A book review on the latest Weinersmith creation. It’s true, there is so much we don’t know.

Just throwing this out there on this forum because missing technology is the problem that kills the dream of Mars, according to the authors.

  • masquenox@lemmy.world
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    8 months ago

    It’s not missing technology that kills the (pretty silly) idea of “Mars colonization” - it’s missing ecology.

    They can’t even maintain functioning civilization in Antarctica… yet they “dream” of doing so in a place that’s hundreds of times more hostile to human life.

    • SCB@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      One of the things standing in the way of an"civilization" on Antarctica is that it’s illegal to build a civilization on Antarctica. We could absolutely do it, assuming we were willing to fight a war and the resources were worth it

      • lloram239@feddit.de
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        8 months ago

        We could absolutely do it

        Every exploration into hostile environments heavily relies on goods and services imported from the rest of Earth. Biosphere 2 is as far as I know still the only time we ever tried to actually build a completely independent ecological system, but that was 30 years ago, in a non-hostile environment, only run for a short amount of time, still had tons of problems and would still be missing a lot of stuff to be truly self sustaining for long time periods (e.g. no industrial facilities).

          • scarabic@lemmy.world
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            8 months ago

            They would ship in a new scrubber but could they? We have to assume that a colony might need to self subsist for long periods, at least as long as Biosphere 2 was running, because of the practical considerations in shipping replacement parts to Mars.

        • scarabic@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          Biosphere 2 is a great story and I wish there were more follow ups. They tried to set up favorable initial conditions and then seal the hatch. They found that the environment inside shifted and became inhospitable. The crops they planned on didn’t all sustain. Then they called it all off.

          What if they had allowed the biosphere to keep shifting until it found its equilibrium point, and then set about finding advantages in that? Crops that would sustain in that?

          An iterative process could build on mistakes and learnings. A one-shot, naive, all-or-nothing attempt where your starting conditions have to be just right… no wonder that it failed, but where was the next iteration? Why give it all up instead of tuning? I know it’s about money, but I wish someone with money cared enough to keep this thread going.

          • PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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            8 months ago

            That’s not why it failed:

            “The vast majority of Biosphere II was built out of concrete, which contains calcium hydroxide. Instead of being consumed by the plants to produce more oxygen, the excess carbon dioxide was reacting with calcium hydroxide in the concrete walls to form calcium carbonate and water.”

            In any case, it is still in operation.

        • SCB@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          Every exploration into hostile environments heavily relies on goods and services imported from the rest of Earth.

          These would be the problems that are currently being worked on prior to manned Mars (and to a lesser extent, lunar) missions.

          We absolutely will not be shipping containers of food to Mars. That’s absurd.

          • WHYAREWEALLCAPS@kbin.social
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            8 months ago

            We absolutely will not be shipping containers of food to Mars.

            We absolutely will be. You have no concept of the amount of energy and resources needed to feed a single human being on Earth for one meal, let alone a whole colony on another world without a breathable atmosphere and possibly toxic dirt for an indeterminate time. Farming under the best of conditions is extremely energy consuming, then there’s the need to either import hardware from Earth that is specially made for Mars or go old fashion and do a lot of it by hand. There is no where else in the solar system where you can just throw seeds at the ground in large enough quantities and feed whole cities. I do homesteading, my dad tried to be totally self sufficient foodwise when I was a teen. Guess what? Turns out that’s really, really hard to do. And that’s under the ideal conditions of Earth.

            • SkyeStarfall@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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              8 months ago

              But you didn’t have NASA level technology. There is a lot you can do to increase food production using less space if you’re willing to pay the upfront and energy costs.

            • SCB@lemmy.world
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              8 months ago

              I do homesteading,

              Lol no wonder you know so little about this

          • AA5B@lemmy.world
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            8 months ago

            This is one of those things that will need baby steps.

            — using local water and dirt are probably a minimum for any non-trivial stay

            — yes we really need to be able to grow our own food, at least if we want to scale up from a temporary base for a handful to something larger or more permanent. Again, this is one of the things we probably need to go there to find out: is it possible to grow a lot of our own food?

          • PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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            8 months ago

            I disagree, I believe we would ship containers of food to Mars in the early days. Just like we do for mcmurdo in Antarctica.

