus all that heavy atmosphere will shield you. And on Mars, well, you should be ok if you live in a shielded bunker. Otherwise on the surface if Mars when there's a good solar flare, you can just put a film plate in your back pocket and get an x-ray of your butt, so you can kiss it goodbye

No, seriously, if you went around the surface of Mars in a flimsy spacesuit like you see in movies, you'd see flashes of light even with your eyes closed, because of ionizing radiation going through your retinas.
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Old 26th November 2018, 07:25 PM   #30
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I'm wondering about this, and here seems a reasonable enough spot to ponder such seemingly silly thought... So here goes, just how hard would it be to generate an artificial magnetic field around Mars, obviously not one as robust as our molten iron core creates around the Earth, but one strong enough to offer safe radiation shielding for those on the Martian surface? Such a thing would also be a benefit to creating and retaining a breathable atmosphere , if I've managed to have a grade school grasp on the situation. Could a couple/few large, I'm talking gigantic, magnets moving in a high speed orbit create a sustainable artificial field? Or is this beyond the realm of science fiction?
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Old 26th November 2018, 09:51 PM   #31
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Well, not beyond. It's just, the energy requirements are tremendous. But I suppose most terraforming scenarios have the same problem.

The thing is, though, it doesn't have to be just as strong as Earth's. It would actually have to be stronger, to offer the same level of protection as we have on the surface. Because we also have the atmosphere to deal with most of it.

In fact, here's another thought: while the magnetic field gets the credit it deserves when it comes to charged particles, the atmosphere is the ONLY protection against photons. No magnetic field is gonna bend those around. The thing about our atmosphere is that it becomes increasingly opaque as you move away from the visible spectrum. Well, maybe not as opaque as a lead slab, but enough so if you have whole kilometres of it between you and the sun, you don't get much of the gamma rays coming from the sun. Because, yeah, the tail of the spectrum does go all the way in both directions.

And if you can even get an ozone layer, then Bob's your uncle.

Unfortunately, Mars has very little atmosphere´and no ozone layer, so yeah, you really don't want to get a tan on Mars
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Old 26th November 2018, 10:41 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by Mike! View Post
I'm wondering about this, and here seems a reasonable enough spot to ponder such seemingly silly thought... So here goes, just how hard would it be to generate an artificial magnetic field around Mars, obviously not one as robust as our molten iron core creates around the Earth, but one strong enough to offer safe radiation shielding for those on the Martian surface? Such a thing would also be a benefit to creating and retaining a breathable atmosphere , if I've managed to have a grade school grasp on the situation. Could a couple/few large, I'm talking gigantic, magnets moving in a high speed orbit create a sustainable artificial field? Or is this beyond the realm of science fiction?
Traveling to the center of mars to place a large centrifugal driven electron magnet sounds simple enough, it's just the problem of uncovering whatever hellish creature or device lurks there being the major risk (probably left there by aliens long ago for us to discover, and then wipe out the entire human race. You know what aliens are like).
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Old 27th November 2018, 06:24 AM   #33
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Greg Bear has a couple of Mars-based novels, and uses the notion of living underground. This would, I would think, solve most of the problems. With a properly sealed-up underground structure, atmosphere generation could be accomplished and sustained.

Meters of rock overhead would provide plenty of radiation shielding...

Hydroponic gardens... Of course, it would be a very “constrained” sort of colony, but it would allow a base for short-term expeditions, much like Antarctica.
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Old 27th November 2018, 07:48 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Mike! View Post
So here goes, just how hard would it be to generate an artificial magnetic field around Mars,
Easier than you think:

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Old 27th November 2018, 12:14 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
Maybe it because scientists, you know, those really intelligent people who actually understand this stuff, think Mars is a better proposition for colonization.
One, Hans is asking about the literary obsession, not the scientific one.

Two, *is* there a scientific proposition to colonize Mars?

Three, "scientists" aren't a monolithic entity that speaks intelligently about Mars colonization.

You're basically saying that SF authors focus on Mars because scientists have told them Mars is the thing to focus on.

But I don't know that any scientists have made a serious attempt to describe practical Martian colonization. Can you tell me where those really intelligent people who actually understand this stuff are publishing their ideas?

To the best of my understanding, a colony on Mars - in the sense of a self-sustaining human society - is just as impractical as a colony on Venus.
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Old 27th November 2018, 12:20 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
A pretty good summary, which boils down to "when every place you want to go sucks, the place that sucks the least is the best option"
In that case, the best option is going to be Earth, for humans as we know them today.

Quote:
Thinking long term, Mars is also the best option for terraforming.
If you have the technology and the resources to terraform Mars, you have the technology and resources to terraform Earth.

Quote:
Venus and Mercury are out of the question, and despite what some people will try to tell us, staying on earth simply is not an option.
Of course it is. Earth has atmosphere, magnetic field, and ecosystem. Even a severely damaged Earth habitat would still be a better place to live - and offer humanity a much greater chance of survival - than anything short of a magically terraformed Mars.

Quote:
If we don't wipe ourselves out by making the planet uninhabitable (and given the recent "ten years to PNR" warning from climate scientists, and the current bunch of numpties running Governments, I have no confidence whatsoever that we will be able to do what must be done), then the Universe will do it for us.... it is not a matter of if another Chicxulub happens, its a matter of when... and we are statistically overdue for a big one.
I think you're vastly underestimating the effort it would take to make Mars a viable alternative habitat. Humanity would be much better off staying on Earth and rebuilding. Anything you could do to make Mars habitable you could do to make Earth habitable. With the advantage that Earth is already at least partially habitable.
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Old 27th November 2018, 12:22 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Actually, let me add one thing, since the cost of fuel keeps coming up.
This is actually the first time the cost of fuel is mentioned in this thread.
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Old 27th November 2018, 12:23 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
If you have the technology and the resources to terraform Mars, you have the technology and resources to terraform Earth.

That's not true at all.
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Old 27th November 2018, 12:28 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by 3point14 View Post
That's not true at all.
Why not? And if he changed it to Venus would you still disagree?

I think the point is, no matter how bad we're likely to screw up Earth, it's never going to be as bad as Venus or Mars. Even if, or is it when now, we initiate a runaway green house effect it's still not going to be Venus.
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Old 27th November 2018, 12:34 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by RecoveringYuppy View Post
Why not? And if he changed it to Venus would you still disagree?

Because we don't know what terraforming involves, as we can't do it.

One mooted method involves chucking enormous mountains of ice at the planet and waiting. Actually being on the planet while this happens would be a bad idea.

Neither he nor anyone else has any idea what processes may be required and what massive effects may be felt on the surface of the planet while terraforming is going on. Anyone saying they are that certain about terraforming is just guessing. Neither you, he or I have any idea what the process would involve and if you need an empty planet to start with.
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