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Mars Terraforming Debate

michael posted about 10 years ago | from the getting-ahead-of-ourselves dept.

Space 529

blackhelicopter writes "This Guardian article describes the implications of terraforming Mars - the subject of NASA's forthcoming debate. Quote from Dr Lisa Pratt, a Nasa astrobiologist, concerning life probably already on Mars: 'We simply cannot risk starting a global experiment that would wipe out the precious sensitive evidence we are seeking'."

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HITLER SUCKS! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8697978)

Modding this post down supports genocide.

here's a suggestion: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698128)

Eat a dick.


Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8697979)

HOWTO: Be an American

America, eh folks? It's a pretty screwed up place. Unfortunately, but not indefinitely, the USA's weapons of mass destruction make it the most powerful country in the world (militarily). As a result, it helps to be aware of American society and fit into it, and our quick 8-step guide should have you on the path to burger-munching enlightenment.

1 - Buy yourself a gun
To become a fully-fledged Yank, you'll need to get a weapon. Americans think that having more killing machines magically makes their country safer, and it helps them to walk around saying "I'll put a cap in your ass". Even though the concept of "no guns = no gun-related crimes" is alien to the average Yank, it'll give you a false sense of security in this country with the highest crime rates in the developed world.

2 - Put on at least 25 stone
Skinny? Medium? Chubby? That won't cut it in the good ol' US of A. Because America has the highest obesty levels on the planet, you'll need to get those rolls of flab built up. Eating 18 waffles with Maple syrup for breakfast (and visiting Burger King five times in a day) is all natural when much of the world is suffering massive poverty. Get fat and fit in.

3 - Learn the lingo
We've talked about issues affecting society, but on a personal level you'll need more knowledge (or ignorance as it may be) to fit in. First, forget proper English. Confuse "your" with "you're". Say "must of" instead of "must have". Whenever anything interesting occurs, say "shucks" repeatedly. Instead of clever spontaneity or witty insults, call people "asswipes". It's funny!

4 - Throw away all maps, history books etc.
To really feel a part of American society, you must lose all knowledge of the world. Forget where Poland is. Scrap your knowledge of the lengthy Chinese history. Make cretinous remarks like "India? Is that in Africa?". Because ALL that matters is America, and it doesn't matter how pathetic you look to educated people the world over.

5 - Become totally irrational and nonsensical
Spout on about the Constitution, and then make drastic changes to it. Talk about "freedom of speech" and watch TV programmes about the Ku Klux Klan. Rant on about market freedom, and sit back as companies run riot and destroy the economy with their anti-competitive practices. Essentially, act idiotic at all times.

6 - Sue everyone you ever meet
The USA doesn't produce many decent quality products, so the society is crumbling into a litigation-happy joke. With so many jobs going overseas to talented workers, your only option left is to start legal proceedings. About anything. Someone step on your toe? Get some hotshot downtown lawyer to sue their ass!

7 - Get a "shrink"
Americans have a hard time dealing with their own problems in a mature manner, and prefer to spend hundreds of dollars sitting in front of someone and whinging. However trivial your problems may be, blast them out like a baby!

8 - Watch abysmal TV
Forget educational programmes and incisive documentaries. Your ideal night in is with your gun, six cheeseburgers and a Friends box set. Watch as some over-paid talentless "actor" enters the scene, and whoop and scream hysterically as he delivers some ridiculously poor wisecrack.

So there you have it! Those 8 steps should have you killing innocent people, piling on pounds and acting like a moron in no time. America awaits you, brave hero! Just get out before it collapses in disarray.


Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | about 10 years ago | (#8698009)

In 2001, President Bush almost prevented the worst terrorist attack in American history.
He invaded Afghanistan and almost captured Osama bin Laden.
He invaded Iraq and almost found weapons of mass destruction.
He almost prosecuted corporate crime.
He almost created lots of new jobs.
He almost left no child behind.
President Bush has a "moon base" plan that is almost feasible.
John Kerry has no "moon base" plan whatsoever...
President Bush only speaks one language, but that language is good ol' fashioned American English. And he almost speaks it real well.
John Kerry is fluent in several languages. He probably speaks French...
I was thinking. I don't really agree with President Bush on anything. I mean, nothing - except the whole "no-call list" thing. That was great! I mean, that one law ALMOST makes up for all the stupid stuff...
And isn't almost good enough?


Moonpie Madness (764217) | about 10 years ago | (#8698164)

no guns != no gun crimes no guns = not possible how the heck would we get guns from law breakers? guns only saved 40,000 lives last year sure, they also killed 30,000, but still we'll never terraform mars if we cant figure out basic logic. You can't name a decent place on earth that doesnt owe some debt to american blood. america has plenty of problems, but unlike most of the world, we openly discuss them. you wont go to jail in america for booing the national anthem, unlike france, or ,say... north korea i shouldnt have fed the troll i guess, but jeez, technology owes itself completely to america, even the stuff developed elsewhere owes itself completely to america. german japanese etc. what would those engineers be doing under an emperor other than producing a better people controlling army?


Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698205)

Doing useful science like many people have done so for the majority of scientific history.


Sevn (12012) | about 10 years ago | (#8698182)

Even though the concept of "no guns = no gun-related crimes" is alien to the average Yank, it'll give you a false sense of security in this country with the highest crime rates in the developed world.

It seems the violent crime rates in Britain and Australia went up significantly with stricter gun laws. [worldnetdaily.com]

Perhaps one would do good to take care of their own back yard before complaining about their neighbor.

2 - Put on at least 25 stone
From my experience of actually being an American, there is a wide gulf forming between the ultra-fat and ultra-fit. They both have commercial markets that cater to their needs. Fat people are good for the economy. :)

3 - Learn the lingo

Or alternately, become one of those annoying, self righteous spelling nazi's that NOBODY likes.

