Living on Mars?

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Image by Bruno Albino from Pixabay

The recent news related to the planet Mars, the Perseverance rover, and the Ingenuity helicopter has caused me to ponder the prospect of Living on Mars.  No, I’m not referring to potential future exploratory “visits” by space-age scientists. I’m talking about taking up residence full-time. And I’m going to say this upfront —

I don’t think it will ever happen.

While I’m fully aware that science continues to present us humans with unimaginable advancements –and things aren’t slowing down (especially in the areas of space exploration)– I simply cannot visualize humans taking up full-time residence on Mars.

Let’s think about this for a minute.

The only way humans could actually live on the Red Planet would be in some sort of climate/air-controlled facility. They could never step foot outside without appropriate protection and breathing apparatus.

Further, when one considers the geography of Mars as presented via various advanced imaging apparatus, the surface appears to be relatively barren. Lots of rocks. Some craters. Overall, a mostly desert-like surface.

In other words … No forests. No rivers. No oceans. No grass. No birds. No animals. No reptiles. No fish. None of the beautiful and intriguing things that Earth offers in plenitude. Of course this also means no swimming, no bird-watching, no fishing, etc. 

Add to this the frequent dust storms, the C.O.L.D. climate (average temp -81 degrees Fahrenheit; -62.77778 Celsius), and the thin air. (Those white fluffy clouds that often accent Earth’s blue skies? Non-existent on Mars.)

These are just some of the things that make me think full-time life on Mars by the average earth-abiding citizen will never come to pass. This isn’t to say that scientists may one day determine how to travel to, live on, and study the Red Planet. But for people like you and me to make our home on such barrenness seems extremely far-fetched. And for most of us, I would think very unappealing.

However, this isn’t to say the future could include sightseeing visits to the planet in an environmentally-controlled space craft that will circle the planet and allow earth people to view its mysteries. After all, we do have people living in a Space Station, so surely, a “taxi-ride” to the Red Planet is futuristically conceivable.

But to eventually live there … ?

Your thoughts are invited.

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If you can access it, the following article may be of interest: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/mars-1

93 thoughts on “Living on Mars?

  1. I think one of the biggest problems for life on Mars would be the radiation. We evolved to exist in an environment where most of the harmful radiation from space is blocked by the Earth’s magnetic field. Mars doesn’t have one. So, even if we managed to create habitats to hold an atmosphere, and figured out how to get enough light and water to grow crops to sustain ourselves, we still would have to deal with having massive shielding against the radiation. The Moon has the same radiation problem, so we could field test proposed Mars base designs on a Moonbase.

    The only way I could see us building a permanent Mars base where we could exist for any length of time would be to do it underground. Not so fun, and not so great for sightseeing, either.

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  2. I think it’s inevitable. Frontier living – and all its hardships and risks – is always appealing and romantic. What might start out as specialized bases will evolve organically into semi-permanent and then permanent colonies people want their families). And the technology to make living improvements along the way I also think is inevitable to the point of making the environment of the entire planet to serve our needs. All the chemicals are already in place; changing their state on the necessary scale will become easier and cheaper as demand ramps ever upwards. I suspect 30 generations will yield a sizeable colony and 50 with millions of Martians clamoring for independence from those morally suspect and guilty colonizers!

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      • Dreamer? Maybe you don’t know enough geoengineers.

        Speaking of dreaming… Kittyhawk to Ingenuity, in all of 5 generations. Think about the scope of that ridiculous dream (how cool is it that Ingenuity has a piece of the Kittyhawk onboard to drive the point home). And technology – including bionics – is geometric. Our hesitancy to imagine change – especially in orders of magnitude – doesn’t make us realists any more than those who think beyond today’s capabilities are therefore ‘dreamers’; I suspect it’s closer to the other way around!

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        • I’m actually not surprised at your reaction, tildeb. It conforms to your usual thinking. Not being critical, just factual.

          My primary reason for doubting is based on what I presented … how many “earthlings” would want to live on a planet that offers essentially nothing to what their home planet does. Sure, the changing of the environment to make it suitable for human habitation may actually take place, but it will never be “Earth” and all that this planet has to offer.

          Thus, I believe the number of those who choose to make Mars their home in far future generations will be very, very low. Unless, of course, humans continue to demolish and destroy this planet. Then, of course, all bets are off.

