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Mars Colonization Discussion Thread

What are your opinions about colonizing Mars?  

111 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you think Colonizing Mars is a good idea?

    • No, its not really usefull and will have negative consequences
      8
    • Yes/No its not that usefull but will have no negative or positive outcomes
      13
    • Yeah its a good idea! It will have positive outcome.
      52
    • Hell yeah lets colonize Mars it fun!
      30
    • Other
      8
  2. 2. Do you think we are going to colonize Mars one day

    • Yes, soon!
      39
    • Yes, but in the far future.
      48
    • No, but it could be possible
      12
    • No, never.
      5
    • Other
      7


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It seems like the great big Mars colonization discussion has leaked inside threads that are not really intended for it, so I'm making it a seperate thread. Mods, feel free to merge.

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Thank you for this.

I voted "Other" for both.

For question 1, I am unsure if it is a good idea or not. The answer depends on knowing what the long term effects are of 0.38g. If that gravity is compatible with human flourishing, then I think that people might someday live on Mars.

On the second question, like I said, it depends on my answer to 1 to some extent. If we are compatible, then I have no issue with it, but I still think orbital colonies might make more sense. 

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I voted yes, it will have a positive outcome.

The technology developed can be reused here.

If people are worried about jobs, colonizing a freaking planet should do more than suffice. We'd need more educated people, but I think it would have a positive feedback loop, and science/math would be focused on more, just like during the Apollo era.

It could force us to look back on ourselves, and fully realize how small and fragile we really are. Many space missions did that, but the sheer scale of planetary colonization could help even more people care about other people, and Earth more.

We have a lot to work on and develop. On top of that, this has never been attempted before, and I will honestly be surprised if there aren't any accidents or deaths in the early days.

It won't be easy, there will be slipbacks, possibly many. But we will do it. Hopefully in the next decade or so, it'll begin.

Let the era of space go forth :D

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I'm more in the orbital colonies camp, but I do think Mars will be colonized eventually. But that would be after decades, if not centuries, of perfecting (mostly) closed loop life support systems.

For anyone interested, you should take a look at this:

http://www.nss.org/settlement/physicstoday.htm

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This would be a useful place to redirect arguments about standard tropes of Mars colonization.

Ie:

1. Is there a plausible economic model for trade with Mars, ever? (maybe in the distant future?)

2. Is there a plausible economic reason for the initial effort? (no, lol)

3. Are there alternatives to Mars? (I'm with @Bill Phil on orbital habitats)

4. What would the logistics look like to establish such a colony?

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Voted yes/no in terms of usefulness. I mean, I guess it's got some square footage but I don't see any other direct benefits over living in space/the asteroid belt because we're going to genetically engineer our future colonists anyway. I also voted "far future" because I don't see it happening on a "colonization" scale for at least several hundred years.

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35 minutes ago, tater said:

1. Is there a plausible economic model for trade with Mars, ever? (maybe in the distant future?)

No.

35 minutes ago, tater said:

2. Is there a plausible economic reason for the initial effort? (no, lol)

No.

35 minutes ago, tater said:

3. Are there alternatives to Mars? (I'm with @Bill Phil on orbital habitats)

Near Mars, Saturn, maybe Jupiter, maybe Neptune, maybe Pluto - a swarm of commsats, navsats, telescopesats and an orbital support base populated by several (tens ?) thousands of employees.

Every orbital habitat - a rotating bunch of parallel pressurized cylinders, emulating O'Neil's. Not a home, but a campus for employees from the Earth.
Employees get from the Earth, work for several years and return back to the Earth, where get retired.

Say, 3 such half-filled habitats per planet. If something happens with one, they evacuate to the neighbor and start restoring the damaged or build a new one.

Semi-automatic and teleoperated industrial facilities on Mars and greater moons, providing the orbital "colony" with fluids (mostly) and metals.
Nobody lives on the surface, all live in the orbital habitats at normal 1 g.
Periodically visiting the surface bases to resupply and repair and returning back to the orbit as soon as possible.

Their objective is to support the orbital infrastructure, repair the swarm, facilities, etc, and do astronomy.