5 - Become totally irrational and nonsensical

Or, dwell on the past of your once great empire and invent anything you can to poke fun at the Americans because it helps you overcome the pain of the fact that you got your asses kicked a while back and are now our lapdog.

6 - Sue everyone you ever meet
Or, bend over and accept your "station" in life. Become a big pussy that accepts a class structure and never strive to be anything better than what you were "born" to be.

7 - Get a "shrink"

Or, do nothing about your repressed problems and feelings and declare the entire field of psychotherapy voodoo. Become the most annoying race of people on earth with your bottled up psychosis. Take that superiority complex and decide to impose your systems of "checks and balances and order" on the world, only to get your asses beaten the whole way back to your island.

8 - Watch abysmal TV

Or, watch abysmal TV. Your TV isn't much better bub. I've watched it while trying to choak down that crap you people call "food" over there while staying in what you people think a 5 star hotel is.

Not to mention (0, Insightful)

seanmcelroy (207852) | about 10 years ago | (#8697980)

Any life we haven't found *yet*. Granted, chances are slim, but because we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.

Re:Not to mention (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698105)

Why didn't Tom Wolsey tell me that before I clicked on the goatse link?

Re:Not to mention (3, Insightful)

los furtive (232491) | about 10 years ago | (#8698263)

Not to mention [a]ny life we haven't found *yet*.

I may be "jumping to conclusions" on this one, but do you possibly thing that's what she meant by 'We simply cannot risk starting a global experiment that would wipe out the precious sensitive evidence we are seeking'

Not only was that in the article, it was in the freakin' post. Anyone who modded you insightful should have the backs of their hands tapped hard with a spoon.

wonderful.... (-1, Insightful)

vbdrummer0 (736163) | about 10 years ago | (#8697991)

now we can totally fuck up ANOTHER planet. i think we should focus on cleaning this planet up before we decide to punt and basically make a new one.

Re:wonderful.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698003)

Oh no! We'll destroy the non-existant yet vibrant ecosytem!

Re:wonderful.... (5, Interesting)

Scrameustache (459504) | about 10 years ago | (#8698080)

i think we should focus on cleaning this planet up before we decide to punt and basically make a new one.

I think we should make a backup before we start applying patches.

I'm not very concerned with messing the precious barren desert they have going there...not as much as I am about our lush diverse ecosystem anyways.
And if there is life there, well its sure to be better suited to its native environment than what we bring along. At worst we get our first scientific data about how our bacteria interact with xenobacteria.

Can We Even Do It? (5, Funny)

Mikkeles (698461) | about 10 years ago | (#8697995)

Given our experiences with Biosphere 2 and my own attempts at gardening, I think Mars is safe for a while.

Slashdot's Sources (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698001)

I love how slashdot's main source of news comes from the Guardian, BBC, NY Times, Salon and other left wing America-hating organizations.

Where is the fair and balanced coverage?How about stopping your links to Indymedia and other leftist wacko sites, and linking to fine sites like OpinionJournal, FreeRepublic.com for some other viewpoints?

Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698026)

FreeRepublic.com et. al. are wrong.


BTW how can those organizations hate america if they are americans? Can't those sites hate fundamentalist extremists (i.e. Bush and his ilk) without hating America?

I think you need to re-analyze your positions and stop listening to hate radio.

It is like self-hating Jews (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698143)

"BTW how can those organizations hate america if they are americans?"

That is a good question. Yet, they do.

"Can't those sites hate fundamentalist extremists (i.e. Bush and his ilk)"

Since there is nothing extremist about them, you really need to learn more before you lie about America's leaders like this. You are starting to seem like one of those who really does hate the country.

"I think you need to re-analyze your positions and stop listening to hate radio."

Yes. turn off NPR.

I've been to Free Republic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698163)

Free Republic actually tends to be factual (much more than the left-wing sites)

Re:Slashdot's Sources (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698031)

I do not 'love it' and have let my subscription expire.

exSlashdot subscriber

pave it over (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698006)

and put up a Historical Marker.

Is this political flamebait story day?

Have not yet found life on Mars...so ... (1, Offtopic)

Stradenko (160417) | about 10 years ago | (#8698008)

I don't see a problem in *creating* the life ourselves. Terraform the planet, destroy the existing life, and put some new junk there.

That will also solve the problem of who "god" is (at least for the newly created martians). And it would make earth a sort of heaven from their perspective.

One day we will all move to mars, and use Earth as a big garbage dump...

I'll start a company that sends the remains of the dead back to Earth for burial ... that way people can have a guarantee that they'll go to heaven when they die.

I would be the new Saviour...

Terraforming - why? (4, Insightful)

claes (25551) | about 10 years ago | (#8698019)

I find it incredible that terraforming of Mars is considered an alternative today. Expect an enviromental discussion that will exceed that of the Kyoto protocol many times over.

Re:Terraforming - why? (4, Insightful)

kalidasa (577403) | about 10 years ago | (#8698040)

Um, so we can live there. If there's no life on Mars, terraforming is an easy ethical decision. If there is life on Mars, then we've got some heavy thinking to do.

Re:Terraforming - why? (4, Interesting)

Mikkeles (698461) | about 10 years ago | (#8698259)

'If there's no life on Mars, terraforming is an easy ethical decision.'

Is it necessarily an easy decision? Perhaps we need to debate the meta-question: Is life the only criterion relevant to whether we should muck around with a planetary system?

Re:Terraforming - why? (1)

Amiga Lover (708890) | about 10 years ago | (#8698124)

I find it incredible that terraforming of Mars is considered an alternative today.

