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Mars Space

Gardening On Mars 262

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the marshrooms-are-delicious dept.
Calopteryx writes "Following Obama's announcement of the intention to send humans to Mars by the mid-2030s, New Scientist reports on plans to piece together the elements of a starter kit for the first colonists of the Red Planet: 'The creation of a human outpost on Mars is still some way off, but that hasn't stopped us planning the garden.'"
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Gardening On Mars

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  • And (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:14PM (#32033084)

    Tilapia nilotica will probably be the first interplanetary fish.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      Wouldn't it be more efficient to rely on soy for protein? Even the most efficient methods of growing meat are always going to be less efficient than just eating the plants directly, and the continued survival of the worlds vegan population indicates that there are no major health problems with such a diet.

      • Re:And (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CannonballHead (842625) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:22PM (#32033270)

        continued survival of the worlds vegan population indicates that there are no major health problems with such a diet.

        Don't you have to take supplements to make up for things missing in the vegan diet? I have read this several times in nutrition books, based on studies. And some of them were major health problems, depending on which supplement was not taken... especially for pregnancy.

        • Re:And (Score:4, Informative)

          by Nadaka (224565) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:33PM (#32033448)

          Right. Vegan diets are extremely unhealthy for pregnant women and young children, even leading to miscarriage, disfigurement or death. It is also moderately unhealthy for almost everyone compared to a balanced diet of home made food (meat, dairy, grain, vegetables, fresh if possible, otherwise with as little chemical preservatives as possible). The only thing you can compare a vegan diet to in a positive light is the modern diet of industrially prepared chemically infused meals and fast food.

          • by srussia (884021)

            Right. Vegan diets are extremely unhealthy for pregnant women and young children, even leading to miscarriage, disfigurement or death.

            Oh yeah? So how do you explain Vega [wikipedia.org] becoming an important business centre, exporting Vegan tobacco, to boot?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Explodicle (818405)

            The American Dietetic Association considers well-planned vegan diets "appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation," but recommends that vegan mothers supplement for iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

            - Veganism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wikipedia.org]

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by lemur3 (997863)

              The American Dietetic Association considers well-planned vegan diets "appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation," but recommends that vegan mothers supplement for iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

              - Veganism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [wikipedia.org]

              that quote is wrong.. just look at the source at the bottom of the wiki page.

              Craig, WJ; Mangels, AR; American Dietetic, Association (July 2009). "Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets.". J Am Diet Assoc 109 (7): 1266–1282. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.05.027. PMID 19562864.

              it says VEGETARIAN DIETS. not vegan.

              someone is trying to create their own reality.

              • Re:And (Score:4, Informative)

                by Explodicle (818405) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:47PM (#32035722) Homepage
                Read the source [eatright.org], not just its title. On page 1269 they say the following:

                Well-planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian, and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy and lactation. Appropriately planned vegan, lacto-vegetarian, and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth (49-51).

                (Emphasis mine)

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by pz (113803)

            You forgot menstruating women. Getting sufficient iron from plant-only sources, while possible, is impractical because the concentrations are so low. According to a Caltech nutrition researcher (damn, where *is* that reference ...) a single serving of 4 oz of red meat per week, or one smallish hamburger, is sufficient to replace iron lost in the menses, whereas it would be physically difficult to eat enough spinach, a plant relatively high in iron, to do the same. It's all about eating blood to get the i

            • Re:And (Score:5, Informative)

              by reverseengineer (580922) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @02:05PM (#32035062)
              It's not blood that makes red meat red; it's the myoglobin concentration in the muscle, which in turn relates to that muscle's use of oxygen. Meat from adult mammalian tissues on average contains about ten times as much myoglobin as meat from poultry. In poultry, meat can be further differentiated into "light and dark" meat based on what part of the bird it comes from- muscles in the wings, thighs, and legs need more oxygen to sustain activity, have more myoglobin, and are darker- but still have less myoglobin than most beef.