Objectives of a colony are:
* Long-base navigation
* Long-base communication
* Long-base astronomy
* Long-base physical experiments

* Outer range of the early warning Earth defense system

* Endless producing and storing metals and fluids in a ready to use form as much as possible, ad infinitum.
Converting Phobos/Deimos/... into a storehouse of metal bricks, Martian ice caps - into a storehouse of plastic bricks (between the mountains of metal bricks).
Just face the idea that moons and planets are useless, just consume and digest these pieces of useless trash, making them ready to use resources.

* Emergency cultural storage. Every colony has a full copy of human culture on diskettes.

* Emergency DNA storage.
Ideally - not DNA samples, but digitized DNA samples and a biofabricator which creates a cell from DNA digital description.

* Emergency option in case of the Earthocalypse.
Not a "backup Earth" or "Martian vault", forget this.
Due to highly automated environment, the staff is mostly engineers and scientists (i.e. educated persons).
So, at any moment ~100 kilohumans out of the Earth at once — a permanent immediate reserve cultural pool if the Earth gets suddenly crashed by a natural disaster or an alien attack.
Their task is not to live independently from the Earth (as writers dream), but in case if the Earth had gotten dead — start restoring its usage and repopulation.

So, every colony has a mobile construction yard, brings it to the devastated Earth, drops from orbit and starts creating pioneer industrial plants to accumulate resources and build a full-stack industry on the devastated Earth.
(Don't forget that the Earth is an unique place in terms of geology due to its hydrosphere and biosphere, it has hydrothermal and sedimental mineral deposits rather than any another celestial body in the Solar System).
The stored mountains of metals and organics are greatly useful for this case.

After the Earth industry gets more or less restored, they should start repopulating it with GMO algae, plants, microbes and other stuff, thanks to their extraterrestrial DNA banks.
So, the Earth will more or less revive.

***

Earth - megahuman-sized mega-bunkers around all the planet. Maybe somebody survives any disaster and on the Earth, too.
Btw, not underground, but vice versa, artificial hills with tens meters thick walls. Just because "underground" is too shallow and unstable in most Earth places.

As there is a lot of stored resources (see above), reconstruction of several asteroids, making them mega-human-sized orbital bunkers, too. Just to get several millions more from the Earth before a disaster event.

***

Long-base astronomy - first based on the telescope swarms near distant planets (such as Pluto, Neptune or so), then extended up to 550 AU by launching telescopes in different directions.
Full 3d inventory of the Solar System, listing all important or dangerous objects, direct observations of Oort cloud  (if it really exists).

Full 3d inventory of the surrounding stars inside, say 1000 ly sphere (i.e. presumably inside a co-rotation zone and between the galactic arms, where the alien life is most possible).
Listing of potentially interesting stars, their planets, and their continents (maybe even city-sized objects), sending one-way semi-sapient probes to the most important of them.
Searching for alien traces, preparing to attack them and defend.

***

Near-Sun orbital power plants focusing power to outside consumers.
Energy source, boosting beams, beam cannons of the Earth defense.

***

In more distant future - interplanetary townships (like in Visitors movie and its remake).
Development of mini-Dyson spheres around Sat, Jup, maybe Ura and Nep.

***

Mars is just the first stepping stone to Saturn. Who needs that desert. It even has just one sun instead of two.

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5 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Near Mars, Saturn, maybe Jupiter, maybe Neptune, maybe Pluto - a swarm of commsats, navsats, telescopesats and an orbital support base populated by several (tens ?) thousands of employees.

I don't see the distant solar system as a place for colonization, ever, frankly. Colonization is different than an outpost, perhaps that needs to be made clear. A colony is someplace people move to, have kids, raise families. Plymouth, MA in 1620 was a colony, ISS is an outpost.

I see no reason for people to live in the distant solar system, honestly, and intelligent systems will only increase in capability, or autonomous probes/capabilities are only going to improve.

5 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Every orbital habitat - a rotating bunch of parallel pressurized cylinders, emulating O'Neil's. Not a home, but a campus for employees from the Earth.
Employees get from the Earth, work for several years and return back to the Earth, where get retired.