            • SCB@lemmy.world
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              8 months ago

              It’s doubtful we’d ship past the initial landing and support phases, which was my point. It’s likely we’d send several ships out for any permanent presence, but 18 months is just too long and too much investment between trips.

              • PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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                8 months ago

                If you send say 20 people to Mars, let’s do the math. An average person requires approximately 2 to 3 lb of food per day. 18 months = 6,500 days x 20 people = 131,000 pounds of food, or about 65 tons. You could probably drop the weight significantly by freeze drying it and recycling the water.

                In any case, 65 tons isn’t a whole lot - that’s about what, half of a starship payload? Zubrin’s a case for Mars likewise discussed the need to bring all of your food supplies over with you.

                Now over many years you could build up enough buy a waste and build a recycling system to start recycling to buy a waste in a greenhouse, but we don’t know how viable like greenhouse on Mars will be for growing food. It’s likely going to have to be more of a grow lab/vertical farm setup. Very energy intensive.

            • FaceDeer@kbin.social
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              8 months ago

              It prohibits countries from claiming sovereignty over territory beyond Earth, but the colonies themselves can still be sovereign. Assuming the treaty continues as it is it just means that countries won’t be able to draw borders around vast lifeless regions on Mars or the Moon and claim jurisdiction over them, they’ll still be able to build cities there and the cities will be theirs to control.

              Treaties like these lapse or get amended over time as the realities of life make them obsolete, though. I expect that once there are cities on Mars there’ll be borders as well.

            • SCB@lemmy.world
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              8 months ago

              Yeah it’s just that the sheer scale of planetary colonization kind of makes this a problem for the year 4,000 or so.

      • masquenox@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        illegal

        Oh, right… that is what has stopped the Phony Starks from building capitalist Utopia in Antartica - it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it’s utterly inhospitable to human civilization at all.

        • SCB@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          That and lack of exploitable resources, meaning a lack of capital. There’s no shortage of capital for the modern space age.

          • masquenox@lemmy.world
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            8 months ago

            exploitable resource

            Yeah… because Antarctica lacks water. And wind energy. And some of the most protein-rich waters on the planet.

            Poor, poor Phony Starks… imagine being held back by legislation they could easily bribe into non-existence if they wanted!

            • SCB@lemmy.world
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              8 months ago

              Because Antarctica lacks water

              We’re not exactly hurting for water

              And some of the most protein-rich waters on the planet.

              This doesn’t require building a civilization of any sort

              • masquenox@lemmy.world
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                8 months ago

                We’re not exactly hurting for water

                Oh really?

                This doesn’t require building a civilization of any sort

                I guess you’re the kind of fantasist that believe they invent food at the supermarket, eh?

                • SCB@lemmy.world
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                  8 months ago

                  California is a localized problem, as all water shortages are, because we live on a fucking water planet.

                  Fishing does not require supermarkets. It requires driving a boat to where fish are, then driving home.

    • burliman@lemm.ee
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      8 months ago

      That’s a good point. There is at least as much to learn from Antarctica as from Mars. Maybe less maybe more, but certainly more relevant since it’s on Earth. Plus easier to get to than Mars. Yet we can’t scrounge up enough to keep a larger presence there.

      Sometimes I can’t shake the feeling that we are living in another dark age. We need a real renaissance to shake it.

      • BaroqueInMind@kbin.social
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        8 months ago

        We need a real renaissance to shake it.

        One of the mandatory precursors to that is a major Hundred Years war that kills lots of people and displaces even more.

        • AnUnusualRelic@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          Luckily, that’s one field where we’ve made a lot of progress, we won’t need even close to one hundred years.

        • WHYAREWEALLCAPS@kbin.social
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          8 months ago

          I’ve been hearing this “we need a new renaissance” spiel since the 80s. It really sounds like “I’ve got no ideas, so I’ll distract with mentioning a time that is revered for it.” to me nowadays.

          • BaroqueInMind@kbin.social
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            8 months ago

            “We need a new renaissance” is a dog whistle for “we need a white culture (Rome was a good example) to dominate and destroy the societies adjacent to it again, so that while they are recuperating, rebuilding and repopulating, we will assert our white cultural dominance and leverage that to impose our ideals and religion into every facet of other cultures and then call it a renaissance”.

            Notice how you never read about the Islamic renaissance or anything from India, Asia or Africa, or even South American native cultures when “renaissance” is mentioned?