              Draining blood out of the meat isn't going to change its color; the myoglobin is within the muscle itself. The color of meat can be affected by the animal's age and diet however: veal, for instance, can be nearly white in color when taken from calves fed only on milk. Myoglobin, like its bloodborne relative hemoglobin, does contain iron, and does represent a major dietary source if you eat red meat.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Cyberax (705495)

              "It's all about eating blood to get the iron-laden haemoglobin, and red meat is red because it still has blood in it (while white meat is white because the blood has been drained)"

              That's fantastically incorrect. "Red meat" is read because of high content of myoglobin ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myoglobin [wikipedia.org] ) - another oxygen-binding protein. It's found in muscle cells which do short bursts of work.

              Also, vegan diets ARE possible. Iron is not a problem: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.htm [vrg.org]

              So stop spouting n

        • Re:And (Score:5, Informative)

          by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:33PM (#32033452)

          Yes, one would have to. This is why humans have always been omnivores. Even up to a few hundred years ago it would be been completely impractical to be a vegan due to the lack of supplements for essentials vitamins and minerals that one cannot reliably get from plant sources. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the leading issues with a poorly planned vegan diet and this vitamin was not even isolated until 1948. Before that point one was given liver extracts to treat things like pernicious anemia which results from B12 deficiency.

          • Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the leading issues with a poorly planned vegan diet

            Yes, that's the one. Especially dangerous in pregnancy and causes, as the other replier mentioned, disfigurement, brain development issues, and fatalities.

        • If it's planned properly, you'll be fine on a vegan diet [wikipedia.org] with no supplements. Pregnant women probably should take supplements [wikipedia.org] but can bear healthy children without them, and I assume NASA would want to hire a world-class nutritionist for this project anyways.
          • Uhhh. Just B12 alone, your link does not say that. It says this:

            The Vegan Society and Vegan Outreach, among others, recommend that vegans either consistently eat foods fortified with B12 or take a B12 supplement.

            "Fortified" would basically be putting the supplement into the food, manually, before eating it... e.g., flour can be "fortified." These foods don't naturally have enough.

            So here again: "planned properly" == taking supplements, in some way.

            "but can bear healthy children without them"

            By accident or perhaps part of their past in which they ate animal products high in B12? It seems to me that all evidence suggests that unless your mother is taking B12 in some way, the child will be defi

            • That's a very good point. For B12, the best option might be to provide the colonists with eggs, since producing them would require less space/energy than meat.
              • Well, then it's not vegan :D (how did we get on this has-to-be-vegan thing in the first place, I forgot...

                chickens also provide you with fertilizer and pillows.

          • If it's planned properly, you'll be fine on a vegan diet with no supplements.

            This isn't accurate. One either has to directly take supplements or eat fortified foods (which is food supplemented with vitamins and nutrients) or else you will get vitamin and mineral deficiencies. There is just no way around it. This is why veganism is only about 65 years old (not but a decade or so after treatments for diseases due to B12 deficiencies were discovered). If one were to have tried a strict vegan diet even in the early 1900s you would most likely die from the complications of these defic

            • Someone else beat you to it (above), I now agree that they'd need either a B12 supplement or eggs/dairy.
              • It's not just B12. Iron and Vitamin D deficiencies are also highly common. There are others, but these 3 are the major ones.

                or eggs/dairy.

                That would no longer be a vegan diet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        and the continued survival of the worlds vegan population indicates that there are no major health problems with such a diet.

        And they only do so from being able to take supplements for things they can't get reliably get from plant sources such as B12. One couple [msn.com] got a life sentence because a vegan diet they imposed on their baby ended up killing it due to their ignorance on such nutritional deficiencies that can happen from such a lifestyle.

        • From YFA:

          "No matter how many times they want to say, 'We're vegans, we're vegetarians,' that's not the issue in this case," said prosecutor Chuck Boring. "The child died because he was not fed. Period."

          If mothers on this Martian base actually breastfeed their children instead of feeding them soy milk and apple juice (and follow the advice of a nutritionist) the kids will be fine. These two foolish parents would probably not pass the rigors of NASA's selection process.

          • I was never trying to claim these parents were astronaut candidates. The point is that poorly planned vegan diets can cause serious complications or death (and not just to babies). Just eating soy isn't going to be enough for these Mars astronauts.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by elnyka (803306)

        Wouldn't it be more efficient to rely on soy for protein? Even the most efficient methods of growing meat are always going to be less efficient than just eating the plants directly, and the continued survival of the worlds vegan population indicates that there are no major health problems with such a diet.

        Do you believe in unicorns too?