Personally I think it's already underway. I'm not so arrogant to think that there's no way life couldn't have hitched a ride on the dozens of pieces of junk now littered over its surface.

How many spores of some kind or another are up there that can survive for hundreds/thousands of years? how long until they end up in one of the areas of standing water? How long AGO did this already happen after the first probes landed?

Re:Terraforming - why? (3, Insightful)

Coryoth (254751) | about 10 years ago | (#8698240)

Actaully the space agencies involved were (from what I've heard) very careful about sterilisation of probes to make sure such things DIDN'T happen.

Dig around for details on the two rovers there at the moment for instance, I'm sure you'll find there was a very meticulous process to make sure everything was completely sterlised before arriving on mars.

Of course that doesn't mean life didn't hitch a ride somehow, but it does seriously up the "unlikely" stakes a notch or two.


Re:Terraforming - why? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 10 years ago | (#8698144)

It's simple, really:

on Earth, global warming is *bad*

on Mars, global warming is *good*

No environmental problems in sight :)

Re:Terraforming - why? (1)

baryon351 (626717) | about 10 years ago | (#8698183)

I find it incredible that terraforming of Mars is considered an alternative today. Expect an enviromental discussion that will exceed that of the Kyoto protocol many times over.

It wouldn't surprise me of a buttload of organisms have been sent up already. No, not in any planned grey-alien-type-conspiracy way, but in a "hey let's get this underway now" kind of way. Dump out a pound or two of potential matter and let it go. if it dies it dies, if not... well, the little oases around the viking lander sites would show up hey :)

Re:Terraforming - why? (5, Informative)

Scorillo47 (752445) | about 10 years ago | (#8698222)

I wouldn't be too much worried... we just need to provide around 10^19 kg of nitrogen (or some inert gas) and 0.3 x 10^19 kg of oxygen.

These are absolutely huge numbers. Even if we take all oxygen from all our water from the Earth this won't be enough to fill out the Mars atmosphere...

BTW, some facts about Martian Atmosphere (from http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/mar sfact.html)

Surface pressure: 6.36 mb at mean radius (variable from 4.0 to 8.7 mb depending on season)
[6.9 mb to 9 mb (Viking 1 Lander site)]
Surface density: ~0.020 kg/m3
Scale height: 11.1 km
Total mass of atmosphere: ~2.5 x 10^16 kg
Average temperature: ~210 K (-63 C)
Diurnal temperature range: 184 K to 242 K (-89 to -31 C) (Viking 1 Lander site)
Wind speeds: 2-7 m/s (summer), 5-10 m/s (fall), 17-30 m/s (dust storm) (Viking Lander sites)
Mean molecular weight: 43.34 g/mole
Atmospheric composition (by volume):
Major : Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - 95.32% ; Nitrogen (N2) - 2.7%
Argon (Ar) - 1.6%; Oxygen (O2) - 0.13%; Carbon Monoxide (CO) - 0.08%
Minor (ppm): Water (H2O) - 210; Nitrogen Oxide (NO) - 100; Neon (Ne) - 2.5;
Hydrogen-Deuterium-Oxygen (HDO) - 0.85; Krypton (Kr) - 0.3;
Xenon (Xe) - 0.08

Nuke it (0, Offtopic)

sleepnmojo (658421) | about 10 years ago | (#8698021)

Seems like a great way for us to shoot our nukes. Sure if there is life, it might die, unless they are cockroaches. What else would live on mars?

Our own planet (1, Insightful)

vlad_petric (94134) | about 10 years ago | (#8698023)

Let's face it - we are killing our beautiful planet. Global warming is happening, beyond any reasonable doubt (unless, of course, you're a "funded" scientist). We're not doing anything to prevent this from happening (the USA, the biggest polutor of the world, won't even adhere to the Kyoto treaty), yet we consider teraforming another planet.

Are we really "viruses", as agent Smith puts it ?

Re:Our own planet (2, Insightful)

Zuke8675309 (470025) | about 10 years ago | (#8698153)

Let's face it - we are killing our beautiful planet. Global warming is happening, beyond any reasonable doubt (unless, of course, you're a "funded" scientist). We're not doing anything to prevent this from happening (the USA, the biggest polutor of the world, won't even adhere to the Kyoto treaty), yet we consider teraforming another planet.
FUD! Not to mention very shakey science.

Re:Our own planet (1)

dslbrian (318993) | about 10 years ago | (#8698155)

Global warming is happening...We're not doing anything to prevent this from happening...

Of course not. Mars NEEDS global warming. How can we expect to do it right over there without some practice first...

And who cares about existing life on mars. Look around, we need more space. The RIAA/MPAA and their assorted politicians have already taken over this place. Best to start over.

Re:Our own planet (2, Insightful)

Fallen_Knight (635373) | about 10 years ago | (#8698162)

Kyoto treaty is a joke, it allows for many countries to pollute to their hearts content, when countries like cananda, who probley have a negitie effect on CO2 levels due to the HUGE number of trees we have, are penalized and forced to reduce CO2 output so some other 3rd world country can pollute.. wtf is fair or right about that?? I don't care if we did it, we know better and so do they, just because we did in the past doesn't me they have the right to now.

And if you want to drop CO2 levels just fucking rise the price of oil, if the price per barrle goes up a dollar a year minimum expect alternitives to be found fast. But of course that will never happen as USA has the oil lobbiest and the world has OPEC or however you spell it.

Kyoto treaty won't do anything to help global warming (if such a thing exists, it can't be proven 100%..)

Isn't cheaper to encourage population control? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698025)

Seriously. Wouldn't giving free vasectomies and tubal ligations be cheaper than simply spending massive amounts of effort just find find new places to put "stuff"?

