View Full Version : life on Mars

space explorer
2004-Feb-20, 04:21 PM
well , if we bring a large machines filled with oxygen and release the oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars. can we breathe the oxygen out there or something or not ?.

2004-Feb-20, 05:12 PM
Right now, Mars is too cold to breath oxygen without a spacesuit, if we were to bring oxygen out there. Also, we would have to find a way to get rid of the large amount of carbon dioxide that is already there (maybe by bringing plants?).

2004-Feb-20, 07:02 PM
Well, it would be nigh impossible to transport enough oxygen to Mars - the scale is much too large. It's like asking if it's possible to bring enough carbon dioxide to earth to put out all our fires.

Now, there might be oxygen locked into the rocks on Mars. Did you know that there's oxygen in rust and water? It's locked in, chemically, but by putting electrical energy into the rust or water (for example), you can actually release the oxygen. It's expensive, because you need to put more energy into the process than you get out (it won't create a perpetual motion machine), but it's possible.

This means, though, that if you can find rocks that have oxygen in them, you can use machines to harvest the rocks. This means that you have a ready source of oxygen if you want to build colonies on Mars.

Transforming Mars into a planet capable of supporting life is a much tougher process.

2004-Feb-20, 11:38 PM
Also if life does exist on Mars, perhaps Oxygen is a corrosive poison, I mean not all life on Earth breathe oxygen.

2004-Feb-21, 09:53 PM
I'm betting there isn't life on Mars. Life on Mars would certainly have large implications, and would certainly warrant study. However, eventually, humans would use Mars as a resource and we'd likely have to displace the life on Mars for our own use.

The biological information that could be derived from XT life is astounding. There might (and probably would) be much technology we could derive from examining new types of life.

2004-Feb-21, 09:55 PM
I agree. Not all life requires oxygen to live. In fact we don't even know if life on Mars would even be carbon based, as we all are. It may be silicone for all we know. :)

But the idea of fillind Mars' atmosphere with oxygen seems interesting. If we would want to terraform Mars, we would need approximately 3 gallons of Nitrogen for every one gallon of oxygen we dumped. After all our own atmosohere is like 78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen. If we were succesfull in filling the atmosphere up with xtra gasses we would also solve the problem of Mars' extremely low temperatures. The resulting thickening of the atmosphere would create a greenhouse effect and heat from the sun would get retained close to the surface.

Another approach is plants! Yeah, if we were to plant some trees or other plants then THEY could make us oxygen. I mean, right now Mars' atmosphere is 95% Carbon Dioxide, which happens to be what plants "feed" on and give off oxygen in return. But then we would neeg TONS of these plants. Plus tey would freeze over there, so that's a problem that needs to be solvet too.

But anyway...life on Mars? Possibly. Maybe there are some caves within the planet's crust where there might be enough moisture trapped to serve some colony of bacteria. It's really hard to think that Mars is totally lifeless. Look at the hardy organisms that live at the bottom of our oceans in the moughts of volcanic vents, where water is almost boiling. ^_^

2004-Feb-21, 09:56 PM
Gaahhh, I can hear the screams of "martian-eviromentalists" now! :lol:

2004-Feb-21, 10:09 PM
That idea sounds terrific. The one about Mars having tons of Oxygen in its soil (or regolith or whatever). Mars' surface IS covered with Iron Oxide -> rust. And if we were to release the oxygen out of the soil that would really help.

As for the energy source for it....hmmmm....the sun sounds ok. If we can find a spot that is more or less devoid of casual dust storms, we could litter te ground with solar batteries. Maybe connected to some supplimentary devices it could provide the necessary, perpetual, ground electrocution needed to free the oxygen out of the local soil.

Also i've read something that might pose a problem for the oxygen in the atmosphere. Mars' mass is only like 11% of the Earth's mass. This ould mean that the red planet's gravity might actualy not manage to retain the oxygen in its atmosphere. It's just like with Earth and Helium...we can't have free floating Helium around us because it's too light and quickly evaporates into space. Well, what if the same thing happened to the less massive Mars ad oxygen?

2004-Feb-21, 11:10 PM
I agree that the evidence for oxygen once being in the atmosphere seems to be present, and yes I can see that oxygen could have evaporated into space, perhaps even the water vapour?

Yes I can hear the protests of a Martian version of Greenpeace: Redpeace

2004-Feb-21, 11:15 PM
How would the oxygen have evaporated into space and if we were to release oxygen from the soil, would that evaporate too?

2004-Feb-23, 10:11 PM
Yes, slowly ... but on a more geolgical timescale. Sadly, I don't know the specific numbers. But, over time, any atmosphere would eventually be lost.

It might never be efficient to terraform Mars. Breather masks might always be necessary. Another option would be to modify humans such that their biologies would be compatible with Mars ecology. Not too unreasonable, considering the leaps we're making in the biological sciences these days.