        • by Tumbleweed (3706)

          >> Wouldn't it be more efficient to rely on soy for protein? Even the most efficient methods of growing meat are always going to be less efficient than just eating the plants directly, and the continued survival of the worlds vegan population indicates that there are no major health problems with such a diet.

          > Do you believe in unicorns too?

          Oh, MAN, unicorn tastes great! There's nothing like some chicken fried unicorn with mashed potatoes and country gravy. And some edamame. And an extra large diet

          • Chicken... fried... unicorn? With country gravy? What is this? Unicorn, redneck-wannabe-style? Listen, here's the recipe for unicorn:
            Shoot unicorn.
            Rip out choice cuts.
            Break off horn.
            Skewer cuts on horn, roast over fire, preferably gasoline fueled.
            While cuts are roasting, feast on unicorn's raw heart and liver.

            Lord almighty, are there any real men left this day and age?
      • Re:And (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:38PM (#32033524)

        If it's protein you're concerned about, I'd say your best bet would be to skip both the animal and plant kingdoms entirely, animals especially would be far too inefficient, and use a spirulina genetically modified to produce all the proteins humans need. It's not that far fetched; there's already soy modified to produces omega-3. It probably wouldn't taste all that good, but since we're talking about being as efficient as possible...well, we aren't going to Mars for the local specialties. Not yet anyway.

      • "and the continued survival of the worlds vegan population indicates that there are no major health problems with such a diet."

        Are you meaning 1) the well fed vegan population out of idiology in the west, which have the advantage of science and big market to make sure their alimentation is varied and cover everything without suplementation

        *OR*

        2) the unhealthy , with pregnancy problem, carency, and assorted problem, OMNIVORE forced unto a vegan diet by circumstance ? Because that second group will
      • Re:And (Score:5, Informative)

        by crmarvin42 (652893) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:42PM (#32033590)
        Soy is an excellent plant source of protein. However, protein is not a single nutrient, but a collection of nutrients known as amino acids. Some amino acids can be synthesized by humans (non-essential or dispensible amino acids), others can be interconverted between each other, and others still have to be consumed intact because humans have innadequate ability to synthesize them (essential or indispensible amino acids). Generally, animal sources of protein have ratios of amino acids more in line with the human requirement (Egg being the gold standard).

        one must also consider anti-nutritive factors in soy. Soy is the second most alergenic food to humans, and contains high concetrations of phytic acid. Phytic acid can reduce the digestibility not only of nutrients within the soy plant (P, Ca, Zn, Mn, et al), but also within other foods eaten with the soy.

        Also, animal protein sources are much more dense. Fish contain a much higher percent protein in addition to having a better amino acid profile. Humans living on vegan diets usually take amino acid supplements because they cannot physically eat enough soy in a day to meet their dietary requirements for amino acids without feeling like they've eaten too much, if they can consume that much soy at all. A filet of fish goes a longer way toward meeting the nutritional requirement than an identical wieght of soy beans. If you want to isolate soy protein, then you need a lot of specialized equipment and some rather harsh chemicals to extract the protein whereas fish protein is simply extracted by mechanically scaling and gutting the fish.

        Any potential Martian colonists will have a diet that bares little resemplence to the average American's diet now, but Veganisms is dependent upon modern infrastructure that would be difficult to replicate on Mars.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Soy is the second most alergenic food to humans

          My wife is extremely allergic to soy. We have since found out that it is in everything from tea to salad dressing. And soybean oil is common, too, along with sunflower oil - which is also in almost everything... even vitamin E gel things.

          You don't need to be allergic to much at all to basically eliminate almost all non-"single" food (i.e., where it's just exactly what it says: like "broccoli" or "beef")... i.e.: if you can't have sugar, dairy, gluten, and soy, it knocks out a whole lot of stuff. Even nor

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by kimvette (919543)

            It's also added to milk on occasion, and it's often used as the medium for carrying anatto color. It lurks in shampoos and body washes and so forth. On time I decided to take a bubble bath, was relaxing and within about 20 minutes my whole body started burning (think about the worst sunburn you've had - and imagine that over EVERYWHERE from the neck down - EVERYWHERE). Well I jumped out of the tub and drained it, took a very cold shower and downed some benedryl. Then, I checked the ingredients - sure enough

        • Humans living on vegan diets usually take amino acid supplements because they cannot physically eat enough soy in a day to meet their dietary requirements for amino acids without feeling like they've eaten too much, if they can consume that much soy at all.