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          • Oh, I fully appreciate the point you make about today’s hostile environment on Mars. But the conditions in 30 generations I think will be VERY different, and so colonization I think will be a driving factor in changing the planet to suit us.

            So if people had the opportunity to live on a different planet, I don’t think the conditions you raise would actually be the case. And I think those changes will occur organically as geometric changes are made… first for the scientists, then their families, then greater and growing economic opportunities for more and more people requiring ever more kinds of workers, and better conditions and so on. A key feature is changing the atmosphere, which will also greatly affect radiation, and so on. I think the possibilities are now very real… so much so that I honestly believe them to be realized inevitably. This is what people: push to the frontier, build new lives, be the New Pioneer.

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          • Plus, tiledb ignores the Gorilla in the Room in his techno utopianism. Global climate Change. we are probably facing 5 degrees C. Massive dislocation. Not an extinction level event (there are a lot of us, and we can be tough) but lots of death. No industrial high tech civilization to build the Martian Dream Colonies. And no, massive Chinese solar farms (which seem to largely power the utterly inane and silly concept of “Bitcoin Mining”. Can anyone using Google escape those damn Coinbase ads that are relentless)

            Mad Max and Humungus wasn’t building Martian colonies. They were fighting over the scraps. Sometimes literally as in the Pigshit fueled Thunderdomes! Damn Tiny Turner was cool in that role!

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    • I must fall in line with you Tildeb on this one. I’m not convinced in the least that our blundering, idiotic, short-sighted species (as a whole), really has any choice.

      Unless of course the greater majority of our species has a passionate death-wish. Lol 🤦‍♂️

      And to be perfectly honest, I know way too many radical Evangy-Fundy Christians and radical, life-hating Muslims who actively try to circumvent God’s/Allah’s will and time-table of Armageddon and an End of Times so that EVERY LIVING BEING perishes in oceans of fire—or something, like suicide bombers or sheer apathy and indifference to usher in a Rapture then apocalyptic end to Earth and all living non-Christians, or Infidels as Muslims call us, and everyone else not identical to them. 🙄

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      • Such a dim view of humanity. *sigh*

        Yes, there are idiots galore in the current age, but surely by the time Mars has become a potential home-away-from-home, these individuals will have been declared invalid and sanity will have returned. Surely?

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        • Nan, I honestly do try and try so hard to be optimistic, believing in the great virtues of all humans, and giving all the benefit of the doubt… to learn from their mistakes/EFF-ups and actively become better contributors to all of life and for the greater good. I do. I want that badly, that incredible Utopia.

          But how many times have we been slapped in the face, kicked in the crotch by the reality of human nature, ESPECIALLY during times of exceptional difficulty, catastrophes, and great loss of life? Example, all those individuals, groups, and corporations who constantly find and gain great monetary profits at the expense of material and human devastation and obliteration.

          All of this I speak from the experience of living in the USA and specifically Texas. I mean, I could tell you 10-15 horror stories right now of what happened during and what is still happening from our two extraordinary Winter Storms this past February and what the electric companies, the State of Texas—which has always been in bed with big business & corporations along with state commissions and councils of regulations, etc, and exactly WHO those specific men of particular ethnic background and political party affiliations… there are still thousands and thousands of middle-class to impoverished Texans fighting big companies, big electric councils/groups NOT to be burdened with all the costs of a failed electrical grid, providers, and government (de)regulators covering their own asses for NOT looking after Consumer’s interests and well-being! 🤬

          Is the common folk/people of Texas much different than many other regions and states across America? :/

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        • I have a damn near nihilistic view of humanity. And, repeating myself, it ain’t gonna happen. You are completely ignoring the industrial base, the wealth, needed to build such a colony. We won’t have it.

          The novel Canticle for Liebowtiz was about a post-nuclear war society, but post ecosystem collapse could be another source for his dystopian world.

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  3. Great provoking thoughts and raised questions Nan. 🙂

    I would simply ask first… Do we deserve to live here on Earth? How well do we Homo sapiens—all the good decent ones and the horrible ones—live here on this planet? Do we treat this life-giving planet with the utmost respect, appreciation, (worship?) and love that Earth deserves? And do it with gusto for the simple fact that she provides and sustains EVERYTHING we crappy, hateful, short-sighted primates need, NO… must have to live, survive, or thrive on this planet?

