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View Full Version : Colonizing Mars and an ethical question for a side



banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-02, 09:53 AM
Years ago I read a book called I believe "New Earths", by a prominent space engineer; who's name eludes me at present. One of his suggestions was the establishment of a colony inside a deep crater. The crater would be seeded with genetically engineered plant species to produce oxygen. The idea being that eventually the plants would eventually create an O2 atmosphere for the planet and that the plants and colonists would eventually spread to the surface. I wonder if it would be more feasible to dome over a crater?

One thing that bothers me about sending people to Mars and or terraforming it is the impact on any existing life that may be there. Remember in Star Trek II the rule that planets with life were to be considered "hands-off". There is an ethical question here that needs to be looked at. "Not so much as one microbe"... We cannot or should not barge in and claim a planet for colonization as if the native life (which may or may not exist) doesn't matter. This has implications with every planet that we touch.

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-02, 09:56 AM
James Oberg is the author's name.

Jens
2015-Jun-02, 10:12 AM
I haven't read it, so I may be wrong, but I wonder why you would need to modify plants to produce oxygen. They already do it.

On the other question, it seems a bit odd considering that we're wiping out species left and right on earth. Plus, unless we are related, chances are that we will have no effect on the native species and vice versa.

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-02, 10:43 AM
I meant modify plants in order that they could grow in the harsh Martian environment. Maybe species already exist that can grow on Mars without tinkering. There is lots of stuff on the ethical question. I'm sure that the question will be addressed before we attempt anything. I'm a bit pessimistic about the survival of our species. I think large L5 colonies are a good idea. The cost of both would be out of this world. A small L5 colony of maybe a 1000 people might be a good start (again this would cost trillions). We won't see any of this in our life times of course. We may see the first human mission to Mars (likely with Elon Musk at the helm...sorta half kidding there). The ethical question may be as simple as which is more important: our survival or the survival of a bug. I think that we might win-out.

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-02, 10:50 AM
The whole ethical question may be moot anyway; as we might have already contaminated Mars unknowingly.

marsbug
2015-Jun-02, 10:55 AM
I suspect that a detailed study of Mars will throw up some niches that are habitable for terrestrial extremophiles, or that could be made so with very minimal modification. I'd like tosee an experiment in colonising them. But full sized pants in a crater.. would that even work under current Martian conditions?

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-02, 11:05 AM
If it's a question of sunlight; use mirrors. Some craters already have water. Might be as simple as finding a plant (or gene engineering one) and adding appropriate growing medium.

Extravoice
2015-Jun-02, 12:55 PM
On the other question, it seems a bit odd considering that we're wiping out species left and right on earth.

Yeah, we don't have a great track record, but I would like to think that humans will at least try to not do something stupid.
My mind flashes to that old Internet meme with photos of cats, "I found life on a neighboring planet, but I killed it."

I suspect we have plenty of time to sort it out, though. As you point out, any contaminants we incidentally take to Mars with our probes are unlikely to be a direct threat to native life. As for large-scale destruction, it will be many years before we have the capacity to destroy any existing ecosystem through terraforming.

Swift
2015-Jun-02, 06:42 PM
The whole ethical question may be moot anyway; as we might have already contaminated Mars unknowingly.
The technical and ethical questions are seperate issues, at least for me.

And the ethical issue even goes beyond harming possible existing life on Mars. One might argue that even if Mars doesn't have life, that terraforming it is ethically wrong, that it should be preserved and enjoyed in its current state. This question is one of the themes in the science fiction novel, Red Mars.

I personally am split about the issue, and can understand both sides of it. I don't have a personal answer.

Jens
2015-Jun-02, 10:35 PM
If it's a question of sunlight; use mirrors. Some craters already have water. Might be as simple as finding a plant (or gene engineering one) and adding appropriate growing medium.

If you want to create oxygen, you need carbon dioxide and water. Is there enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to make oxygen at a decent level? Or would the idea to pump the carbon dioxide into an enclosed underground space?

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-03, 10:32 AM
If you want to create oxygen, you need carbon dioxide and water. Is there enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to make oxygen at a decent level? Or would the idea to pump the carbon dioxide into an enclosed underground space?

I honestly don't know. I would hope that any genetically engineered plant would be able to get what it needs from the local environment. I do suggest that you read Oberg's book. In the book he looks at basically terraforming every large rocky planet in the system. Some of his suggestions involve really big concepts; like moving planets and colliding planets; with huge time-scales (tens of thousands of years).

I wonder what the effect of giving Mars a large ocean (using comets) would be? Also, what about machines that could somehow take some of the
existing Martian water and break it down into O2 and hydrogen? I also wonder if any of the volcanoes might be turned back on? I suspect that the volcanoes and volcanism on Mars is long dead and can't be restarted. I ramble.

selvaarchi
2015-Jun-03, 12:45 PM
I wonder what the effect of giving Mars a large ocean (using comets) would be?