          I've been vegan for years and never do this, and none of the vegans I know do either. There's a whole lot of misinformation floating around in this thread, as there always is whenever veganism gets discussed around here. The bottom line is that even if

          • There's a whole lot of misinformation floating around in this thread, as there always is whenever veganism gets discussed around here.

            Such as what exactly?

            • Such as what exactly?

              • Vegan diets are extremely unhealthy for pregnant women and young children, even leading to miscarriage, disfigurement or death.
              • Getting sufficient iron from plant-only sources, while possible, is impractical because the concentrations are so low.
              • Most [vegans] also either choose not to have children or have passed child rearing age when they change their diet as well.
              • The continued survival of the world's vegan population is as a result of the world gravitiating [sic] toward laws that arti
          • If that's true, then they've made a lot of progress in developing balanced vegan diets in the last 10 to 12 years. In the late 90's I was dating a vegan and she was on more than just B12, iron and Calcium. That doesn't change the general point that Veganism is dependent upon infrastructure. Soy needs to be processed quite heavily before it can be used as a sole source of protein. Aquaculture also requires infrastructure, but arguably less of it. I imagine that if they are trying to develop a self-susta
        • Humans living on vegan diets usually take amino acid supplements because they cannot physically eat enough soy in a day to meet their dietary requirements for amino acids without feeling like they've eaten too much, if they can consume that much soy at all.

          This is true, I've tried. I did it using soy protein isolate, in powder form, so it was easier, and two or three scoops were enough to fill my protein need (works better than whey protein because it has all the essential amino acids: whey protein often lacks leucine). It works for a while, but soon you just feel you can't force any more down your throat. My theory is the phytic acid builds up in your body, and your body says, "No more!" or something like that, but before long you REALLY don't want to eat

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by crmarvin42 (652893)
            Speaking as one who's masters research was based around phytic acid, your theory doesn't stand up. The problem with phytic acid is that it is not digestible. That means the ingested phytic acid doesn't get absorbed, and is voided in the feces. The anti-nutritive effect of phytic acid is due to it being the principal storage form of Phosphorus in plants (> 75% of Phosphorus in dehulled solvent-extracted soybean meal) and a result of it binding to other nutrients and dragging them out with the feces as
      • ...the continued survival of the worlds vegan population...

        Based on their demographics [veganbits.com], I'd say they either aren't surviving...or they just give up on it after a while.

  • Well you cant garden with out water and I think we all know about the waters of mars!!!

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      ...we all know about the waters of mars!!! Yes, we do. [nasa.gov]
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        You ever tried to water your plants with a several parts dirt to every part granular ice? Now add in no carbon dioxide, weak sunlight, sterile rusty-sandy soil, and 1/150 the atmospheric pressure of earth.

        You're gonna need some serious green thumb mojo for that one.

    • by harrkev (623093)

      Well you cant garden with out water and I think we all know about the waters of mars!!!

      Yes, but if you DO get one of these creatures and manage to capture it, infinite water supply!

    • Also, I don't care how much extra fuel you think you'll need, bring bikes with you.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:16PM (#32033134) Journal
    I don't quite understand why it is we're (ostensibly) pushing for Mars now, when we should be working to get back to the Moon first? Wouldn't we gain all sorts of experience and understanding of living on a non-terrestrial world living on the Moon, as well as possibly building infrastructure there to make future missions to Mars and elsewhere easier, amongst a myriad of other things the Moon would be useful for? Or is this just Obama paying lip-service to the idea, knowing that future administrations will likely vote the whole thing down anyway so it doesn't matter?
    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:19PM (#32033204)
      Why would you want to go to all the trouble and energy of escaping the Earth's gravity well, only to drop back into another gravity well? I say we shoot for the asteroid belt -- it has both the necessary resources and easier access to them. Sure, it lacks gravity, but so does the moon.
      • by inviolet (797804)

        Why would you want to go to all the trouble and energy of escaping the Earth's gravity well, only to drop back into another gravity well? I say we shoot for the asteroid belt -- it has both the necessary resources and easier access to them. Sure, it lacks gravity, but so does the moon.