    Honestly, I don’t think the human race, as it stands right now, has any choice BUT to find other planets to carry on the species, to survive, to possibly avoid complete extinction; at least the better more virtuous portions of the human race. Wouldn’t you agree Nan? 😁

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    • You ask … do “we” treat this planet the way it deserves. For the most part, I would say the answer is no — which leads me to the question: What makes you think we would do better on any another planet? (I mentioned Mars, in particular, because it seems to be the one that beckons to us and has been the “object of our affection.”)

      You mention the “more virtuous” portion of the human race, but are these the ones who would move to another planet? Hardly. More likely, it would be as it is now … those who can “afford” the new digs would be the ones to settle there … and no doubt things would end up much as they are on this planet.

      Sidenote: I agree it would be nice if the human race could one day evolve into a more virtuous people, but things don’t seem to be heading in that direction so I’m not going to hold my breath.

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      • You’ve reminded me and hit upon a common, popular examination of political, social, and economic class among our species, particularly those humans of “affluent” status in positions of power, control, and the means to manipulate sectors of our species. One particular 2013 Sci-Fi film by Neill Blomkamp captures this very real problem today among our species: Elysium. Try to patiently bear thru this 3:30 min video clip Nan which comprises and summarizes BOTH our valid points, concerns. I’ll address your good question after…

        Delacourt (Jodie Foster), Carlyle (William Fichtner) who designed the orbital ship Elysium, his wealthy weapons company Armadyne is a major player in all aspects of separating and keeping separate undesirables away from Elysium and kept by force on dying Earth, and President Patel (Faran Tahir) of Elysium, and all super wealthy inhabitants of disease-free, morally & intelligently superior Elysium… those inhabitants (Mars? Another planet?) are essentially indifferent to humans they perceive as inferior according to a standard of power and opulence.

        Is this sort of future human condition very real, merely possible or somewhat impossible, or a complete fabrication of envious fancy by the “Have Nots” of Earth? 🤔😔

        IMHO, the fact that any of us discuss this sad, quite plausible Dystopia of the human race speaks volumes to my outlook. Probably yours too Nan. :/

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  4. Slightly off-topic, but an observation of the commentary…

    I sometimes think people are too easily convinced the world is going to ‘hell in a handbasket’. This seems to be the message we get bombarded by through all kinds of media, so it’s understandable.

    But by so many important metrics that measure what people think are the most important aspects to life, humanity is constantly getting better and better and better. Sure, there are all kinds of problems and some are more urgent than others. But here’s the thing: all the trend lines are up. Globally. Things ARE getting better and better all the time. Yet pessimism by the most affluent first world citizens is also rising and I can’t help but wonder why facts matter so little compared to our willingness to believe otherwise?

    Sound familiar? It should:

    Isn’t the highlighted aspect the central criticism non believers hold towards religious believers? That’s why I think the take-away is that the method of thinking this way is itself a problem that keeps on giving and not so much what it is we’re thinking about.

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    • Tildeb, I genuinely understand and appreciate this posture and outlook regarding general humanity. I have no issues in backing it and supporting your commission for implementing its concepts and specifics. I too am an optimist and believer in MOST of humanity’s best virtues for others, a Greater Good, and all things altruistic for our brothers, sisters, and distant cousins around the world even when times/events would dictate otherwise. I always hold out hope.

      Also, I realize you were not in anyway addressing me on your counter-balancing comment, an always needed position/feedback from you. 🙂

      However, at the same time on the same coin’s other side, I am not afraid to immediately speak about or address humanity’s ugliest manifestations motivated by vices and egocentric megalomania and racial/ethnic oligarchies! I see BOTH coexisting most all the time, sometimes fluctuating more to one than the other and then back to the other. What is wrong with addressing BOTH human conditions and human behavior? 😉

      I’ve also blogged recently about both human virtues, progress, and decreasing violence/hate… while not ignoring the still present human atrocities, de-evolution, and gradual spiking of human hate/violence and humanity’s apathy toward it defined precisely and correctly as criminal Accessory if one or groups standby and do nothing. Those recent blogs, if I may Nan…

      Praising Great Human Virtues & Progress:
      Ordinary People, Extraordinary Heroes
      21st-Century Humans More Peaceful
      A Whale of Altruism
      Oscar Winners of Science

      Criticizing/Condemning Selfish, Evil Human Behavior:
      • …well, this list is quite a bit more exhaustive.
      Two Worlds which points out both.