            • burliman@lemm.ee
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              8 months ago

              Give me a break.

              Maybe some use as dog whistle but I am not. The color or creed of the people who were around during periods of progress is irrelevant to me. I care about the progress.

              And Rome had more people of color in positions of power and influence than we can even dream of today. However they did have slaves. Lots of white, Germanic slaves. Google it and chew on that while you think about your accusations of racism.

  • Cyrus Draegur@lemm.ee
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    8 months ago

    i mean shoot, mars is actually kinda worse than the moon in some ways. Like, the worst of both worlds except ‘worlds’ pertains to ‘celestial bodies in general’. You have the same ultrafine toxic razor sharp dust that gets everywhere, sticks to everything, and destroys mechanical joints on contact, but on MARS it gets blown around by dust storms that blot out the entire sky sometimes for months or years on end, whereas on the moon it only redistributes and resettles due to electrostatic repulsion (due to solar radiation).

    Mars’ atmosphere is just thick enough to be a hassle for creating risk of burning up on reentry but still too thin to reliably drag-brake so you end up having to thread a much more annoying needle with respect to approach velocity, whereas on the moon it’s just straight up active thrust descent every time you’re landing.

    In both cases, living on the surface is a sucker’s game and the only viable option would be to tunnel down beneath into the regolith where a sufficient rock barrier will block enough of the solar and cosmic radiation to not drastically shorten your lifespan.

    Furthermore the energy cost to get a payload from earth to mars is LITERALLY ASTRONOMICAL whereas escaping the moon’s relatively weak gravity well to reach almost anywhere else in the solar system (including mars) is dwarfed by the oomph it takes to climb out of the earth’s gravity well in the first place alone.

    I’d go so far as to say that a mars colony would never be viable until and unless we have a viable lunar colony

    but make no mistake, a lunar colony is mandatory if we ever want to explore the rest of the solar system or not have all our eggs in one basket as a species. the moon is practically MADE OF the infrastructure we’ll need across the entire solar system,some assembly required. The amount of Aluminum and Silver waiting for us in that silicate regolith will be instrumental, especially because smelting and building up there will be drastically cheaper than manufacturing shit down here and then having to carry it ALL THE WAY UP ALL OVER AGAIN.

    and like, that isn’t even factoring sending any of what’s produced back to earth, because even that might be a waste of effort when everything we could ever BUILD outside our gravity well is worth more being up there just by virtue of the fact that we didn’t have to pay through the nose to SEND IT.

        • AA5B@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          The most not caveat is we don’t know how much gravity is how necessary. We know that microgravity in orbit is too little and not really sustainable. Is gravity on the moon enough more for long term health? Is that on Mars? That’s just two of the questions we can’t know until we get there

        • ItsMeSpez@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          So you build spinning space stations instead of settlements on the martian or lunar surface. Likely close to the same material cost, if not cheaper, while allowing us to actually choose the amount of gravity to generate. We don’t know if martian or lunar gravity would even be sufficient to avoid negative health affects.

          • bluGill@kbin.social
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            8 months ago

            Do those count for gravity ? Are there other downsides that we haven’t even thought of? Many unknowns.

      • R0cket_M00se@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        You do realize that Martians abandon Mars because the protomolecule opens up worlds that are already habitable, so terra forming becomes pointless? It has nothing to do with infrastructure or economy, Mars is supposed to be an eventual second home, not a place to mine. They leave because interstellar travel becomes a reality before Mars becomes viable.

        Unless we discover that Charon is actually a Mass Relay, Mars is the best possible second place for humans.

        Titan is too cold and the atmosphere would require a full changeover, and the Galilean moons are constantly bombarded with radiation, Venus could support a floating colony but thats tenuous at best. Mars is basically it, if we can develop the tech to turn it into a reasonable place to be.

      • SkyeStarfall@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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        8 months ago

        But gravity may be useful in many applications. We don’t really know how to effectively manufacture many things in microgravity at the moment. The moon would still be important for early space infrastructure.

        Edit: In addition, the moon will be useful for mining and resource extraction for a long time, most likely, due to its proximity to earth and size.

        • ItsMeSpez@lemmy.world
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          8 months ago

          The gravity problem is also best solved away from the surface of any celestial bodies. Massive spinning space stations would be much more pleasant to live in in almost every way. Unless a planet or moon has a good reason to land on it (e.g. material to be mined) it makes much more sense to simply build a habitat away from the gravity well and build smaller work camps on the surface that can be supported by the main habitat(s).