Re:Isn't cheaper to encourage population control? (1, Offtopic)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | about 10 years ago | (#8698142)

I'm pretty attached to my testicles. But if it is for the good of humanity, i guess i could stand a little seperation from them.

Imperialism (4, Insightful)

Mtn_Dewd (15169) | about 10 years ago | (#8698035)

It's interesting to me that now that all of Earth now is claimed by some group or another that we would begin moving to other planets. I find it hard to believe that we would form any type of terraforming operation without some political agenda. I'd imagine that being the country to pioneer such an operation (ie: USA) would be the biggest stick policy of them all.

Muck It Up (2, Insightful)

Jim_Hawkins (649847) | about 10 years ago | (#8698044)

ultimately providing mankind's teeming ranks with a new home. and That is why it is dreadful. We are mucking up this world at an incredible pace at the same time that we are talking about screwing up another planet.

I agree. Unless humans learn to take care of what they have, we should not even begin to consider "jumping planets" just 'cause we don't want to fix up Earth. It sort of puts us in the position that the aliens from Independence Day held -- we just move from planet to planet raping it for any of its resources and then moving on.

Absolutely and completely scary.

Re:Muck It Up (5, Insightful)

cbogart (154596) | about 10 years ago | (#8698202)

Well, we can't "muck up" mars since it's already dead or mostly dead. And we can't give up on earth and move to mars because, transportation costs aside, fixing mars' problems will be *way* more expensive then cleanup on earth.

Terraforming mars will always be a secondary hobby project for earthlings. And it seems silly to say "we should get our own house in order first" because 1) we'll never be perfect; that's no reason not to start other projects, and 2) there are billions of humans, so we can work on projects in parallel.

I think terraforming mars and cleaning up earth's environment are synergistic goals anyway; both will benefit from lessons learned in the other. Mars is a great testbed since it *can't* be mucked up any worse than it already is.

Kim Stanley Robinson's books about terraforming Mars got me more interested in ecology than any non-fiction book I've ever read. I think because ecological writers tend to have a hopeless anti-human perspective: we're a sinful blight upon the environment; we mess it up accidentally, and anything we try to do to fix it will probably go horribly wrong; best thing we can do is curl up and die. Robinson on the other hand paints an image of humans creatively taking responsibility for ecological problems and fixing them.

Re:Muck It Up (1)

Ralph Yarro (704772) | about 10 years ago | (#8698276)

Unless humans learn to take care of what they have, we should not even begin to consider "jumping planets" just 'cause we don't want to fix up Earth.

I'd say that unless humans learn to take care of what they have then we'd better get working on jumping planets 'cause we don't want to fix up the earth. Seems more of a practical approach to me.

Whoa whoa (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698045)

When did we start living in a Sci-Fi movie?

Hey, if we really are in one, I get first dibs on the free jetpacks.

Seriously, these guys seem to be using this as a ploy to get more funding. I.e., if the planet earth gets screwed up, we have a backup planet we can egress to..

Free Jetpacks? (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | about 10 years ago | (#8698088)

I get first dibs on the free jetpacks.

Not so fast there, Buck Rogers -- first you've got to fight (and defeat) bug-eyed monsters!


Global Experiments (0)

handy_vandal (606174) | about 10 years ago | (#8698049)

We simply cannot risk starting a global experiment that would wipe out the precious sensitive evidence we are seeking.

Sure we can risk it!

Our ancestors risked such an experiment, oh, fifty thousand years ago ... and look! the experiment resulted in ... us!


Let's Go (5, Insightful)

Elias Israel (182882) | about 10 years ago | (#8698050)

I say terraform it as soon as we can.

Human survival, wellbeing, and expansion should trump all other concerns. We are the measure of all things.

Second, a species with only one planet is necessarily at greater risk than a species with two planets. We need the insurance policy.

I love science. But the value of another planet to our species is greater than the cost of losing the odd microbe or two that might be found on Mars.

I say, "Let's Go!"

Re:Let's Go (4, Insightful)

cybermace5 (446439) | about 10 years ago | (#8698147)

Right on. I'm pretty sure that long before we ever get the technical ability to terraform a planet, we'll have hundreds or thousands of years of in-person Mars study anyway. Seriously, look at the logistics of terraforming Mars...it's not happening anytime soon. I think that anyone seriously considering it at this point could be called a crackpot. The resources required, and the resources required to get them there, would turn Earth into a wasteland.

Until we meet a species with bigger guns, we own the place. No need to wipe out anything we find, but there's no need to devote a whole planet to a single species of microbe, if it exists.

Re:Let's Go (1)

no longer myself (741142) | about 10 years ago | (#8698242)

I say terraform it as soon as we can.

Definitely. If there is indiginous life, it's either microbial or fossilized. Either way, it's about as significant as pond scum. While we're there, we'll toss a sample into a petri dish for a keepsake.

Hell, a cow is more advanced than anything that will ever be found on Mars, and I just ate a hamburger. Do you think for a moment that I'm going to worry one bit about the potential rights of a microscopic organism?

Just looking at all the images sent back shows the basic picture: A vaste wasteland.

Given the chance, I think we can do better than that, and we don't even have to be gods to do it.

Yeah, yeah... Earth first... We'll strip-mine the other planets later. BAH!

I say terraform today!

Sounds like the Genesis project ... (1, Funny)

beanyk (230597) | about 10 years ago | (#8698057)

Expect to see many more re-runs of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn in the near future.

proposal to terraform mars (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698062)

1) Hire Hollywood strongman 2) Hire anorexic woman 3) makeup crappy plot 4) press wierd alien button in movie and release steam 5) ??? 6) profit?