      With all deserved respect for you Tildeb, and I seriously mean that; I hold you in high regard, 😊 I don’t mind addressing and constantly keeping the beautiful and the hideous of human nature/behavior in the forefront of consciousness rather than forgotten and soon normalized

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  5. Mars has a lower gravity than earth, 62% lower. my question would be how will that affect the working in our organism: digestion, circulatory system, formation of bones, etc.
    even swallowing food will be different. and many more other subtle things.
    we are not machines. we are perfectly suited for this environment because we grew out of this environment, and we live according to its cycles and natural occurrences.
    not to mention the repulsive implication that it is ok to make a dumping ground of earth and look for the next planet in line. imagine if all those funds that go into space exploration would be invested into cleaning and maintaining what we already have, what feeds and sustains us like no other planet will.

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    • See? This is what I mean! I wasn’t talking about the mighty and extraordinary feats that may/could be accomplished in the future that would make Mars habitable, but rather would it truly be a place that the ordinary person even be able to live based on our physical makeup?

      But even more than that, why would anyone choose to live there? No matter what scientific achievements take place over the next several hundred generations, it will never turn Mars into a “duplicate Earth” with all its beauty.

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      • I think you have rose-coloured glasses about living conditions on earth, as if it’s bountiful for people to thrive. Well, not so fast.

        People live all over the globe in places where a human environment has been carved out of brutal places, environments that are trying to kill us all the time and in an incredible variety of ways. Yet, we manage. That’s the point I’m making for Mars. I think we can manage its hostile environment. After all, it’s not like an Inuit can wander out into the Barrens naked one day and frolic over the tundra because the earth is so bountiful; they have developed the means to carve out a way to live in a very hostile environment, not because they choose to live there but because their parents gave birth to them there and taught them how to survive. People even survive living in Sudbury (where astronauts practiced for the moonscape)!

        So a planet like Mars would certainly offer huge challenges but I don’t get why the presumption is that we would fail there when we have nothing but historical evidence that we can survive here! Add in the fact that technology for improving living conditions, life span, and quality of life is growing exponentially and I think there’s a reasonable argument to be made that Mars itself – in spite of the difficulties (or maybe because of them) – will inevitably become that new frontier and be colonized.

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        • So let’s agree to disagree because you haven’t convinced me any more than I’ve convinced you. Besides, neither of us will be around to validate the discussion one way or the other. 😊

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          • There are actually some fairly large areas of land on Earth which have never been inhabited by humans because conditions are too harsh. Aside from Antarctica, there’s the Empty Quarter in eastern Arabia, a huge chunk of the interior of Australia, and some areas around the Arctic. Again, all those places have Earth-normal gravity and breathable air, and there have been established human populations nearby for thousands of years who would not need advanced technology or huge amounts of money to get there. Yet those places have never been settled with permanent human populations because the environments are too hostile.

            We evolved on Earth and we are adapted to Earth. All humans, all the apes from which we are descended, all the monkeys from which those apes were descended, and so on back to the first lobefin that emerged from the ocean hundreds of millions of years ago — every one of them lived every moment of its life in the Earth’s gravitational field. There is no reason to think we could live for years in a place with gravity only one-third as strong and remain healthy, and plenty of reason to presume we could not, based on the known effects of zero gravity over long periods on the Space Station.

            A toxic irradiated frozen desert with meager gravity and almost no air is never going to be another Plymouth Rock. This idea is a delusion. So long as humans remain a biological species, there will be only one planet we can call home.

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    • The gravity issue alone is probably fatal to the entire concept. Given what we’ve seen of the physical damage caused to the human body by a few months at zero gravity on the Space Station, it’s hard to imagine that an entire lifetime spent at one-third Earth-normal gravity wouldn’t do substantial harm. Various schemes have been proposed for modifying Mars’s atmosphere and temperature, but we will never be able to change its gravity.

      There’s also the issue of cost. NASA estimates that a short manned expedition to Mars, equivalent to the Apollo 11 expedition to the Moon, would cost $450 billion (yes, with a “b”). The cost of a permanent settlement for a large enough population to be permanently viable — probably a few hundred — would certainly be in the trillions. I can’t imagine any government diverting such resources to a project with such meager rewards and dubious chances for success, nor any democracy’s taxpayers tolerating such waste.

      (This is why natural resources on other planets are irrelevant to space travel. Even if the surface of Mars were littered with cut diamonds and bars of refined gold and platinum, their market value would not cover the cost of bringing them back to Earth. Not even close. People are befuddled by a perceived analogy between space travel and the European age of exploration which led to colonizing and exploiting other continents. It’s an analogy every aspect of which is totally inapplicable in reality.)

