Two interesting Mars space travel tidbits

Leaf in Mud Lake

Firstly, a nice demolition of the idea that a one-way mission to Mars makes sense, written by Oliver Morton, whose excellent book I reviewed. The best concise point:

Most importantly, in terms of costs, there’s the ongoing commitment. A set of Mars missions you can cancel is a much more attractive than a set of Mars missions that you cannot cancel without killing people (“Launch the next rocket or the kid gets it”). To fund a single one way to Mars mission is more or less to sign up to funding them for as long as the colony lasts. That is a far larger spending commitment than required for a small number of return trips.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be one of the decision-makers responsible for keeping a Martian colony alive, while billions are watching via high-definition video links. Watching the astronauts slowly (or quickly) die would be awfully depressing, after all, especially if it was because of budget cuts.

Secondly, a Science article on the importance of not contaminating Mars with terrestrial organisms: Biologically Reversible Exploration. In essence, it argues that contamination from terrestrial spacecraft could forever eliminate our chances of studying life that evolved independently on Mars, if any such organisms exist. It argues that future missions, including any manned missions, adopt protocols so as to be ‘biologically reversible.’ As countless examples of terrestrial invasive species demonstrate, the concerns are not unwarranted, when it comes to microorganisms that might be able to survive or thrive in the Martian environment.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Two interesting Mars space travel tidbits”

  1. You can’t really send people on a one-way trip to a place where they cannot be self-sustaining.

    The linked post makes the strong point that not even Antarctic colonies are self-sustaining, despite how that would be an easier task. The failure of Biosphere 2 is also a humbling example.

  2. Mars covered in toxic chemicals that can wipe out living organisms, tests reveal

    The scientists followed-up with another round of experiments that looked at the toxic effects of iron oxides and hydrogen peroxide, which are also found in Martian soil. These tests yielded even more bad news for microscopic Martians: when the bacteria were hit with UV rays in the presence of perchlorates, iron oxide and peroxide, the bugs were killed 11 times faster than with perchlorates alone. Writing in Scientific Reports, the researchers say that the inhospitable conditions on Mars are caused by a “toxic cocktail of oxidants, iron oxides, perchlorates and UV irradiation.”

    The findings mean that damp streaks on the Martian surface that have been spotted from orbit may not be prime spots to find alien microbes. The briny patches would be likely to concentrate perchlorates, making the streaks even more toxic than the surrounding soil.

    “I can’t speak for life in the past,” said Wadsworth. “As far as present life, it doesn’t rule it out but probably means we should look for life underground where it’s shielded from the harsh radiation environment on the surface.”

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