Re:proposal to terraform mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698138)

lesson for you all...use preview and dont forget html br's!! :(

The GNAA... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698066)

Are a bunch of dirty tree-hugging asslickers. Members, do you dare respond to my post? Take that tongue out of each others holes and defend yourselves.

Sure it starts with a debate (4, Funny)

quantaman (517394) | about 10 years ago | (#8698067)

Next thing you know those crazy Reds are taking down the space elevator and Mars is one moon short!

Reds vs Greens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698078)

Is a nitrogen based economy next?

A little story... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698087)

Once upon a time, there was a species which pumped terrible pollution into the atmosphere, wiping out 98% of life on Earth. It's name was algae, and the pollution was Oxygen. We can't 'kill' planet earth as another poster put it - how arrogant is that? - no, the most we can do is give life a little shake up, which it needs from time to time.

Interesting. (4, Insightful)

l33t-gu3lph1t3 (567059) | about 10 years ago | (#8698092)

Man, this post made me think of "Total Recall".

It'll never happen. Why? Terraforming is a multigenerational undertaking. So far the only human creation to span many generations has been religions and the wars they involve.

Mammoth tasks like terraforming a planet simply cannot be done given the current state of human psychological development. Who here would work on a project that would only be fulfilled hundreds of years after your death?

Re:Interesting. (1)

toast0 (63707) | about 10 years ago | (#8698169)

Hmm... you've answered your own question. I would think motivated missonaries would love to convert the people on mars, and make sure they know about the glory of [insert religious figure].

Re:Interesting. (3, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about 10 years ago | (#8698186)

One way is to find step-wise payback points, which should not be too hard. Mars probably can be a useful place to be before it is fully terraformed.

Re:Interesting. (5, Insightful)

SmackCrackandPot (641205) | about 10 years ago | (#8698197)

Do a google search for 'gothic cathedrals' and 'gothic churches'. You'll see that the church wanted places of worship that would transcend all limits of human perception and give church-goers a feeling of the infinity/eternity of God; The huge arched ceilings, massive stained glass windows, and gold painted walls. Construction of such buildings took over a hundred years; four or five generations of builders. The reward for the builders was for their families to receive a steady salary and to be buried in the church graveyard for free.

Don't forget the Egyptian pyramids, the Great wall of China, and Mont. St Michel (which took 500 years to complete).

Re:Interesting. (4, Funny)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 10 years ago | (#8698210)

It'll never happen. Why? Terraforming is a multigenerational undertaking. So far the only human creation to span many generations has been religions and the wars they involve.

Maybe this generation doesn't, but past generations have been able to build things. The pyramids, the Great Wall of China. Back in my days we spent days moving one-ton blocks from one side of the road to the other. With our tongues. It's just these young pups, and their MTV generation short attention span, and their lazy work ethic. Young whipper-snappers.

Re:Interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698256)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't the pyramids, by necessity, one generation projects? I mean, they were burial places for the pharoahs, right? It wouldn't make sense to start a tomb for someone who wasn't even born yet.

Starting a global experiment? (2, Funny)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 10 years ago | (#8698094)

I must have missed the terraforming in Bush's Mars promises. I think we have some time before the crews are ready to roll in which to look for life. However, in case any Martians object, we'd put the plans on display. (I suggest Grover's Mill, New Jersey, where they're sure to see it.)

Have you heard about big red? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698100)

Have you heard about big red? /
They even bought a beebread rig /
To help the flowers in the mean space /
They're trying to make this place green /
Hope the bees will take away the the storm /
Hope the trees will take away the storm /
Don't you know how this whole thing started /
There was a crowd and then we parted /
Don't know if I'll ever go back /
It's a long way across all of this black /
Here I am in my bucket today /
In the middle /
Here I am in my bucket today /
In the middle /
They got a mule they call Sal /
Bulldozing up canal walls /
They're gonna tap that icecap too /
When they do they're gonna make that green map blue /
The weather is finally getting warm /
And the weather is really getting warm /
Don't you know how this whole thing started /
There was a cloud and then it parted /
Don't know if I'll ever go back /
That's how I felt when I left that tarmac

Frankus Blackus

Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves here? (5, Insightful)

Wavicle (181176) | about 10 years ago | (#8698101)

How to terraform a planet:

Step 1: Devise a reliable method of getting vehicles to the planet.
Step 2: Terraform the planet.

I think we should work on step 1 before worrying about step 2.

Sooo... (1)

gotr00t (563828) | about 10 years ago | (#8698168)

Do we call that recursively? Step 2 calls the whole thing once again, so, in our quest to terraform Mars, we'll just end up with a lot of ways to get stuff to the planet according to your plan.

brute force terraforming (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698185)

You could terraform a planet without touching a vehicle on the surface. One idea that has been around for a while is steering gas-rich comets and asteroids into mars. Another "easy" way would be to crash a bunch of carbon blocks into the surface.

The technology is there to at least try some of this stuff, the application just hasn't been tried yet. Since it would take decades, maybe centuries, of doing this to get Mars livable it wouldn't stop advanced efforts when their requisite technology arrives.

We may already have started (2, Informative)

Hrrrg (565259) | about 10 years ago | (#8698224)

In the latest issue of New Scientist:

"Schuerger says that of all the space probes sent to Mars, only the two Viking craft in 1976 were adequately heat sterilized. The procedures used for all missions since then, including NASA's two rovers and Europe's Beagele 2, would have left some microbes aboard. After studying whether terrestrial organisms can survive the procedures used to sterilize a spacecraft, he reckons there is a good chance some made it to Mars and might still be living there."