      Consider Antarctica. Antarctica is much closer than Mars (thousands of miles away instead of tens of millions). It has Earth-normal gravity and breathable air. It’s no colder than Mars. In every way, colonizing Antarctica would be far easier and cheaper than colonizing Mars. Yet no country has ever settled a permanent population there, or (as far as I know) even tried to. The environment is simply too hostile. There are a few scientific bases, but that’s all. If colonizing Antarctica is too difficult to be worth attempting, colonizing Mars would be far more so.

      Beyond Earth, the solar system consists of a few globes of uninhabitable wasteland and poisonous chemicals separated by inconceivably huge expanses of absolutely nothing. Our present approach — exploring it with robots — is the correct one. Sending humans out there would be too expensive, too dangerous, and pointless.

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      • Just a point of clarification: you have failed to take into account the Antarctic Treaty System:

        “The treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation, and bans military activity on the continent.” That is, no colonies allowed.

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        • That’s only been the case for a few decades. We’ve known about the existence of Antarctica for much longer than that. Back when those rugged pioneers were settling the Americas, southern Africa, Australia, and so on, no one ever tried to settle in Antarctica. And if colonizing Antarctica were economical or feasible at all, I doubt the treaty would last very long. Work-arounds can always be found when enough is at stake. No one has tried to find a legal way to colonize Antarctica because no one is interested in doing it. The environment is too hostile. It would be the same with Mars, only more so.

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  6. I fully agree with you, Nan. It will never happen, nor should it. Sure, as you say, they could create some form of artificial structure piping in such things as oxygen, but who wants to live in a biodome? Mars does not have what it takes to grow food that humans can eat, nor the water and oxygen we need to sustain life. Meanwhile, though, enough people are enticed by the possibility that they don’t complain about the billions of dollars wasted by NASA every year … money that would be much better spent trying to improve the environment here on Earth, the only planet that can sustain human life.

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    • This comment reminds me of an interview I just read. (Sorry for length, Nan, but I think it’s topical)

      From Neil deGrasse Tyson (NYT article here)

      Here’s the excerpt bit talking about how to teach science more effectively to a wider population that is losing its understanding of why a good understanding of science and its frontiers is so important:

      NdGT: You have to say, Here’s this body of knowledge that are objective truths established by science. Then: Here’s this frontier where we’re still asking questions. You distinguish between science that’s objectively established as true and science on the frontier. Once you’ve come up knowing the science and how and why it works and understanding what the bleeding edge of science does, you’re in a position to pass judgment on science-related news. Now, on top of that, if there’s anything we would call a scientific authority, it is the National Academy of Sciences. Most people don’t even know that the frickin’ thing exists. Why is that? We need better marketing.

      NYT: What would be the mechanism for that?

      NDT: I’ll go pie in the sky: a mission to Mars with humans. That would do it. Why do I know that? Because in the 1960s, while we’re going to the moon, you didn’t need special programs to get people interested in science and engineering. It was writ large in the daily headlines because every mission was more ambitious than the previous mission. This went higher, this orbited longer, now we’re docking, now we’re going to launch the craft that’s going to the moon, now we go to the moon. And you knew it was fluency in science and technology that was empowering that journey. So a mission to Mars with humans, I could script this: We’re going to do this in the year 2035. It’s 14 years from now, and we want the crew to be in their upper 20s in age, which means that right now that crew is in middle school. Let us do another Mercury 7 except we’re going to find the middle-schoolers who we are going to track, and Teen Beat is going to say, “How were your grades? Are you doing all the right things? Are you studying?” They become models for society without having to take out an ad. They go to Mars! By the way, for this you also need biologists, medical doctors, engineers, astrophysicists, chemists, geologists. You tickle all the STEM fields, and everybody is going to want to be a part of that, and science would reign supreme once again.

      So the question I have is how much – what dollar amount – is this understanding worth compared to, say, 100 billion dollars loss of tax revenue privileging religion as a tax deduction? I don’t think it’s a binary choice between spending money on policies and programs for citizens or spending money on space. I think there’s a balance there.

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  7. It doesn’t matter whether it should or should not happen, all it will take is the discovery of gold or some other precious metal on Mars, and humans will go there despite all the barriers. They will quickly be overcome. The same will be true of the asteroid belt. Humans are driven by greed.
    Space should be left to itself. It will not be. At least, not in this star system.