        Yep yep.

        And besides, Mars is already a very nice place for whatever silicon-based transhumans evolve from us. It's cool, and has no moisture or oxygen; it's hopelessly wrong for us meat-based creatures but safe and comfortab

    • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:48PM (#32033722)

      Actually, Mars and the Moon aren't very similar at all other than the superficial difference of "they're both outside LEO, and neither one has an oxygen atmosphere". You can get better approximation of living and working on Mars in antarctica, or hell even Wyoming, than you can on the Moon.

      The moon is absolutely positivly not a prerequsite for Mars. You certainly can (and should!) design hardware that simultaniously serves dual roles on both the Moon and Mars, in order to save expenses, but there is no "study" or "experimentation" that needs to be done on the moon to prepare us for Mars.

      We had comprehensive, workable, plans based on existing (not future) hardware and technology to get to Mars since at least the mid 90s. We didn't do it because of internal NASA bickering and politics. Everybody thinks "oh we can't get to mars for X reason without Y technology". When you ask other scientists about X reason, they explain that X is bunk, and that the real reason the first group is so "concerned" with X reason is because Y technology is the pet project of that team.

      Of course then this same second group explains to you that the REAL reason we can't get to Mars is because of reason Z, which will convinently be fixed by THEIR technology Q, which they could get finished quickly if only they had more funding.

      It's all about getting funding for your pet project.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        Antarctica is WAY more hospitable to human life than Mars. At least there you have normal pressure, oxygen, water, decent shielding from cosmic radiation, etc. Mars thin little atmosphere and higher gravity is about the only thing that separates it from the moon. And, without oxygen, that atmosphere is likely to be at least as big as hassle as a help.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I don't quite understand why it is we're (ostensibly) pushing for Mars now,

      We're not actually pushing for Mars now. We're talking about pushing for Mars...

      Nor did Obama say as much. What he said is that he expects to see humans go to Mars by the 2030's. He didn't actually go as far as saying that he's going to direct NASA to move in that direction, or provide them any money for R&D leading in that direction....

    • by Tumbleweed (3706)

      Yes, we can certainly learn valuable things by actually setting up bases on the Moon, as opposed to half a dozen one-off trips, but it's no substitute for going to Mars, which is itself no substitute for going other places like the asteroid belt or the moons of Jupiter and Saturn or the Oort Cloud. As for the Moon, I'd rather see the it colonized by Helium-3 mining operations.

      I'd really like to see us setting up living & manufacturing stations at the Earth/Moon Lagrangian points and elsewhere, and figur

  • Antarctica? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:18PM (#32033158) Homepage

    Can we, please, please, please, colonize Antarctica first? Although not a planet, it is still a giant continent, that many times easier to reach, to live on, and to return from than Mars.

    There are no questions of presence of water or usable air. Conditions are harsh, but nowhere near the harshness of Mars...

    And then there are the vast deserts like Gobi or Sahara. Mars, while intriguing, can await further revolutions in technology. Spending an appreciable chunk of the GDP just to get there seems rather wasteful...

    • by doti (966971)

      and the sea too

    • Please, for the love of God....

      Can we at least try to leave some portions of this planet relatively intact?
      Humans have cannibalized this planet enough as it is already.

      • Why?

        I'm not trolling. This is a seriousm philosophical question: why? "Humans," to most people, represent nothing more than an animal in a long evolutionary chain. Why is what we are doing any different from what any other animal does?

    • by Jeng (926980)

      There are UN resolutions prohibiting people from colonizing Antarctica, that doesn't prevent us from putting scientific outposts on Antarctica, which is what we would be putting on Mars.

      The bitter north has been colonized by man in cases where there are economic reasons for being there and so far Mars doesn't seem to have any unobtainium to make it worth our while.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by laejoh (648921)
      famous last words: Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!
    • I think it has something to do with some pact made by a bunch of nations back in the begining of the previous century (maybe before?) regarding developing antarctica. I'm too lazy to wikipedia it up right now.

      that being said, I actually support this. We can start doing it -right now-, and learning to set up a workable colony in antarctica is actually very valid training for setting up a colony on Mars. A lot less oxygen and gravity on Mars, some more radiation, most of the "ice" is CO2 not H2O, and leaving

    • I support Barack Obama, but not his mission.