Life will find a way

Marsforming our planet instea? (1, Insightful)

Scorillo47 (752445) | about 10 years ago | (#8698103)

Until now, the mankind was unable to do any sort of "terraforming" of our planet. So I would say that currently we are doing the opposite thing - the percentage of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is growing every year! Soon, Earth will look like Mars.

When we will proof that we can do any controlled changes at macro scale in our atmosphere, then probably terraforming would be a solution... for our planet first.

Re:Marsforming our planet instea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698265)

Wait a minute. Increasing a compound that is essential for plantlife = killing all plantlife and turning Earth into Mars?

Also, as far as the terraforming issue is concerned, there's something we can't easily change on Mars (like terraforming itself is easy) - The magnetosphere, or lack thereof. Without it, whatever we put into the atomosphere would be likely blown into space by solar storms.

Been there, done that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698111)

Terraforming planets... big whoop. Instead we should be working on terraforming stars, they are much bigger and have more energy.

Already debated in Sci-Fi (5, Informative)

Nomihn0 (739701) | about 10 years ago | (#8698118)

The issue of terraforming has been argued extensively in science fiction for years. The most notable books on the topic are by Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Red Mars, Blue Mars, and Green Mars (a hard-sci-fi trilogy on the terraforming of Mars and its consequences).

Ethics? (4, Insightful)

polyp2000 (444682) | about 10 years ago | (#8698123)

I think what is interesting is that if the earlier article regarding methane emissions being discovered on mars. If it does turn out that it is coming from some lifeform , no matter how advanced or primitive. Is it ethically right to go marching in there and changing the whole ecosystem?

Where does one draw the line?

On earth humans have caused extinctions many times over. It is only in recent years that we try to preserve waning species. If we go to another planet we should take these philosophies with us wherever we call our home; if we do decide to colonize or terraform another planet it should be done in away that doesnt destroy any life that already exists there.

I do have another opinion though; Mankind is life, a very successful form of life. It seems to me that our aging planet is not going to last forever; Man has always looked up into the stars in awe and wonder, I beleive that it is our destiny to be up their in the heavens, that is the ultimate challenge life has to face. Just because we call Earth "Home" , why should it not be the case that the universe is our "Home" ?

How life imitates art (2, Interesting)

Walter Wart (181556) | about 10 years ago | (#8698125)

Kim Stanley Robinson wrote the book on this, literally, with his "Red Mars", "Green Mars", "Blue Mars" series several years back. The "Reds" believed the planet, and whatever life was on it, should be preserved. The "Greens" held humans could and should do what was in their best interests as a species. We even have Halliburton, Bechtel, or whatever corporations have bought the White House at the time represented :-/

Re:How life imitates art "Blue Mars" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698149)

So what did the "Blues" believe?


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We are not even there yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698129)

And there is already a Red Mars vs Green Mars debate.

Kim Stanley Robinson got it right... and wrong.

Whitey on the Moon (0, Offtopic)

molafson (716807) | about 10 years ago | (#8698136)

Ya know, I just about had my fill of Whitey on the moon.
I think I'll send these doctor bills
airmail special....
to Whitey on the moon.

BAD Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698174)

Terraforming another planet would take generations, first of all, and even that wouldn't guarantee that it would be a particularly pleasant place for humans to live, especially with the difference in gravity (Mars' gravity is what, 0.38 Earth-normal?). Colonists born there wouldn't be able to return to Earth if they wanted. As for Mars, it would incur an enormous of damage to the planet's natural features, not to mention any potential existing ecosystem. Warming the entire planet enough for human comfort would reduce the surface to slush. Humanity would be far better served by space habitats spun to simulate Earth gravity.

Mars (2, Insightful)

pmsyyz (23514) | about 10 years ago | (#8698176)

I say we shouldn't attempt to terraform Mars during the first 50 years of human habitation of the planet, during which time we can scour the planet for evidence of life or past life as well as recording the entire planet's condition with the cameras attached to our spacesuits' helmets. Well, I guess most of the exploring would be better accomplished by wheeled robots.

Mars gave life to earth? (2, Interesting)

AustinTSmith (148316) | about 10 years ago | (#8698179)

Well what if WE [Earth] are the successful terraformation of life that once debated this same concept on Mars?

The reason they are not predominant to day is...

Their wildly inaccurate predictions of how long it would take for them to be able to convert our atmosphere. We are claiming decades but the realization was probably billions of years. And life on Mars slowly gave way before their world collapsed. Perhaps by a cataclysmic event or by way of nature [entropy].

What if there never was any life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698188)

How far are we supposed to look to assure ourselves that there isn't life? Should we hold off all attempts of colonization and terraforming because we haven't found anything but some people are so sure life should be there to make everything right in their world view or to justify some kind of anti-religious crusade?

What if life is there but in a form we arn't currently looking for? I've always felt the braintrust in charge of NASA lacked any imagination. What about silicon-based lifeform that has no DNA (not sure what would be in its place, much less if anything needs to be in its place)?

-The Anonymous Bastard

Shit (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8698201)

Why can't the environmentalists let some human progress be made? Give me a break. Perhaps we can establish Mars are a human colony for everyone except environmentalists.

It's inevitable (1)

Borg453b (746808) | about 10 years ago | (#8698207)

I believe that man will colonize space unless he's destroyed (globalwar, asteroid etc) prior to the required state of technology for interplantary colonization.

It's in our nature to expand, and the passion for travel and exploration is, in many ways, just expressions of our genetical make up (you can further complicate the issue by drawing social-cultural development into the argument, but I'll keep it simple).

It's a question of seeking out living space, and life's logic seems to will that organisms seek out living space that can accomodate them.

We will seek to populate areas that are more attractive than the alternatives; eg. mars being the obvious choice, if we can terraform it.