          • SkyeStarfall@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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            8 months ago

            The problem is that such space stations are very complex to build and maintain, and can more easily catastrophically fail. It’s certainly an option, but it may not be worth it.

            Of course, all of this is speculation, but my point is mostly that if we don’t have sufficiently advanced space construction capabilities, surface habitats and infrastructure on the moon may be preferable.

      • PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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        8 months ago

        It is also about the same delta-V to go from the surface if the earth to the surface of the Moon OR Mars. At least Mars has water.

  • Landsharkgun@midwest.social
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    8 months ago

    Do not colonize other planets. They suck. They have all the downsides of space habitats (needing sealed environment, etc), while also adding more (breaches now let in toxic dust instead of vacuum, cannot control gravity via spin, etc).

    Just build O’Neil cylinders. If you can’t do that, maybe work on stabilizing the ecosystem we evolved to live in. Nowhere will ever be better than here, folks.

    • meyotchOP
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      8 months ago

      If it’s a Jack O’Neil cylinder, I will consider your proposal.

      It works like a regular O’Neil cylinder, but cooler somehow.

    • PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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      8 months ago

      Lol

      The whole concept behind colonizing a planet is to be able to exploit the resources.

      Which you cannot do with an O’Neal Cylinder. Since you have to manufacture it yourself.

    • Corkyskog@sh.itjust.works
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      8 months ago

      There is so much about the cylinder concept that hasn’t been thought out, it’s just an insane undertaking even if it could all work. It started as a joke, but hey maybe one day someone will prove it to be a better reality.

    • Siegfried@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      Im a little bit disappointed, i was expecting things that where only possible because of research made in space, not things that were developed because NASA thought they were needed for astronauts.

      Edit: seeing the reaction, sorry if my disappointment disappoints you. We can very well use this argument to justify war

    • The Octonaut@mander.xyz
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      8 months ago

      “We can’t do metric, there’s just so many road signs, and I’m tired” - every American, today.

      Nobody is going to live on Mars until letting it out on Airbnb is profitable

  • AA5B@lemmy.world
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    8 months ago

    Is anyone really thinking we just need to reach Mars, then immediately set up a colony? No, reaching there is obviously only a first step, but once we can reach it, we can try things to see if we can live there. For myself, I’ve been saying we need to hurry up and reach Mars because we have like 100 years of work before we can establish a colony so let’s get started

    • Ddub@lemmy.ca
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      8 months ago

      I don’t disagree that having a self sustaining population of humans somewhere other than earth will be an important milestone.

      But a much more pressing milestone is a the first self sufficient population, which I don’t see mars supporting

      • AA5B@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        We don’t know if a self-sustaining population is possible anywhere other than Earth. However we know lack of gravity is one issue we don’t have a workaround for. Mars is the only “large” gravity we can possibly reach with our current level of technology

        • Ddub@lemmy.ca
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          8 months ago

          I think you missed my point, I don’t believe we have a self sustaining population on earth (yet)

    • Icaria@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      I think the far-more realistic scenario is we create a colony of robots, first for experiments, then (if possible) to build out a colony that can eventually be inhabited by humans.

      • AA5B@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        If we’re going to get anything useful out of mining (other than just building material), it’s going to be incredibly sparse. I think we need to start asap working on robotic mining vehicles to wander around collecting and refining useful stuff. By the time we send people, we ought to have spent years collecting tankfuls of oxygen and water, caches of refined ores, piles of bricks and pavers (maybe even sheds/garages), maybe even sheets of crude solar cells, miles of wire.

        Navigation and communication will be crucial, so we need to lead with a constellation of gps/communications satellites so no matter where you are, you know your location, can reliably contact your base, and even all back to earth. We’ll want many automated weather and seismic stations that need to send a flood of data somewhere

  • Flying Squid@lemmy.world
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    8 months ago

    That was a very interesting read. I’ve always been a bit skeptical of people who say we’ll be living in space or colonizing other planets in the near future. I definitely want to read their book.

    Also, this made me laugh:

    And do you really want to create a group of hungry, disgruntled miners that are also able to sling very large rocks at the Earth?

    That said, slinging large rocks back to Earth is the only way I can see them returning whatever they mine and that doesn’t sound like a great plan either.