I tend to see few reasons to live in space, and honestly, to work in space. The only limitation is light lag for telepresence, which might make people need to be a little closer. As autonomy becomes more capable, even that ceases to be needed.

 

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4 minutes ago, tater said:

I don't see the distant solar system as a place for colonization, ever, frankly. Colonization is different than an outpost, perhaps that needs to be made clear. A colony is someplace people move to, have kids, raise families. Plymouth, MA in 1620 was a colony, ISS is an outpost.

I see no reason for people to live in the distant solar system, honestly, and intelligent systems will only increase in capability, or autonomous probes/capabilities are only going to improve.

The only humans' colony is the Earth, forever.
(Unless they find one more Earth at some another star).

All listed above are outposts in your terms. Employee shifts, not native population.

4 minutes ago, tater said:

I tend to see few reasons to live in space

Not to live. A place to keep the technical staff supporting the structure and (coincidentally) an emergency storehouse of brains.

Edited by kerbiloid
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Then you might as well not post*, this thread is about colonization, which means permanent inhabitation by individuals. Those people, should they come to Earth would be tourists, on Earth.

*(EDIT): the not posting thing came off way to harsh, please read it as joking, as we might do having this conversation in a pub. Brainstorming this concept is fun, and worth doing.

Anything short of that is not colonization.

I think that there could well be people living in space at some point, assuming it was made desirable enough to do so---meaning that the habitats would be places worth living. The size limit on orbital habitats would be a circumference of ~6000km (breaking length of carbon nanotubes or similar stuff like graphine).

Such a ring would have the surface area of ~Finland if 50km wide. Room for a substantial population. Do I think this is likely any time within the next several hundred years? No, lol. It's not impossible, however.

Edited by tater

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41 minutes ago, tater said:

Colonization is different than an outpost, perhaps that needs to be made clear. A colony is someplace people move to, have kids, raise families. Plymouth, MA in 1620 was a colony, ISS is an outpost.

Quoted for truth. 

A colony is place of lifelong residency with a certain degree of economic self-sufficiency (and often a certain degree of legal and political self sufficiency as well) and generally an economic role as part of a larger polity.  What people are describing in this thread are mostly outposts or stations.  Places of temporary residency where people are generally hired by the operators or assigned to a tour of duty by outside authorities.  That is, like a military base, or one of the facilities many nations maintain in Antarctica, or one of the resource extraction facilities in Canada's far northern regions.  One key indicator of the difference (for example) is that the citizens of a colony cannot be forced to remove themselves from the colony without the force of Law and a formal legal process.  The transient contractors of an outpost or station can be given their pink slip and be on the next ship out of Chryse with little to no legal recourse.  (Sure, sure, there are going to be dictatorial colonies.  But a dictator is the force of Law by definition.) 

Which is not to say that an outpost or station can't become a colony as people settle nearby and live independently of (even if economically dependent on) the outpost or station and it's transient residents.  This happened in many places in the New World over the centuries.  Heck, it's even happened as late as the late 19th century - the town I live in would be a miniscule fraction of it's current size if the Congress hadn't selected the area for a Navy Yard.  (If it even existed at all.)

But it almost certainly won't happen on Mars - because you can't just clear a few acres, plow a field, and then sell carrots or cattle or whatever to the outpost.  You can't plop down a simple shack, import a little yarn or catch local furbeasts, and start selling blankets and hats to the transient residents of the outpost. And all this presumes that Mars doesn't end up like Antarctica, where private residence is forbidden and you'll simply be placed on the next ship outbound (in cuffs if need be) if you try.

But, to be honest, people are to be forgiven not understanding this.  When it comes to space and space travel, science fiction and the popular media have been misusing the term colony for over half a century.

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This thread is really because the SpaceX thread had a few derails---the fault of Elon Musk, really, can't blame people for posting about Mars colonies in that thread when Musk opens his talk discussing making us multi planetary.

While I find BFR pretty plausible, I find the Mars colony... less so.

That doesn't mean to not a fun thought experiment, though.