      What, exactly, do you consider to be the mission of Barack Obama? And how can you support him if you don't support what he wants to do? I believe that is the definition of NOT supporting.

    • We DO have a manned presence in Antarctica, all year round, doing interesting science. We have been doing that for years. At the moment, we do NOT need more land to colonize, so why colonize Antarctica? Could we just move on please, and get a continuous manned presence outside of LEO, doing interesting science? That, and perhaps into the deep oceans.
  • by Orga (1720130)
    Currently we have rules against engineering other planets and it's made very clear without massively changing the atmosphere on Mars to filter out UV rays then everything is going to have to live in biospheres... we can do that anywhere.. even in space.
    • by mark-t (151149)
      "Currently we have rules against engineering other planets"

      We do? Where?

    • by Jeng (926980)

      You know what they say.

      Rules are made to be broken.

      Also, this is the beginning of their research, I'm sure that making them UV resistant is going to be a phase of their research.

    • Plants are a lot hardier than you think they are.

      And we've been genetically engineering plants for even more survivability and yield forever.

  • by bradbury (33372) <Robert@Bradbury.gmail@com> on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:36PM (#32033482) Homepage

    The entire concept of planetary visits, colonies, etc. is the one of the most out-of-date (read waste-of-time) ideas currently circulating. The only people that promote it are those with misguided romantic ideas about humans exploring Mars as they did the Earth in the 16th-18th centuries. They should be discarded as out of date given that (a) humans are not designed (due to insufficient and error prone DNA repair systems in their genome) to endure long term space voyages or planetary habitation outside of the magnetosphere of the Earth (where high radiation doses are a constant threat); (b) progress in robotics and AI is likely to make sending robotic explorers much more productive and less hazardous than sending humans by 2030; and (c) if we pushed on molecular nanotechnology just a little harder by 2030 we would be disassembling Mars for material to build the Matrioshka Brain rather than thinking about growing food on it for colonists (no point building a farm if you are only going to disassemble it).

    I like the romantic exploration ideas just as much as the next person -- but it just isn't justified given current rates of technological progress. It is also worth pointing out if we ever get to the point where we modify our genomes (or those of astronaut explorers) to be radiation tolerant we can also engineer them to be lack-of-gravity tolerant [1]. In which case living at the bottom of a gravity well makes no sense -- instead we should be migrating to O'Neill style colonies or long term interstellar "arks" (presumably to remove the "single-point-of-failure" problem humanity faces by living on a single planet or around a single star).

    1. Modifying large numbers of cells to be radiation & lack-of-gravity tolerant in adults will be very hard (read nearly impossible) without molecular nanotechnology (e.g. chromallocytes) in adults. The only way to do this correctly is to breed a new species of human designed for space environments. Unless you can engineer them to mature much faster (doubtful) that implies you need to take transgenic-human-birth-dates + ~25-30 years before one can seriously consider long term exploration/colonization efforts.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:08PM (#32034062)

      You know, I can't help but start laughing at this post;

      While certainly true that humans are not biologically adapted to conditions on a long space voyage, Humans are not biologically adapted to crossing large oceans either. Nor are they biologically adapted to flying at high altitudes.

      Humans routinely do these things though.

      Something you might (or might not, given the tone of your post) find interesting:

      http://pop.aip.org/phpaen/v14/i5/p053502_s1?isAuthorized=no
      [abstract about inflation of magnetic fields using high density plasmas]

      Essentially, you could create a massively inflated magnetic field around the spacecraft by circulating a high-velocity plasma jet through the magnetic field. If we are already taking a small fission plant with us (to power our craft as we leave the sun behind) this is less of a problem. Additionally, we could potentially use the same expanded magnetic field as a solar sail, since in space the field would expand to a *ahem* "Very considerable" size.

      The major issue would be with micrometeorites.

      As for Mars itself:

      Mars as an incomplete magnetic envelope. It has multiple magnetic dipoles, that do not fully expand outside the planet's atmosphere. By supplementing the martian magnetosphere with a series of stabilizing plasma producing satellites, and capturing the solar wind particles and recirculating them through an artificial network of magnetic currents, a semi-stable magnetic envelope could possibly be produced, but it would require a project on par with our GPS and COM-SAT network around the earth.

