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Fraser
2003-Dec-24, 11:04 PM
SUMMARY: A few weeks ago I reviewed Dr. Robert Zubrin's newest book, Mars on Earth. I've had feedback from Universe Today readers in the past that they they'd like to ask Zubrin a few questions about his goal of sending humans to Mars, so I figured this would be a good chance to get those questions answered. I gave people on the forum a few days to propose their questions and then I selected four questions that I felt were original, and didn't really cover territory that we've heard Zubrin talk about in past (such as in The Case for Mars and Entering Space). Read on for his answers...

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

Guest_Nick
2003-Dec-27, 07:51 AM
I would be interested in Dr Zubrin's comments on the necessity for a complete bacterial/viral environment to sustain life, things that would be missing in prolonged space flight and life in a colony on Mars.

SF writer Greg Bear's "Darwin's Radio" deals with immunology, biology and viruses in a very readable and well researched way. On his website http://www.gregbear.com he discusses how symbiotic and necessary is the presence of bacteria, microbes and so on for healthy life. He specifically discusses prolonged space flight and concludes that it is problematic. Amongst his reasons is that large colonies of quite varied bacteria is necessary to prevent the outbreak of blooms of "bad" bacteria and viruses. Since these colonies cannot be found, or will die off, in a small population of people, disease could become rampant. He theorises that long space flight will only become feasible once we can carry large numbers of people (that can support large, varied colonies of bacteria).

His reasoning, which seems quite sound to me (and I encourage you to visit the website), really does seem to rule out isolated, small populations from doing anything in space that takes more than several months. Maybe technology (in the sense of how to get there) is not the problem; maybe technology in the sense of how to transport large groups of people is the real issue.

Damon
2004-Jan-12, 10:39 PM
I want to believe, but this half-effort gives unsatisfying answers. Zubrin will have to do better than this. Answer number 1) Too short. Leaves the reader wondering why a launch from Mars is so much harder than what the lunar module did. 2) Too idealistic. The real answer is to include many nations in a Mars program. Without their pressure, Bush would have diminished Clinton's space station even more. 3) Incomplete answer. The question asks for specific feedback (i.e. remarks), both positive and negative, both high level and low, not just whether there is any support anywhere. 4) Forgets to answer the question. Zubrin only disputes the premise.

Fraser
2004-Jan-12, 11:32 PM
Whenever I've interviewed people in the past, their answers are so long, I have to edit them like crazy. That's why I only pitched four questions to Zubrin. Personally, I like terse answers. Next time I send questions to Zubrin, I'll send lots more.

jkmccrann
2005-Oct-30, 01:54 PM
I would be interested in Dr Zubrin's comments on the necessity for a complete bacterial/viral environment to sustain life, things that would be missing in prolonged space flight and life in a colony on Mars.

SF writer Greg Bear's "Darwin's Radio" deals with immunology, biology and viruses in a very readable and well researched way. On his website http://www.gregbear.com he discusses how symbiotic and necessary is the presence of bacteria, microbes and so on for healthy life. He specifically discusses prolonged space flight and concludes that it is problematic. Amongst his reasons is that large colonies of quite varied bacteria is necessary to prevent the outbreak of blooms of "bad" bacteria and viruses. Since these colonies cannot be found, or will die off, in a small population of people, disease could become rampant. He theorises that long space flight will only become feasible once we can carry large numbers of people (that can support large, varied colonies of bacteria).

His reasoning, which seems quite sound to me (and I encourage you to visit the website), really does seem to rule out isolated, small populations from doing anything in space that takes more than several months. Maybe technology (in the sense of how to get there) is not the problem; maybe technology in the sense of how to transport large groups of people is the real issue.


That is a very interesting point to make. I guess it is kind of a symbiotic relationship, with the bacteria, that would occur on a mission to Mars. I think the drive to ensure as little contamination as possible would occur would mean that we'd be trying to transport as little bacteria as possible to Mars, but I think its clear that any colony there would likely be highly susceptible to viral outbreaks at least in its initial stages due to its extreme isolation and therefore increased vulnerability and lack of diversity.