Mars did have a large ocean once upon a time and we are still working out where it all went. NASA did produce a video showing what Mars might have looked like with the ocean.

selvaarchi
2015-Jun-04, 11:20 AM
Found the NASA video which shows ancient Mars as lush, water world.

http://www.space.com/23595-ancient-mars-oceans-nasa-video.html

marsbug
2015-Jun-04, 01:14 PM
IIRC the current ideas of early Mars are more 'cold and wet' with water being released by volcanic eruptions, and an ice covered northern ocean.

Should Mars be lifeless I would have no compunctions about trying to adapt a terrestrial organism to live there. To push the bounds of what life can do would be, to me, a beautiful thing.

Colin Robinson
2015-Jun-06, 10:45 AM
I meant modify plants in order that they could grow in the harsh Martian environment. Maybe species already exist that can grow on Mars without tinkering. There is lots of stuff on the ethical question. I'm sure that the question will be addressed before we attempt anything. I'm a bit pessimistic about the survival of our species. I think large L5 colonies are a good idea. The cost of both would be out of this world. A small L5 colony of maybe a 1000 people might be a good start (again this would cost trillions). We won't see any of this in our life times of course. We may see the first human mission to Mars (likely with Elon Musk at the helm...sorta half kidding there). The ethical question may be as simple as which is more important: our survival or the survival of a bug. I think that we might win-out.

Would it be a question of "our survival or the survival of a bug"? Is a planet with just one microbe at all likely? And why would human survival depend on colonising that particular planet?

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-06, 11:23 AM
Well colonizing a planet wouldn't guarantee our survival; we might solve all of our problems. Is an insurance policy a good thing? It would truly be ironic if the last of humanity were to colonize Mars or the moon; and then 6 months later an asteroid hits. Nothing guarantees our survival. So maybe colonizing wouldn't make a difference. We will likely need to find more room if our numbers keep growing.

publiusr
2015-Jun-06, 06:51 PM
Having habitats on Mars I have no issue with. Unless you do para-terraforming--you may lose volatiles to space faster if you don't know what you are doing.

selvaarchi
2015-Jun-07, 04:34 AM
Here is another video by ESA's Mars Express team of a fly-through movie of the ancient flood plain of Kasei Valles. The movie is based on 67-image mosaic taken over the last 10 years.

https://www.facebook.com/isromom/videos/vb.1384015488503058/1423818361189437/?type=2&theater


Ten years ago, on 14 January 2004, Mars Express took its very first images of Mars in colour and in 3D.

To mark the occasion, the Mars Express team produced a fly-through movie of the ancient flood plain Kasei Valles. The movie is based on the 67-image mosaic released as part of the ten-years-since-launch celebrations in June 2013.

publiusr
2015-Jun-07, 06:52 PM
When I look at videos like this-- http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=29081
I start to think that not Terraforming Mars is unethical.

Mars really is Ceti Alpha V--worse even.

profloater
2015-Jun-07, 07:04 PM
Well colonizing a planet wouldn't guarantee our survival; we might solve all of our problems. Is an insurance policy a good thing? It would truly be ironic if the last of humanity were to colonize Mars or the moon; and then 6 months later an asteroid hits. Nothing guarantees our survival. So maybe colonizing wouldn't make a difference. We will likely need to find more room if our numbers keep growing.
When the sun goes giant, Mars goes first.:) ( less atmosphere).

Fiery Phoenix
2015-Jun-07, 08:03 PM
Well colonizing a planet wouldn't guarantee our survival; we might solve all of our problems. Is an insurance policy a good thing? It would truly be ironic if the last of humanity were to colonize Mars or the moon; and then 6 months later an asteroid hits. Nothing guarantees our survival. So maybe colonizing wouldn't make a difference. We will likely need to find more room if our numbers keep growing.
It would guarantee our survival in the sense that we would be more 'spread out' as opposed to being confided to a single planet. That means if a major asteroid wiped out life on Earth, there would still be human life elsewhere in the Solar System, and it wouldn't be the end of our race.

I do agree there is a bit of an ethical side to all this, though. But then again, we're already doing something similar on Earth, as Jens noted.

banquo's_bumble_puppy
2015-Jun-08, 10:57 PM
It would guarantee our survival in the sense that we would be more 'spread out' as opposed to being confided to a single planet. That means if a major asteroid wiped out life on Earth, there would still be human life elsewhere in the Solar System, and it wouldn't be the end of our race.

I do agree there is a bit of an ethical side to all this, though. But then again, we're already doing something similar on Earth, as Jens noted.

It wouldn't guarantee our survival 100%. It would increase our chances somewhat. More colonies; maybe on the moon and in L5 "tin cans" would up the odds somewhat. I think hollowing out a large asteroid might be another option. Now if we knew where there was a semi-habitable world within a 10 light year distance; well that would change the storey. Of course there is the small matter of inventing star travel, etc.

Noclevername
2015-Jun-08, 11:02 PM
Now if we knew where there was a semi-habitable world within a 10 light year distance; well that would change the storey. Of course there is the small matter of inventing star travel, etc.

We could terraform a hundred planets or build thousands of orbital habitats for the energy costs of sending one manned vessel to the nearest star.