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1 hour ago, tater said:

That doesn't mean to not a fun thought experiment, though.


Certainly it's a fun thought experiment - but only if, like any experiment, it sticks to reality.  Otherwise, it's just an exercise in writing collective fiction.

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For me it usually ends up like the guys shredding Mars One :wink: 

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Lately I’ve developed the opinion that, only by learning to live sustainably on Mars (or wherever) can we learn to live on Earth. 

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Good to do eventually, only worthwhile in the short term to force spaceflight. 

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8 hours ago, tater said:

Then you might as well not post*, this thread is about colonization, which means permanent inhabitation by individuals. Those people, should they come to Earth would be tourists, on Earth.

I was confused with your questions, mistakenly presumed that "Is ... ?" allows both positive and negative answers.
Sorry for arguing for the latter one*, though in my understanding a system of outposts is a colonization.

There are a lot of places on the Earth which we may call "colonized", but which don't have a native population. Oil rigs, mining and metallurgical combines, prison camps, military units, seaports so on.
(Is a lighthouse island colonized/populated? If there is only one person there, but he is always there.)
Some of them have much more humans than "populated" areas. Humans live there permanently, but they don't go there to breed or retire.
Say, you don't sleep in your toilet or kitchen, but this doesn't mean they are unpopulated wastelands.

So, I just described my vision of future colonization, including the Martian one.
As you can see, in "my" model there is no place for a separate "marscolonization" phenomenon, as "utilization" of Mars with human settling is just a routine and unremakarble part of the Solar System colonization (forgive me, but I insist, it is) in whole.

* Just joking.

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Yeah, your model is certainly likely for a long time to come. Real colonization I think is farther off.

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5 hours ago, Nightside said:

Lately I’ve developed the opinion that, only by learning to live sustainably on Mars (or wherever) can we learn to live on Earth. 

It's vice-versa actually.

8 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

There are a lot of places on the Earth which we may call "colonized", but which don't have a native population. Oil rigs, mining and metallurgical combines, prison camps, military units, seaports so on.

A colony implies settlement: moving in with your family and raising children.

Places like oil rigs or research outposts don't qualify as colonies, they are temporary work places.

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1 hour ago, Nibb31 said:

A colony implies settlement: moving in with your family and raising children.

Ok, I won't argue, as in Russian "colony" means any permanent settlement regardless of biological reproduction.
(Say, a prison camp is also a "colony".)

Upd.
Btw, I have a thought. As European colonies were founded mostly across the ocean, while Russian colonies inside the same continent, their self-sufficient biological reproduction is critical from American pov and not - from Russian. The threshold is a journey duration. Either you treat a journey to Mars as a long ocean journey, or a short land trip.

Edited by kerbiloid
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Historically, oceans did not separate people, they linked people. After 1620, the number of ships crossing the Atlantic skyrocketed, eventually there were literally hundreds of ships at sea at any given moment in the Atlantic, sometimes thousands.

People went both directions, as well, routinely. The failure of many to go back to Europe to visit was of cost, and opportunity cost (farmers can't leave their farms alone for a few months at a time easily).

Anyway, in English, colonizing refers to people settling an area permanently, with the intent of making it their home. 

Musk is interesting in that he wants the aspirational science fiction future many of us have long since internalized (I imagine most of us here are SF fans). He doesn't make bogus arguments about Mars colonies trading with Earth, or that they will somehow magically be more intellectually productive than their terrestrial cousins. He says he wants it just because it makes the world more interesting. That's actually an argument I agree with, even while I simultaneously don't think Mars makes sense for this, and I'm entirely unsure it's a place that;s good for humans long term. He sometimes makes the "backup of humanity" case, and I think this is self-evidently true in the event of a truly self-sufficient genetically diverse human population off-Earth, I also think that the tech required to make such a colony obviates the need in most cases (a society spacefaring at that level can divert most all existential threats). It's also not likely a cost-effective mitigation of those threats, either. 

All that said, Musk has said that his primary reason for accumulating wealth is to fund this project. Bezos has a somewhat coincident goal (millions of humans living and working in space is certainly colonization, even if orbital). The question is, of course, is a few 10s of billions sufficient for realizing this goal? I tend to think not.