Will we learn to respect the indeginous life, when considering future homeworlds? I hope so.

Perhaps, when the required resources of terraforming a dead world seem a little more than those required to terraform a "near-compatible" world (mars) - we will allow ideals to influence such a choice. Saying that, I hope we'll distance ourselves from our history of colonization on earth; the enslaving and extermination of cultures and species.

..but will a few microbes stand in our way during the next 200 years? I doubt it. Lets try to find a few of them, before we do the "eden-thing"

Irony: We all die of some near-future disease.

terraforming mars (2, Informative)

jiffypop31 (656535) | about 10 years ago | (#8698208)

This will not work. The reason Mars has no atmosphere is it lost its magnetic field. That was one of the reasons. With no magnetic field the solar winds are able to slowly strip away the atmosphere. Also with out a magnetic feild to to delect the solar winds the surface is also bombarded by solar radiation wich the magnetic feild normaly delects. Earth would become like mars if are magnetic feid every entirely shut down.

Re:terraforming mars (1)

psykocrime (61037) | about 10 years ago | (#8698275)

This will not work. The reason Mars has no atmosphere is it lost its magnetic field. That was one of the reasons. With no magnetic field the solar winds are able to slowly strip away the atmosphere. Also with out a magnetic feild to to delect the solar winds the surface is also bombarded by solar radiation wich the magnetic feild normaly delects.

Fine, so we just wrap a big ass wad of copper wire all around Mars, hook a big ass DC power source to it, creating the largest electromagnet in the known universe, and BOOM - instant magnetic field!

Note to all those calling us "viruses". (4, Insightful)

Adolatra (557735) | about 10 years ago | (#8698212)

Look, I know Agent Smith and Captain Planet made you feel really bad about being heterotrophs, but the point is that we humans are biologically not meant to be totally self-sufficient. We don't synthesize our own food, we don't make our own water. Even if we radically altered our lifestyles to have an absolute minimum ecological footprint, the only way we could truly make the planet last forever is to put strict 1-2-child controls on reproduction. If you think attempting to enforce worldwide controls against the most basic human instinct is any more feasible than space colonization, well, good luck with that!

Long-term, humans will have to leave this planet at one time or another. While I agree we could be using this one more efficiently, and that terraforming is a bit too far off to worry about just now, debating the morality of terraforming is just silly. Survival of the fittest!

The human race was meant for doom. (1)

conner_bw (120497) | about 10 years ago | (#8698217)

The natural tendency of the earth is to turn to metal. Gold, silver, copper, iron... given enough time and pressure the earth wants to be metallic. Human genetics are base on 64 codon triplets. Current cutting edge home computers a based on 64 bit binary, Moores law states that and this 64 bit will eventually reach 128. Human genetics won't. We've wired the planet to communicate anywhere at any time. Humans continue to explore and manufacture binary technology, now attempting to make biotechnology fit into this paradigm.

The life we create won't be because we terra-formed mars. No. It will be based on our pre programed natural tendency to build technologies an infrastructure that will one day "live" and replace us, here on earth.

Red Mars, Blue Mars, Green Mars (2, Informative)

sybarite (566454) | about 10 years ago | (#8698221)

Kim Stanley Robinson has written an excellent science fiction trilogy on just this subject that I highly recommend. See this link for description and reviews: Red Mars [amazon.com]

Premature (4, Interesting)

SerialHistorian (565638) | about 10 years ago | (#8698223)

Isn't this just a tad premature? I mean, we haven't managed to get people to Mars yet. We're probably not going to find life there until we do, and since we've landed craft there already, there's a good chance that any life that is there has been infected already by terrestrial strains of whatever. Let's revisit this debate in about ten years when we've got some evidence and when we have some sort of space capacity that will allow us to get people back and forth to Mars. Until then, this and other articles like it are more than useless wanking that reminds me of the homegrown human-apologist "earth first" eco-wackos.

It's a question of when and how, not if (2, Insightful)

ChiralSoftware (743411) | about 10 years ago | (#8698244)

I think terraforming Mars is inevitable if it's possible to do it at all. Even if a group of scientists convened by NASA all decide that it's ethically wrong, there is no way for that decision to bind all the other countries which have the capability of doing it. If it's possible, someone will do it. This is a similar situation to the non-proliferation treaty. We have this treaty, and a big chunk of the world's population, including its most powerful country, want to maintain the NPT, but were unable to enforce it. Unlike non-proliferation, stopping terraforming on Mars is unlikely to ever be a top foreign policy issue for any country, so if it's possible for it to happen and if any country has a motive to do it (like having a population of 1.2 billion people) then it will be done.

So the question is, how can it be done in the least destructive way? That's what they should be asking. I'm guessing that the best thing would be to do as much exobiology research on it as possible before anyone starts thinking about terraforming. We may not be able to stop terraforming but at least we could learn as much as possible before the Mars environment is thoroughly corrupted with Earth biology.

Also, terraforming may be a long and slow process. Earth and Mars organisms could coexist for a long time during this process. In fact, if Mars organisms are related to Earth organisms, they might play a role in terraforming.

Create a WAP server [chiralsoftware.net]

*Why* (1)

Herkum01 (592704) | about 10 years ago | (#8698251)

Ah yes, we should not do anything until we (scientists) can conclude whether or not there is life on mars and it is unethical because it may destroy life.

Scientific knowledge is not an absolute for withholding developmental progress. The need for human life on Mars may (or may not) outweigh the needs for research on new life. There is no way to determine if humanity will need to live on Mars (nuclear war anyone?)