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    • Rawgod wears the laurels tonight.
      Everything about Nan’s opening question kind of went sideways. Mars would not be a very likely place for humans to set up camp. As far as our solar system goes, it is the best possibility.

      Nobody wanted to cross the Atlantic until explorers returned with gold, silver, tobacco, and tales of wonderful things.

      If our exploration should discover a sufficient amount of precious metals and rare earth metals, mining companies would hi-jack all the taxpayer’s investment and developed ways to mine the planet.

      But tildeb’s idea that man can develop an atmosphere in a few generations is unreasonable. That is something that requires millions of years to achieve. And, the lower gravity of Mars will accelerate the loss of bone density, drastically. We are continually evolving but certainly not that fast.

      I searched for the nearest exoplanet and got this:
      NASA experts discover the closest Earth-like planet just 31 light-years away that could be habitable
      The planet, GJ 357 d, orbits a star around 31 light-years away in a habitable zone
      In this region, it’s possible for water to exist on the planet’s surface if it is rocky.
      (From the dailymail.uk.edu)

      Does anybody want to do the math on the travel time?

      We would have to survive long enough to build a mini world like that in ‘Independence Day.’ Then maybe…

      I just don’t see much future on Mars besides developing the science needed to, maybe someday, look toward other stars.

      Who would leave NYC for California if there was no gold there?

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      • And who would willingly go to Alaska? Or even the Klondike? Gold turns men’s minds to mush. But they chase it in the face of incredible dangers, and Mars is incredibly dangerous.

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      • Just to clarify, what you call my ‘few generations’ for creating a more hospitable atmosphere you realize covers 400 years after colonization, right? And the time frame I mentioned to achieve this was 1000 years.

        Also, I mentioned it took 5 generations to go from the first heavier than air flight on earth to developing all the technology necessary to flying a helicopter in an atmosphere on another planet with 1% of the density of earth’s. This shows the scope of change we know can occur through the application of scaffolding scientific knowledge with technological advancements. Faster and faster. Multiply that geometric change over 30 generations and then evaluate whether or not Mars offers humanity opportunities that justify the costs and willingness. I think one has to be an intentional pessimist to think the idea isn’t as likely as unlikely.

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      • Who would leave NYC for California if there was no gold there?

        Ask that question in mid January and you may get a different answer than you expect. Not everyone wants to live in that frigid anthill, contrary to the arrogance of New Yorkers. California was and is certainly more than “gold”

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    • Yes, 100 % yes!
      And before you know it they will be terra-forming the planet – something I’ll bet dollars to donuts is already on the drawing board in some form or another.

      And the first two businesses to open up shop will be MacDonald’s and, wait for it …. a frakking church.

      Want to bet against the Vatican having feelers out already about the possibility of sending a priest or two into space?

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      • Sorry. You misunderstand the sheer distance…and the quantities of time and resources that would be involved. An overheated, polluted, collapsing economy world won’t be devoting resources to terraforming a hostile environment months if not years from earth.

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        • I was responding to Rawgod’s suggestion that should precious metals or the like be found there would be a ‘rush’ to mine the planet.
          The terra-forming etc was simply a flight of fancy – where’s Sigourney Weaver when you need her, right?

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    • Except that we are demonstrating our fundamental lack of understanding of the sheer numbers involved in space travel. No, travelling to Mars is not like traveling to Alaska for gold. As painful as a trek across the mountains was, it had nowhere near the logistical challenges of trans-orbital travel. Science fiction is fun to read (I was an addict in my youth), but it depends on magical technologies and a fundamental misunderstanding of distances and time.

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      • Mars is easily within reach, when the two planets are aligning. No, the flight is nothing like a trek to California, or Alaska, nor can we get there by covered wagon or dog sled.

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        • Sorry, hit send by mistake. I was about to add that I think most people understand you cannot hitchhike there. I am talking about many years in the future before Mars can even be explored enough to find precious metals, if they are there. Nor do I want billions upon trillions of dollars or rupees to be spent on space exploration when it can be better spent on humanitarian causes.
          But I still think given the proper inspiration and a bit of time humans will develop ways to get to Mars, and ways to live there. That is what humans do. After all, we need a new garbage dump!

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    • Maybe my employer would pay for surgery to convert me into a Jupiterian Gas Being, which is what I identify as deep down inside. Then I can be King of the Great Red Spot. Which is my destiny!