      (the goal would be to create something similar to the van-allen belts that circle the earth; being essentially solar wind particles that have become trapped in the earth;s magnetosphere, and which expand/enhance it. This phenomenon is well known; See for instance, Io's effect on Jupiter's magnetosphere.)

      http://www.solarviews.com/eng/io.htm

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751)

      (a) humans are not designed (due to insufficient and error prone DNA repair systems in their genome) to endure long term space voyages or planetary habitation outside of the magnetosphere of the Earth (where high radiation doses are a constant threat);

      Humans aren't designed for a lot of things we do on a regular basis. It is our technology that allows us to live in many of the environments we call home, I bet more than 50% of people on the planet would die within a year if you put us back in the stone age. And even stone age technology (simple tools, simple shelter, and fire) is still a big step up from what the human body alone is capable of. My point is that what the human body is and isn't designed for is irrelevant, it's what we can design and bui

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chris Burke (6130)

        My point is that what the human body is and isn't designed for is irrelevant, it's what we can design and build to support us.

        While still agreeing with you, I might put it like this: The most distinguishing features of the human body are our upright posture, our dexterous hands for fine manipulation, and our large problem-solving abstract-thinking brains, which are all almost certainly interrelated features in our evolutionary history. Upright posture allowed our spines to support a much heavier head, and

    • I think your timeline for nanotech and Matrioshka Brains is about 2 orders of magnitude too optimistic, but the your basic point seems irrefutable. By the time we do have technology to colonize other worlds, why would we want to? Resource gathering will certainly be an automated task, colonizing doesn't solve any overpopulation problems and most extinction level events aren't avoided if your colony is still in the same solar system (or even the same galactic neighborhood). The problem is that the sci-fi gen
    • Hold on just a second. If you want to make an argument that manned spacelfight/settlement is an intrinsically flawed idea, then by all means, do your best. However, you state:

      if we pushed on molecular nanotechnology just a little harder by 2030 we would be disassembling Mars for material to build the Matrioshka Brain

      But just before that you criticize the idea of developing a manned space presence as:

      misguided romantic ideas

      So you honestly think that in twenty years we could dematerialize a planet and use the resources to construct a Dyson Sphere or Dyson Swarm (probably multiple ones) in such a manner that it can perform powerful computations for whatever reason we nee

  • GECK? (Score:4, Funny)

    by notjustchalk (1743368) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:41PM (#32033578)

    "...a starter kit for the first colonists."

    I'd lobby for it to be called the Garden of Eden Creation Kit, but there might be fallout from that decision...

    • hehe...

      Seriously, though, it would be a pretty bad name. Let's see. Garden of Eden: freely roam throughout the entire thing. All kinds of vegetation. Wonderful climate. Many other life forms for variety, none of which would actually harm you and thus you were free to mingle with them.

      This garden kit: something that will hopefully allow you to breathe and maybe eat something, too.

      It's like calling a kit that would allow you to build a very early computer that was the size of a house the "Mac Pro Constru

    • Slightly offtopic - but this is just about the only point where the German translation of Fallout 3 shines. They call it the "Garten Eden Erstellungs-Kit" here - abbreviated GEEK.
  • as a Black man elected President.
  • Current Date + 20 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dmgxmichael (1219692) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @12:44PM (#32033642) Homepage

    Nixon and Ford targeted Mars by the end of the millennium. Reagan targeted it at or around this year. Clinton said by 2020 - Obama pushes it to 2030.

    It's always going to be Current date + 20. I've lost hope.

    • by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Thursday April 29, 2010 @01:19PM (#32034250)

      you're actually right on the money.

      It's a 10 year project, no more. If we target a longer development cycle, politics will interfere.

      We're quite lucky that Kennedy targeted "this decade" for the moon landing, giving us 9 years to get there. Nixon and congress were already guttong apollo by the time we actaully landed on the moon. If kennedy had said "1979" instead, then by 1969 we would have just been finishing up the mercury flights as the entire program was canceled.

  • They had beer. I could do that.

    The Beer rocks are home to a broad spectrum of microbes, including photosynthesising cyanobacteria. "We thought it would be fun to send Beer into space," says Olsson-Francis.

  • when we can ask Ziggy and The Spiders all about it?

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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