2004-Feb-23, 10:17 PM
So perhaps 'engineer' humans to be able to colonise mars....what would the ramifications of this be?

2004-Feb-23, 11:20 PM
Well, to pre-engineer humans to be colonists would essentially pre-write their fates/jobs. This would be rather tough to do, ethically. On the other hand, I can forsee that human colonists might allow their offspring to be 'geneerred', since the fate of the child was already to be a colonist.

What it would mean, economically (as with all geneerring) would be that rich people would be able to pass a significant advantage to their children. This has always been true, but would be another example.

On the other hand, such technology would allow Mars to be industrialized much more quickly and efficiently (since the cost would become fairly low with specialization). This has long-term benefits to us, as well as our species. More wealth possible = higher average wealth.

Engineering peole somewhat locks them into a caste. If you could boost the physical power of your offspring, then they will have more success in a physical profession - thus locking them in the worker/athlete type castes. All told, it's not a very good idea, for a society. On the other hand, many parents would jump at the chance to have smarter/healthier kids. A classic case of evolution being personal, not societal.

2004-Feb-24, 09:16 PM
Interesting. if you guys think you can already hear "Redpeace" yelling and objecting their butts off, think of all the outraged social and civil rights organizations when they heat of this theorized human pre-engineering. It'll be catastrophical. I mean we can't even clone people... yet. And something tells me that human alteration for extraterestrial habitat won't be embraced either.

Also think of the possible ramifications. We are basically going to create a new species/race. If they're conditioned to live on Mars, they never get to go to Earth, unless they wear special rebreathers and suits. ISOLATION. Plus, what if one ingenious human-"Martian" decides they would like to be independent as a nation, race or planet for that matter. This subject is venturing into VERY shaky grounds, both morally and socially.

But before any such talk continues, I think we should first find a way to actually GET people to Mars. I mean at least a manned mission. If you think NASA and it's international affiliates will have an easy time funding such an endeavour, imagine any follow up mission costs.

Algenon the mouse
2004-Feb-25, 04:18 AM
This sounds like something from Ben Bova.

I know that terraforming Mars is not a new idea but it would take a hell of a long time to accomplish. Wouldn't it be easier to just make some green houses with earth plants and colonize the planet that way?

2004-Feb-25, 12:31 PM
I know that terraforming Mars is not a new idea but it would take a hell of a long time to accomplish. Wouldn't it be easier to just make some green houses with earth plants and colonize the planet that way?

Great idea for the short term. In the long term it would interfere with terraforming which requires us to bombard Mars with asteroids, icy moons, and whatever else is handy to increase its mass and make sure there is lotsa, at least enough, surface water. This bombardment would destroy all these artifacts of colonization that have been preemptively emplaced. We need to decide early on whether or not we'll ever terraform Mars; otherwise it will become "terraizing".

2004-Mar-03, 11:26 PM
If we bring plants we will also have to bring H2O becuse plants can't live without H2O and if we live on Mars how will we see at night with out electricity so untill we have a power source we cant live there yet.

2004-Mar-04, 01:01 AM
A very wise conclusion, especially for a mouse.

Very many people spend little time outdoors anyway. They ride to work in vehicles, watch tv and sleep indoors, work indoors. Except for being a park ranger, if someone has an outdoor like a window washer, people smile from their office and are glad they aren't out in the heat, the rain, the cold. When they built Disney World in Florida decades ago, they even had the monorail go right through the outer walls of the Contemporary Hotes, so people wouldn't have to walk through the muggy Florida heat to their hotel room.

There will be no end to the line of people who would be glad for the chance to live on Mars, even it meant staying indoors. B)

2004-Mar-04, 01:29 AM
Regarding needing electricity on Mars. I spent 6 years living off the grid with conservation, efficiency, solar panels and batteries. It works.

Earth may be closer to the Sun, but our atmosphere knocks out about 1/2 of the sunlight available.

Mars may be farther away from the Sun, but then it doesn't have much of an atmosphere to attenuate the light that would reach the surface, and your solar panels.

So, Mars gets ends up getting nearly the same amount of light at the surface as we do.

The Sovonics corporation makes a machine which can make a ribbon of PV material(miles long if they want). It's the size of a desk. The raw materials are metal and sand.

Occasionally on Mars, like during a dust storm, you would need to run a generator to top off the system, but that is easily arranged by storing up some biofuel, methane from the human waste and plant materials, or, storing up electrolyzed hydrogen during you good sunny days.

Power isn't going to be a problem. We'll hear more about the water. Maybe get it from the poles.

Manchurian Taikonaut
2004-Mar-04, 04:36 AM
maybe we should try the techniques on the moon before sending men to mars

2004-Mar-04, 04:42 AM
About the poles: I've known that they are frozen but I've always assumed that it wasn't water that was frozen. Otherwise, why would finding evidence of water be such a large emphasis in the mars reports?