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  8. I seem to recall a long pullout section in Time mag back in 1990 or so about taking 200 years to Terraform Mars.

    It is possible.
    Maybe also probable.
    A good idea?
    Well…

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  9. I think The Expanse does a pretty good job taking many of the concerns raised here into account (I haven’t read the books).

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    • “There’s a science-fiction TV show which explains why humans could permanently thrive in a low-gravity environment even though all the actual medical evidence says otherwise, but I’m not going to tell you here what that explanation is so you can evaluate it.”

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  10. There is a niggling thought in my brain. I was watching a show about the main designer of the present Mars rover, and I seem to remember him saying one of his designs was to put certain bacteria into the soil as the rover went along. He had no idea if they could survive, but he wanted to try. His theory was if the bacteria had no natural enemies they could expand and mutate into all kinds of things rather quickly. . He was taking the long view.

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    • All the Mars missions take exhaustive precautions to avoid any risk of contaminating Mars with Earthly bacteria. This is to prevent the danger of Earthly bacteria giving false positives to experiments designed to find evidence of native Martian life, and to make sure we don’t actually destroy any native Martian life that might exist by introducing invasive non-native species, as has happened in many cases in various regions on Earth.

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      • Yup, all true. And yet I heard what he said. I remember thinking it was the start of trying to terraform Mars. A very tiny move, granted. And maybe he was not allowed to do this. But it sounded to me like it was done.
        And since when can you expect a mad scientist to admit he is doing something mad until it is done? If you trust scientists to not take opportunities when opportunities arise, you are much more trusting than I am.
        Not the same, but a fertility doctor in Edmonton just admitted willingly that a number of years ago he prescribed larger doses of fertility drugs than were necessary to patients desperate to have children, doses that were potentially harmful, even life-threatening, just to get kickbacks from the drug companies. He also said the pharmacy where he sent his patients also got kickbacks for filling the prescriptions without questioning the quantities. Obviously his conscience got to him, 5 years later, and he freely confessed.
        The medical college is now investigating his patients’ conditions to see if anyone was harmed, but they are not telling us what they are finding. This is a major breach of trust, probably a criminal one.
        If we cannot trust a medical doctor, sworn to help people and not cause undue harm, you certainly cannot trust a scientist to not experiment where that experiment is not allowed.
        This is all mere speculation of course. But my memory says I heard him say this, on video. Was it even the real guy who designed the Rover, who knows? But it was someone.

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  11. In every place where we’ve tested it, the soil on Mars is saturated with chemicals called perchlorates which are known to be lethally poisonous to Earthly soil bacteria. All Earthly plants depend on soil bacteria to mediate their assimilation of nutrients from the soil. Before we could grow any kind of Earthly plants on Mars, even if we somehow made the atmosphere perfectly Earthlike, even if the low gravity wasn’t harmful to Earthly plant biology, we would need to introduce Earthly bacteria — but the chemistry of the Martian soil would kill them.

    So we will never be able to grow crops on Mars, or grow trees or flowers. There can never be Martian wheatfields or forests. I suppose a colony could sustain itself with hydroponics, but people there could never escape the awareness that they were living in an artificial, encapsulated environment surrounded by a poisonous desert where they didn’t belong.

    I suspect that subsequent generations, rather than growing comfortable with this sterile alien prison, would gaze with longing at the blue morning star in their sky, where they knew people could walk on grass among the trees and eat the natural fruit of the land. Within a century the colony would be abandoned, humans returning to the true home of their kind.

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  12. I respectfully disagree. While you do bring up many good points, I think an entire colony living in essentially a big spaceship could probably last somewhat indefinitely. It definitely wouldn’t be easy, it would take a lot of smart people managing all the life support systems for sure. But I think if you have a gigantic structure with pools and greenery and other ambiance, it could be a fairly emotionally healthy place to be.

    I think after a couple of generations, people probably would NOT want to come back to earth, where the gravity is 3 times stronger.

    Ultimately, I think it will or won’t happen based purely on if there is enough political will to do so. Just like pretty much every new and risky adventure in the history of human exploration.

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    • The issue with the low gravity isn’t that it would turn people off because it was unfamiliar. It’s that it would cause serious health problems over long periods of time, because it’s so different from what we evolved in.

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      • Oh, I was going with the idea that if you had lived in 1/3 gravity for a long time, coming back to earth would be a non-starter physically. You couldn’t just abandon mars and come back to earth without major medical issues.

