Page 3.14

The Dead Planet

Ethan Siegel calls Mars “the obvious first step in our journey to the stars” and “part of our dreams for reaching out into the Universe.” Last year thousands of people applied to join Mars One, a proposed colonization effort slash reality show that plans to put humans on the red planet in 2023. But unless Mars One wants to achieve ratings by broadcasting the death of its crew, it may want to cool its jets. Ethan says that without some heretofore unknown, top secret-technology, there’s no hope for safely landing a capsule-full of “sensitive meatbags” (aka bachelors 1 through 3) on the surface. Launching from Earth is not likely to be a problem, nor traveling for nine months to the second-nearest planet in the solar system. But since Mars lacks a robust atmosphere, there’s very little drag to help decelerate a landing craft in a survivable manner. If humanity is serious about maximizing its reach in time and space, we might focus on sustaining our life on Earth first, and stranding photogenic pilgrims on a dead planet later.

Meanwhile, NASA continues to investigate the mysterious lump that turned up under Opportunity’s nose on January 8th.  Many commentators likened the object to a jelly doughnut, while Stephen Colbert dealt a blow to interplanetary peace by taking a bite out of an irresistible Martian ambassador.  Although NASA explains that it’s a rock, most likely kicked up by the rover’s maneuvering, PZ Myers reports that a chronic discoverer of life on Mars has declared it to be a fungus and legally impelled NASA to investigate further.  But NASA already knows there’s a lot of science to be done; they say we could be seeing the underside of a rock that hasn’t been exposed to the atmosphere for billions of years.  Opportunity also made headlines last week with evidence of flowing water and hospitable conditions in Mars’ distant past.  So although Mars may be dead, and a dead-end for human settlers, there’s still a strong possibility that it was once alive.

Comments

  1. #1 April Hunt
    Port Gibson, NY
    January 31, 2014

    The area on the picture looks burned. We have been concentrating on sustaining life on Earth since we have been on it, and always will. Continually reaching higher levels. I don’t like the writers attitude.
    Goals are set for reaching ;purposes. Like finding out what happened to the planet. Why? You don’t know if it couldn’t happen here.
    There has been enough attention on uranium enrichment; I’m starting to wonder if there’s a unknown higher purpose. Only time will tell.

  2. #2 Kylee Gear
    February 11, 2014

    As the author and April (above) stated, I believe that we need to focus on sustaining life on earth first. The human species is a wasteful species. We shouldn’t be able to “move” to another planet until we learn some responsibility.
    Additionally, if the launch is successful, and the ship can make it nine months filled with what I presume will be bored rich kids, how will they sustain life on Mars? Sure, there was ONCE water on Mars, thanks to the evidence found by Opportunity, but it’s obviously not there now. So the governments and societies on Earth will have to foot the bill to ship resources to these people on Mars. That sounds like a great economic idea. Furthermore, the more resources we will have to export to space, the more greenhouse gases we’re placing into Earth’s already messed up atmosphere and fragile ecosystem, which will “cause regional changes in temperature, ozone, and other atmospheric parameters from the surface to the top of the atmosphere. http://www.aerospace.org/2013/07/31/rocket-soot-emissions-and-climate-change/
    In reference to the fact that we don’t have the technology to successfully land on Mars, maybe we will have that technology by 2023. However, for now, it would just equal more fuel to slow down the craft to land, costing the people on Earth more money, and more resources. The fact that there is little drag, as stated by the author, creates a very large problem. You can’t just attach a parachute to the craft and hope you land alright. You have to apply an opposing force opposite to the original acceleration. Since there is no air resistance in space, one would have to carefully calculate how much resistance is needed, otherwise the craft would start flying back towards Earth. Such a delicate balance will be hard to achieve. Hopefully NASA has learned their mistakes since the Mars Climate Orbiter crash.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/space/stories/orbiter100199.htm
    I personally don’t see how this will turn out in a positive manner, for either the people living on Mars or the people who are smart enough to stay on Earth. Let’s stick to fixing planet Earth instead of trying to abandon the problem.