  • steltek@lemm.ee
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    8 months ago

    Is someone actually proposing that we’re simply going to dump would-be colonists on Mars with a shovel and some O2 tanks then wave goodbye? Like, no shit we still need to work things out but that just means it’s unknown, not impossible.

    This book seems unnecessarily pessimistic. I don’t know why I would spend money on doomscrolling, Kindle Edition.

    • magnetosphere@kbin.social
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      8 months ago

      Plugging our ears and going “NYAAAAAA” isn’t going to help. We need pragmatists to ask hard questions to cover all the bases, and force us to anticipate problems. Being aware of potentially fatal issues isn’t “doomscrolling”.

      The authors aren’t saying that we should never, ever try to colonize Mars. They’re only saying that there are a LOT of questions to answer before we try.

      • RGB3x3@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        You don’t think all the scientists and engineers working around the world on this problem aren’t aware of the potentially fatal issues? The last thing they want is to be the reason people die in space.

        Elon Musk talks a lot of shit, but the actual scientists are busy considering the real problems, dangers, and solutions to getting to and colonizing Mars.

        • 0x1C3B00DA@kbin.social
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          8 months ago

          You don’t think all the scientists and engineers working around the world on this problem aren’t aware of the potentially fatal issues?

          Scientists catalog what we know and don’t know and try to chip away at the list of things we don’t know. The whole point of the book and this article is that there is way more stuff we don’t know than we realize and most discussion of space colonization tends to forget the parts we don’t know.

          The article even pointed out some very showstopping issues:

          No one has been conceived in low gravity, no fetuses have developed in low gravity, so we simply don’t know if there is a problem. Astronauts experience bone and muscle loss and no one knows how that plays out long term

          I was shocked to learn that no one really knows how to construct a long-term habitable settlement for either the Moon or Mars. Yes, there are lots of hand-wavy ideas about lava tubes and regolith shielding. But the details are just… not there.

          For instance, supposedly space will end scarcity… and yet, any habitat in space will naturally have only a single source of food, water, and, even more urgent, oxygen, creating (perhaps artificial) scarcity.

          Space colonization may happen, but it’s incredibly doubtful that it’ll happen in our lifetimes.

          • PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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            8 months ago

            Mars is actually full of oxygen. The surface is covered in oxidized iron, and trillions of tons of carbon dioxide makes up its atmosphere. Plus all the ice.

            • 0x1C3B00DA@kbin.social
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              8 months ago

              We can’t breathe oxidized iron or carbon dioxide. We’d need to convert it into breathable oxygen and the mechanism would have to be foolproof and have redundancies. And that still leaves plenty of other problems.

              But my main point was to everyone in this thread criticizing the authors for being pessimists. This isn’t just naysaying or complaining. The authors are pointing out all of the necessary research we still have to do before a space colony can be feasible.

                • 0x1C3B00DA@kbin.social
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                  8 months ago

                  MOXIE is a Scale Model for a Future Big MOXIE
                  To launch from Mars, a small crew of human explorers will need 25 to 30 tons of oxygen, or about the weight of a tractor-trailer! To make that much oxygen would require a 25,000 to 30,000 watt power plant. The Perseverance power system only provides about 100 watts, so MOXIE can only make a small fraction of the oxygen that a future “Big MOXIE” would need to make.

                  In the first link you provided, NASA themselves say we’d need a 25,000 watt power plant to scale that up. That’s not trivial.

                  Again, what the authors are pointing out is that space colonization is probably scientifically possible, but will take a lot of research and then investment. MOXIE is a great tech demo, but its not a solution by itself.

          • R0cket_M00se@lemmy.world
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            8 months ago

            Jesus Christ you people really have no idea how space works, do you?

            The guy can’t just send up his own spacecraft anymore than Lockheed Martin and Raytheon can declare war on Russia.

            SpaceX sells spacecraft to NASA for them to use in the same way LM sells F-18’s to the Navy for them to use. At no point in time does Elon just get to unilaterally send civilians to Mars even if Starship was fully capable.

            Everything SpaceX craft do in space is under the charter and dictation of NASA, and at the current point in time, exclusively for government/military missions. Not his own flights of fancy.

      • R0cket_M00se@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        Which is why you don’t hear NASA going “yep we’re good to go! No scientifically obtained issues to worry about!” Also sometimes you have to answer the questions through physical experimentation, which is why we send science teams before we send spacecraft full of colonists.