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        • I maintain that such a scenario couldn’t even arise. As a human, if you were born and grew up in an environment with one-third of Earth’s gravity, you’d live a sickly and crippled life and probably die before you were old enough to even think about options like traveling to the homeworld of your ancestors.

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  13. An observation somewhat out of left field:

    All the people in this thread who believe that colonizing Mars (or sending people to live in a giant orbiting tin can) is feasible or desirable, are males. I’ve noticed the same pattern in other discussions of this kind of topic elsewhere on the net. There seem to be essentially no women who believe this would work or would be a good idea.

    If you can’t get any women to go along to your colony in the alien desert, you can’t have a self-sustaining permanent population.

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          • Infidel’s observation is meaningless in that he has no correlation other than the sex of commentators; the same observation could be made about lots of things but jumping to the conclusion that it’s a sex-based preference is to disregard reality in that there are many highly accomplished women who are willing to go into space for a variety of reasons and so THIS observation is actual evidence contrary to his implication.

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            • If you read his comment carefully, he’s simply making an observation and then offering a potential conclusion. He’s NOT providing proven, documented, or authenticated facts.

              Good grief, tildeb! Leave it be.

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            • The fact that some women become scientists or even astronauts isn’t evidence that they, or any substantial number of women, would choose to go spend the rest of their lives in a giant tin can in the middle of a frozen poisonous desert where nothing ever happens.

              Nor would most men, actually. And to be frank, the kind of people who would be comfortable in such a ghastly situation are not the kind of people we would want representing the human race in the founding of new societies.

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          • These are only some of the women involved in the Mars mission and I dare anyone to suggest talking about the possibility years ago in then planning stages would have thought it relevant in the slightest of the sex of those involved. The assumption seems to be that because males are seen to be talking about this stuff today indicates some kind of unwillingness of women to participate… and so the idea of a colony where there are ‘no’ women is unlikely. What… is Infidel suggesting that women-as-baby-makers hundreds of years from now when many of the pressing issues have potentially been addressed are STILL unwilling to go? This assumption is not just wrong but smacks of an imported misogynistic attitude that these baby factories aren’t filled with highly accomplished women l those involved TODAY with the Mars program. Oh… and – heaven forbid – some of them even have had babies during this project.

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            • Okay. Doom and gloom it is

              It’s hardly “doom and gloom” to point out that the world will probably never choose to commit trillions of dollars to a fantasy of ignorant nerds befuddled by badly-written science fiction. If the time ever comes when we have that kind of money available for some grand project, we should spend it on providing clean water and electricity to every village in India and Africa, replacing all the world’s fossil-fuel power plants with solar or wind or nuclear plants which won’t contribute to global warming, establishing a system to detect and deflect asteroids which might hit Earth, and suchlike, rather than this nonsense about colonizing a fundamentally uninhabitable planet. That’s not doom and gloom. That’s hope.

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  14. Yes, it’s a ghastly environment. That’s why we send machines instead of people.

    OK, I concede. You can go and live in a tin can on Mars with a bunch of other guys who are into this kind of stuff, and eat potatoes grown in poisonous dirt fertilized with each other’s shit, where the only interesting thing in the whole world is a robot helicopter. I’ll stay here on Earth with all the trees and women and Thai restaurants and the Louvre and the Taj Mahal and Venice. Just don’t expect me to vote for any of my taxes to go toward the however-many-trillion dollars it will cost for you to do it.

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    • Am I alone having heard that, “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.”

      The reason why we know so much about climate change and the facts about how we are causing it today is a direct descendent of the space program. That you can use a cell phone and connect digitally around the globe is a direct descendent of the space program. Colonizing a planet may never occur, but the trying, the addressing of significant issues like the ones you’ve raised almost always have unexpected and important applications derived from them. If you were alive, I’ll bet you remember exactly where you were when Armstrong put a human footprint on the moon. And that accomplishment did more to bring humanity together than all the sit-ins combined.

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      • It was a major accomplishment, no doubt. But moving around on the moon in a thermostatically-controlled spacesuit is a bit different than setting up a habitat there for humans. Just like it would be for Mars. 🙂

        Please, tildeb, we see your point. You do NOT need to reinforce it anymore!

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  15. OK, I’m closing comments. Good arguments have been made both ways but I think we’re reached a stalemate.

    Thank you ALL for contributing. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing your thoughts. I know I’ve enjoyed reading them.

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