To this, why would the poles be a good source to get the water from if it's just frozen sediment? If it is water, please inform me and point me to a resource that confirms this.

Or perhaps you aren't referring to the poles containing water but as a source for energy?

How much mass would we have to add to Mars to make it large enough to sustain a reasonable amount of atmosphere permanently?

As for the atmosphere, why not bombard mars with the most destructive explosives we have that, upon ignition, releases a gastly amount of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, etc. I don't think we have this capability and I don't know if it's possible. Just being sci-fi-ish.

2004-Mar-04, 04:43 AM
About trying it on the moon; it definetly doesn't have enough mass.

2004-Mar-14, 01:48 AM
I believe there have been a few experiments on Earth where groups tried to live in a sustainable, closed environment. IIRC, there were a few problems so I think we need to be very sure we can demonstrate a reliable sealed environment on Earth before we export it to another planet. It's a long way home if you start running out of something vital.

2004-Mar-14, 02:22 AM
I think it was Biosphere 2 that failed somewhat, does anyone have any links to that project?

2004-Mar-14, 07:21 AM
damienpaul, Biosphere II failed because their concept and approach was flawed.

they assumed:

1) that it should be a totally closed system...
However, on Mars, there is an atmosphere, it may be thin, but you can pump in the CO2 and the plants in a "greenhouse" will make oxygen. If undesireable trace gases are produced, they could be vented out. Extra oxygen can be obtained from Martian soil from chemical and manufacturing processes. That oxygen can be pumped into the habitat.

Even on the moon, the lunar material is about 40% Oxygen by weight, and if that is being produced as a byproduct of manufacturing purposes, you can pump that Oxygen into the lunar habitats.

It has been suggested that a space station could make use of asteroid material, and the asteroids contain gases including Oxygen.

So, everywhere in the solar system where humans could go and work, there are resources available to add air to the habitat. And yet, the designers of Biosphere II chose the least likely and most difficult scenario to try out first. They blew the experiment before they sealed the door.

Also, they assumed that:
2) The habitat/greenhouse should look like a greenhouse made of glass.
Why? It is difficult to construct and seal such a design against a vacuum. It offers Zero protection against radiation! I mentioned a soil shielded greenhouse design using fiber optic conduits for light in the post on "getting a greenhouse to work on mars"

A nifty invention by a Japanese company a few years back is the Himawara(Sunflower) system. You concentrate light(they used lenses but you could just as easily use a foil reflector-also lightweight) into a fiber optic line at a 10,000 to 1 ratio, or a 1 meter square area into a 1 centimeter square area fiber bundle(focused to eliminate the harmful ultraviolet rays), pass the fiber through your radiation shield(soil roof/kiva) and lens diffuse it back inside the plant room. Cozy, warm and very lightweight. I hear that folks can use the Sunflower system and get a nice non-burning tan while lounging indoors

And, most importantly, an unvented glass greenhouse sitting in the direct sun gets awfully darn hot! Biospheres didn't advertise this, and I confirmed it through one of their engineers after having discussed the design with their principal architect and the main designer, but they used 'trickery' to get past the heating problem. To keep the Biosphere cool, they did use an expansion chamber to receive the heated expanded air from the main structure. But they also used a giant air conditioning system running off of a 7 megawatt generator burning natural gas.

However, if it was shielded from the sun and light was "bounced in"(without the heat component), the plantgrowing area wouldn't get too hot.

What I'm saying is basically they sealed it up, which they didn't have to. And they resorted to compensating for design flaws with a giant generator, and an AC system, which they didn't need and ran the power system off of a fuel they wouldn't have.

Their design was nothing like what you would need or want on Mars.

2004-Mar-30, 11:51 AM
I guess many of us have read Kim Stanley Robinson's (KSR) Mars trilogy epic. I was very bemused when I came across an article about scientists already protesting against the idea of terraforming Mars. I remember the Red Mars movement in KSR's trilogy and how analogous it was to the Greenie's back on Earth. Well check out this article:

Terraforming Mars (http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/news/story/0,12976,1179710,00.html)

This excerpt from the article:

"In addition, two different groups of scientists yesterday revealed they had found traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere. The gas is a waste product of living creatures and could be a byproduct of Martian microbes living in the Red Planet's soil.

It is the risk that terraforming poses to these sorts of organisms that outrages scientists, such as Dr Lisa Pratt, a Nasa astrobiologist based at Indiana University.

'It is very depressing. Before we have even discovered if there is life on Mars - which I am increasingly confident we will find - we are talking about undertaking massive projects that would wipe out all these indigenous lifeforms, all the strange microbes that we hope to find buried in the Martian soil. It is simply ethically wrong.' "

I think I am all for terraforming :)

2004-Apr-11, 03:22 PM
I belive that life once did exist on mars we have evedents of water so ther could have ben plant or animal life maby it was just micrscopic life i dunno. B)