        Books like this fall under the same grouping as those who hate Elon Musk so much that they have to also think space travel is dumb/bad as well because they can’t remove the douchebag from the field his company operates in.

        Space colonization is the future, it doesn’t matter if it’s ten years or a thousand. We are going to leave this planet. Case closed. The earth will not sustain us forever even in our wildest renewable energy/living fantasies.

        • magnetosphere@kbin.social
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          8 months ago

          Did we even read the same article?

          A City on Mars ends with a kind of call to action. The point is that we have a tiny space station, and we have the potential to build a lot of experimental facilities on Earth where we can investigate some of the practical problems. Let’s get the biology and engineering right before we send people to Mars.

          The authors aren’t against colonization. They’re against hasty, uninformed, reckless attempts.

        • 0x1C3B00DA@kbin.social
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          8 months ago

          The point of books like this is to underline areas where we’re still woefully ignorant to guide future study. This isn’t just complaining. It’s taking stock of what we still need to learn.

          • R0cket_M00se@lemmy.world
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            8 months ago

            Unfortunately on lemmy its only purpose is so people can circle jerk about how dumb Musk is for wanting that to be the end goal of SpaceX hardware.

        • vivadanang@lemm.ee
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          8 months ago

          books like this fall under the same grouping as those who hate Elon Musk so much

          you really should read it, this characterization is bullshit.

    • Snapz@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      Your comment seems to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the actual people/money that would be involved with any space colonization attempts. They’ll do exactly an equivalent of the ridiculous things you describe to expend the least amount of resource to secure the most profit in strip-mining natural resources from these places.

  • Diplomjodler@feddit.de
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    8 months ago

    Yeah, there’s a lot we don’t know and a lot we haven’t figured out yet. And it’s definitely a tough nut to crack. But concluding from that, that is impossible is dumb. Everything is impossible until somebody goes and does it.

    • AmosBurton_ThatGuy@lemmy.ca
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      8 months ago

      Just finished the trilogy last week. Amazing books, a bit dry at times but overall a very enjoyable read about what the politics and technology might look like to terraform and colonize Mars.

  • scarabic@lemmy.world
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    8 months ago

    No fetuses have gestated in low gravity. That sounds like something we could do animal trials on.

    But wow, getting a live sheep into space, and fed, and exercised, and cleaned, all for months… that alone is a big undertaking. Just to get a single data point that’s about another species.

    • AA5B@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      I wonder what is known or not know. I’ve read about experiments with lower plants and animals but not what the results were, nor whether we’re ready to try more complex life

      • scarabic@lemmy.world
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        8 months ago

        Everything I’ve ever seen about plants indicates that they grow abnormally in zero g. Life is complex and made up of many different chemical processes. All it takes is for gravity to have an effect on one of them and life goes awry. It’s humbling how fragile we are, how narrowly adapted when it comes right down to it. I remember learning that we can’t share most viruses with pets because their bodies are a few degrees of temperature off from ours. I thought wow, viruses are not very robust if they are attuned to living in such a very narrow set of conditions. But honestly we’re no different.

  • fubo@lemmy.world
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    8 months ago

    For instance, supposedly space will end scarcity… and yet, any habitat in space will naturally have only a single source of food, water, and, even more urgent, oxygen, creating (perhaps artificial) scarcity.

    Huh? Sure, if we forget absolutely everything we ever knew about reliability engineering.

    Take air, for instance. If you’re considering a community on the scale of a town or city, expect that it will be naturally divided into smaller physical units, corresponding to smaller social units in the community. Rather than having one big air supply for the whole “town” — which can fail or be sabotaged, creating an existential risk for the whole community — it’d likely be much safer to have small air systems for each household, neighborhood, commune, or other unit. You probably have to have them anyway for emergencies.

    • tburkhol@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      Infrastructure for distributing the air once it gets to the settlement is one thing. At least for now, though, Earth is the only place to get oxygen in life-sustaining quantities, which is the single source they’re talking about.

      Maybe you can posit harvesting oxygen from mineral oxides, hydrolyzing water if you can find it, or capturing an ice asteroid. Whether you split every atom of oxygen you breathe out of rust or lift them out of earth’s gravity, let alone doing both for redundancy, it’s orders of magnitude more energy and complexity than growing potatoes in Antarctica.