Also consider it will take decades if not hundreds of years for it to be technologically feasible to even consider terraforming Mars, not including the process of actually doing so. I certainly don't want to limit the future from considering it because someone says, "don't destroy the habitat of Mars man!"

It just maybe a ball of giant red dirt, noone really knows for sure and for someone to say that nothing should be done to terraform it is being just as selfish as someone saying we should terraform it what ever the costs.

If science fiction has taught us ANYTHING... (0, Offtopic)

Digitus1337 (671442) | about 10 years ago | (#8698266)

It's that we need to crush any possible adversary. It's like killing a baby hitler... sooo easy...

A simple failsafe plan..... (-1, Offtopic)

MrIrwin (761231) | about 10 years ago | (#8698269)

Discover oil under the martian surface.

Show fuzzy satellite shots that indicate that the martians are developing WMD's and missiles that can fly more than 60 light years.

From Mike Combs' Space Settlement FAQ (4, Informative)

Baldrson (78598) | about 10 years ago | (#8698271)

From Mike Combs' Space Settlement FAQ [aol.com]

Aren't we going to terraform Mars or Venus?

Terraforming is a long-term project requiring technology significantly advanced over what we have today. Even terraforming advocates admit it would take a minimum of 200 years to modify Mars to the stage where even simple anaerobic microorganisms and algae can survive. [Ref: Terraforming: Engineering Planetary Environments, Martyn J. Fogg, SAE Press 1995.] Space habitats, on the other hand, can be built with today's technology, and would be homes in space which people initiating the program could move into within their lifetimes.

Interstellar travel may someday become possible, but we have no guarantee that Earth-like planets will be as plentiful in the Milky Way galaxy as they have been in Hollywood, CA.

What advantages would orbital settlements have over a colony built on another planet?

  1. Access to 24-hour-a-day sunlight. This makes solar power a consistent, economical energy source. Photovoltaic panels can convert sunlight into electrical current, and solar mirrors can concentrate it for process heat in industrial operations (such as the smelting of ore). A space-based solar concentrator the size of a football field (which could still weigh less than a car) could provide process heat equivalent to the burning of 1 million barrels of oil over 30 years.

    Sunlight also drives the life-support system of the habitat, so the day/night cycle can be set to whatever is convenient. Compare this to the moon, where there is 14 days of continuous daylight, and then a 14-day-long night. Here, some alternate energy source would probably have to be used half the time.

  2. Access to zero gravity. This may have a number of industrial and entertainment possibilities. Structures (such as the above-mentioned solar mirrors) could be built many times larger and flimsier in space than on a planet.

    Zero G would be a liability if there were no alternative to it. Astronauts experience loss of bone mass and muscle tone after prolonged exposure to weightlessness. But most of a space habitat would be under Earth-normal gravity, although there would be easy access to regions of reduced gravity and zero G (perhaps for personal flight). With planets, on the other hand, you have to take the gravity that's there, and it's often the wrong kind of gravity to keep us healthy. Lunarians or Martians would probably not be able to visit the Earth (nor accelerate at 1 G).

  3. Location near the top of Earth's gravity well. We here on Earth are the "gravitationally disadvantaged". We are at the bottom of a pit 6,400 km (4,000 miles) deep. This is what makes space launches from the surface so difficult and expensive. Settlers near the top of the gravity well would be ideally situated for departures to points beyond.

  4. Control of the environment. The weather and other aspects of the surroundings would be those of the inhabitants' choosing. Agriculture in space will benefit from weather control (fresh fruits and vegetables year-round!) and the absence of pests.

  5. Mobile territories. Although the first generation of space habitats will doubtless reside in High Earth Orbit, there's no reason why space settlers couldn't attach engines to their habitats, and over the course of months or years gradually change their orbit to whatever solar system location they found preferable.

  6. Long-term expansion of the land area available to the human race. Let's be optimistic and assume that Mars could be made totally Earth-like in the near-term. This would basically double the land area available to humanity, meaning problem solved...until the population doubles again. Right now, that is happening roughly every 40 years. By contrast, if we were to conservatively limit ourselves to using only the resources of the asteroid belt, we could build, in the form of space habitats, 3,000 times the livable surface area of the Earth. This makes space settlement a long-term solution.

As long as we're worrying about this (0, Offtopic)

HarveyBirdman (627248) | about 10 years ago | (#8698274)

Quick! The sun may bloat up and destroy us in a couple billion years! Somebody do something!

Where the water went. (3, Insightful)

Bruha (412869) | about 10 years ago | (#8698279)

Long ago scientists knew that the planet has a cold core. How much lower would our oceans be if we had a cold core allowing water to seep under ground. Mars may have had less water and other starting materials becuase earth and venus got most of them.

Jupiter in the same manner sucked up more gasses and is larger than Neptune or Uranus.

It's possible that mars when it's core was warm enough had some shallow seas but then again it also had a thin aphmosphere from the beginning without enough gasses emitted from the time the crust cooled and volcanoes adding to the mix before plate tectonics on the planet shut down which it did so long ago there's no mention of any existance of faults on the surface of mars.

It's my belief that mars by the time it became tectonically stable and then dead not enough gasses were emitted into the aphmosphere to keep things thick enough for water vapor to exist on the surface in large amounts and much of it possibly has been blown into space. The rest is liquid deep below and frozen into the surface.

For any useful terraforming on the planet once we were able to pollute the aphmosphere to thaw things out a bit we'd still be faced with bringing water to the planet. One way would to have robots digest asteroids and free hydrogen to build giant ice blocks and hurl them to the planets surface or bring ice from europa and send it down to the surface of mars.

But first even the thought of terraforming another planet to live on would involve a huge change in the econmic forces driving the world economy. So I doubt it'll even begin during my lifetime.
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