Escape to Mars to solve our problems? How absurd

find-another-planet-climate-changeGo to Mars?  Really?  We tried already did, and it didn’t work out.  Remember the $250 million 3.14 acre sealed Biosphere 2 complex near Tucson, Arizona back?  It was built to show how colonists could survive on Mars and other space colonization.

Eight people sealed themselves inside in 1991, planning to live on the food they grew, recycled water, and the oxygen made by plants.

But it didn’t work out. Some of the reasons the Biosphere failed are:

  • Oxygen fell from 20.9% to 14.5%, the equivalent of 13,400 feet elevation and after 18 months oxygen was pumped in
  • Carbon dioxide levels fluctuated wildly
  • Pests ran riot, especially crazy ants, cockroaches, and katydids.  Most of the other insect species went extinct.
  • Not enough food could be grown
  • It cost $600,000 a year to keep it cool
  • Extinction: The projected started out with 25 small vertebrates but only 6 species survived (including those expected to pollinate plants)
  • Water systems were polluted with too many nutrients
  • Morning glories smothered other plants
  • The level of dinitrogen oxide became dangerously high, which can cause brain damage due to a lowered ability to synthesize vitamin B12

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of problems with going to Mars, best and certainly most amusingly in “Packing for Mars” by Mary Roach.

Rocket propulsion depends on fossil fuels, yet here we are at the top of Hubbert’s Peak, which may be more like a cliff since we got the easy oil first, and Enhanced recovery techniques got out oil now that would have been there later.

Ugo Bardi points out in his book Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet. that we already have gone to another planet by exploiting Earth so ruthlessly that we have already changed our planet into another place:

“The planet has been “plundered to the utmost limit, and what we will be left with are only the ashes of a gigantic fire. We are leaving to our descendants a heavy legacy in terms of radioactive waste, heavy metals dispersed all over the planet, and greenhouse gases—mainly CO2—accumulated in the atmosphere and absorbed in the oceans.

It appears that we found a way to travel to another planet without the need for building spaceships.  It is not obvious that we’ll like the place, but there is no way back; we’ll have to adapt to the new conditions. It will not be easy, and we can speculate that it will lead to the collapse of the structure we call civilization, or even the extinction of the human species”.

There are so many of us now, 7.5 billion people still increasing exponentially, that even the giant biosphere of the earth is on the way to levels of extinction, CO2, methane, topsoil erosion, poisoning of air, land, and water that it will become a place we can’t survive.

If only people appreciated how marvelous our planet is, how beautiful.  And despite billions of other stars, humans are likely to be one of the few, if not the only planet with intelligent life in our galaxy. No doubt millions if not billions have single-celled bacteria and primitive life though. Read “Rare Earth” to find out the dozens of qualities a planet must likely have to be stable enough for the billions of years needed to produce intelligent life.  And since there is no goal to evolution, even when the conditions are right, that doesn’t mean intelligent life will ever evolve there.  What a shame if we mess up this experiment, the only conscious life in the universe winking out and our galaxy again just a bunch of hot gassy stars and dead minerals floating in space.

This Splendid Speck, by Paul Boswell

There are no peacocks on Venus,
No oak trees or water lilies on Jupiter,
No squirrels or whales or figs on Mercury,
No anchovies on the moon;

And inside the rings of Saturn
There is no species that makes poems

and Intercontinental missiles.

Eight wasted planets,

Several dozen wasted moons.

In all the Sun’s half-lighted entourage

One unbelievable blue and white exception,

This breeding, feeding, bleeding,

Cloud-peekaboo Earth,

Is not dead as a diamond.

This splendid speck,

This DNA experiment station,

Where life seems, somehow,

To have designed or assembled itself;

Where Chance and Choice

Play at survival and extinction;

Where molecules beget molecules,

And mistakes in the begetting

May be inconsequential,

Or lethal or lucky;

Where life everywhere eats live

And reproduction usually outpaces cannibalism;

This bloody paradise

Where, under the Northern lights,

Sitting choirs of white wolves

Howl across the firmament

Their chill Te Deums.

Where, in lower latitudes, matter more articulate

Gets a chance at consciousness

And invents The Messiah, or The Marseillaise,

The Ride of the Valkyries, or The Rhapsody in Blue.

This great blue pilgrim gyroscope,
Warmer than Mars, cooler than Venus,
Old turner of temperate nights and days,
This best of all reachable worlds,
This splendid speck.

 

For more information see the 2013 NewScientist article “Biosphere 2: saving the world within the world” and Wiki.

Alice Friedemann   www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”]

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2 Responses to Escape to Mars to solve our problems? How absurd

  1. Here’s a TED talk (Jan 14, 2016) on the inadvisability of looking to Mars as a place we could live:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2KQoHMCwlw

    “Stellar astronomer and TED Senior Fellow Lucianne Walkowicz works on NASA’s Kepler mission, searching for places in the universe that could support life. So it’s worth a listen when she asks us to think carefully about Mars. In this short talk, she suggests that we stop dreaming of Mars as a place that we’ll eventually move to when we’ve messed up Earth, and to start thinking of planetary exploration and preservation of the Earth as two sides of the same goal. As she says, ‘The more you look for planets like Earth, the more you appreciate our own planet.'”

  2. If humans ever go to Mars, it would likely be a one way trip.

    A suicide mission.

    A friend who worked at Greenpeace when the “Biosphere 2” was built wondered if it was really meant to test if the billionaires could build domed cities for themselves. Surely the smarter members of the elites understand we’re wrecking our atmosphere …