 

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Spoiler
1 hour ago, tater said:

Historically, oceans did not separate people, they linked people

This is already offtopic, but indeed, I don't understand that hype about Columbus, Drake, Magellan, Phoenicians, Polynesians and other sailors.
Very sad that they didn't know, that oceans connect people, not separate.

Spoiler

Journeys lasting for several years, scurvy, longitude measurement problem, I really don't understand, what's the problem.

 

Edited by kerbiloid

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Unlike in space, where payloads are necessarily a tiny % of the craft required to launch them, water travel on Earth is the most efficient way to move cargo, and has been. 

Space is different where gravity wells are concerned, and where human travel is concerned. Minus the people, small craft can conceivably move even asteroids around with small inputs, but over long time periods. Efficient in mass, but not time.

20 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

This is already offtopic, but indeed, I don't understand that hype about Columbus, Drake, Magellan, Phoenicians, Polynesians and other sailors.
Very sad that they didn't know, that oceans connect people, not separate.

They in fact knew this very well. I suggest reading some age of sail history. 

Columbus was using extant technology that was in wide use throughout Europe, connecting people from the Med to Scandinavia by sea. The Polynesians likewise were fantastic sailors, and considered their boats as links to their civilization, they went back and forth all the time.

If you think oceans divided people, you have not read enough about it.

 

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Planets are a distraction.

I expect all of you are familiar with the extreme delta-v requirements necessary for landing or launching something on a planet.So I'm going to pose this question:

If you have the technology to create a closed-cycle life support system that is self-sustaining (or needs only a relatively small amount of occasional materials inputs) and capable of indefinitely supporting human habitation in space, why would you go to the trouble of building it on the surface of another planet, which would require you to haul everything up and down two gravity wells and across vast interplanetary distances?

Gravity? Well, Mars doesn't have very much of that in the first place, and it's trivial to build a counter-weight and tether system to provide centrifugal gravity.

Minerals? Maybe, but anything you can get from Mars, you can get far more easily from asteroids. In fact, there's a lot of things you can get from asteroids that you can't get from Mars, like phosphorus.

Water? Same deal as before, get your ice from comets and asteroids.

Radiation shielding? Here Mars has a slight advantage, in that it has more space available to put stuff beneath several meters of rock. But it's not too hard to add some layers of shielding to a spacecraft. If you really want to go the distance, you can hollow out an asteroid and use that as your living space.

 

There is nothing on Mars or which can be provided by Mars that cannot be obtained more easily from small-mass asteroids. Colonizing planets is a foolish distraction, the idea of which is only kept alive by naive romanticism. We should be focusing on building arkships and asteroid habitats, which pose far fewer engineer challenges and have the added benefit of being mobile. (Or mobile enough that we could set one [or two, or three, or a hundred] up to slowboat out of the solar system, thereby ensuring the continued survival of the human species, even if, say, a gamma ray burst scoured the life from every planet in the system.)

TL;DR: Mars ain't the kind of place to raise a kid.

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21 minutes ago, GreenWolf said:

A bunch of entirely true stuff clipped for brevity

TL;DR: Mars ain't the kind of place to raise a kid.

In fact, it's cold as hell.

 

Yeah, this mirrors my views. At risk risk of derailing "Mars colonization" to "the colonization of space," I think that orbital is the way to go. 

"Once you get to Earth orbit, you're halfway to anywhere in the solar system.". -- Robert Heinlein.

This still ends up being a question of "why?" however. There is little need for people in space, so as I said above, unless space habitats (on the dirt or not) are places people really want to go, there is not a good reason to go to one. It;s funny, Blade Runner was on TV last night, and I watched a little. "Los Angeles, 2019" is the opening scene. I think that instead of tunneling under LA to make it a better place, perhaps Musk should work to make it more dystopian, so that people might actually prefer the "off-world colonies." :wink:

It would take rather a lot to make a colony that was someplace people would want to live, and short of that, you get just outposts.

Edited by tater
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