      • FaceDeer@kbin.social
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        8 months ago

        At least for now, though, Earth is the only place to get oxygen in life-sustaining quantities, which is the single source they’re talking about.

        If we’re talking about space colonization then “at least for now” doesn’t apply any more.

        There are vast quantities of oxygen available everywhere in the solar system. Extracting it is really not hard. There’s a technology demonstrator generating oxygen on Mars right now. If you’re arguing against space colonization because you’re assuming that every bit of resources the space colony uses will have to be sent there from Earth, you’re completely missing the basic concept of space colonization.

    • FaceDeer@kbin.social
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      8 months ago

      I often find that technological pessimists are imagining some very specific flawed scenario and then arguing about how that scenario is terrible or impossible, rather than arguing about the technology in general. Often the best way to debate them is to start by getting them to clarify exactly what scenario they’re thinking of, the limitations of their argument will usually become quite apparent just by doing that.

  • AutoTL;DR@lemmings.worldB
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    8 months ago

    This is the best summary I could come up with:


    Unfortunately for the Weinersmiths, they actually asked questions like “how would that work, exactly?” Apart from rocketry (e.g., the getting to space part), the answers were mostly optimistic handwaving combined with a kind of neo-manifest destiny ideology that might have given Andrew Jackson pause.

    The Weinersmiths start with human biology and psychology, pass through technology, the law, and population viability and end with a kind of call to action.

    Apparently, nuclear weapons-wielding countries won’t react negatively to private citizens claiming large bits of space.

    The magical thinking is more apparent when you realize that it is believed that encountering the vastness of space will make humanity ultra-altruistic, while still being good capitalists.

    In a more realistic take on how societies function when there is only one source for the vitals of life, the Weinersmiths draw on the experiences (positive and negative) of company towns.

    The point is that we have a tiny space station, and we have the potential to build a lot of experimental facilities on Earth where we can investigate some of the practical problems.


    The original article contains 900 words, the summary contains 177 words. Saved 80%. I’m a bot and I’m open source!

  • 0x0@programming.dev
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    8 months ago

    Mars has no magnetosphere so it’s very hard to have a breathable atmosphere.

    The moon’s barely got gravity, and our bodies need it.

    A space station would be a good start so long as it spins so we can have the semblance of gravity.

    No one knows if you can turn a profit mining asteroids.

    If mining techniques reach the same level of advancement as on Earth? I don’t see why not. I also don’t see why bother to send ore back other than to pay-off some initial investment.

    (One of) the biggest obstacles in space is leaving Earth’s gravity well, so sending mining machines to the asteroids would be interesting. Then maybe move the ISS to a La Grange point instead of destroying it, use it as a base to turn that ore into a spinning space station.

    • FaceDeer@kbin.social
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      8 months ago

      Mars has no magnetosphere so it’s very hard to have a breathable atmosphere.

      I don’t know why this has become such a common talking point about why colonizing Mars is hard, it really has no significant impact.

      For starters, it’s only meaningful for terraforming. Regular realistic colonization involves setting up domes or tunnels, none of that’s affected in any way by Mars’ magnetosphere or lack thereof.

      As for terraforming, the lack of a magnetosphere means that Mars will “leak” atmospheric gasses due to solar wind sputtering over periods of time that are short on geological scales but are vastly longer than anything a human civilization will care about. If Mars were to magically have an Earthlike atmosphere appear on it today it’d be millions of years before it became unbreathable by this process. The human species has only existed for a tenth that long, and our civilization has only existed for a hundredth of that. If anyone still cares a million years ago they can just top the atmosphere back up again by whatever method they put it there in the first place.

      Or, if you really have your heart set on that magnetosphere, build one.

  • ArbitraryValue@sh.itjust.works
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    8 months ago

    The level of automation necessary for manufacturing in space is going to be very close to removing humans from the process entirely. Taking it that one step further and having robots manufacture robots would eliminate all the issues with keeping flesh-and-blood human bodies alive.

    • ItsMeSpez@lemmy.world
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      8 months ago

      Honestly I sometimes think the best legacy humans can hope for is giving birth to AGI. Machines would be much better suited to forming a solar or galactic civilization than biological entities ever would be. If we’re lucky, humans or meta-humans would still be around as what essentially amounts to pets.