We'll probably never colonize Mars or deep space - and here's why

The main reason is that Mars is a very unhealthy place, not just for humans but for all life. Forget the temperature extremes. The biggest problem with Mars for maintaining life is that it has almost no protection against radiation. It has no iron core like Earth and thus it does not have the magnetic field that protects humans from cosmic rays and solar mass ejections.

Read this article for more information.

Six feet of soil can shield against cosmic rays as can a few centimeters of water. Since hauling water to Mars hardly seems practical, unless an ample water supply is found on Mars, the "explorers" will have to be satisfied with living and exploring under the surface.

Also, the human body is so adapted to our level of gravity that almost absent gravity (as in the space station) damages bone density. In a large space craft that rotates, you can use centrifugal force to simulate gravity, but how do you do that on the surface of Mars? Not exactly a vacation and no place anyone would want to live for long.

Terraforming isn't practical unless there's a way to give the planet a magnetic field. Otherwise, the atmosphere will simply be lost to space.

What do you think?

Tags: Mars

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@matt.clerke

Biofuels likely could power all our vehicles and aircraft - but how many people will need to starve to death so the rest can continue to waste so much energy?

A balancing act of epic proportions... On one side, starvation but plenty of bio-fuel, on the other, plenty of food but a terrible, crippling, energy shortage. I don't think it will be easy, but I think it will be. We will probably need to change a lot of things about society in order to reduce fuel demand and get the balance right.

Yesterday, I and my wife went to the local metal recycling operation to look for used bicycles. My wife found a very nice bike for $30, but they wanted $175 for an old very rickity adult trike, which I like because of carrying capacity. I was floored! Normally they sell stuff by weight!

My point, we would like to adapt to a less energy intensive life style, but being 8 miles from town, on a 30% hill, and both of us over 55, makes me wonder if we can make it work. I am thinking 'horse', and 'wagon', atleast we have the land. I really could use another 'prime mover' that is not a tracter..;p).

Ever try to pull a stump or dag a log 1/4 mile? Not very much fun.

They make pretty good lawnmowers too, with the added benefit of an after-product of fertilizer.

On a previous post, different page, I mentioned using horse manure tea for tomatoes and strawberries, it works GREAT!

An added bonus point, my wife wants a horse!

Sadly, I would need to build a barn, feed it, take it to the vet, clean the stall, transport it(need a trailer), and have one more thing in my life that makes 'demands'.

We need 6 kids, but the ones we have have already flown the coop! 

There's something to be said about a car-less life. I haven't driven for 2.5 years now and hope I will never have to buy another car again. In my 36 m2 (~400 sqf) apartment I use around 8 kW per year in energy, and that's living somewhat north of Anchorage for comparison.

There are plenty of energy technologies that are capable of replacing hydrocarbons.Solar is probably the best bet. The incoming energy from the sun is about 8000 times more than our current total usage, so you don't need a huge area of solar cells. Battery technology exists that can store the energy for when the sun isn't shining.   Synthetic fuel can be made from waste organic materials fairly easily for planes etc.  Nothing novel is needed.  The reason that we are still using fossil fuels is that they are cheap.  Solar cells are following a Moore's law like trajectory ( halving approx every 2 years. )  so we will see solar becoming economic in the not too far distant future.

@Robert Fletcher

What is the cost of infrastructure for solar power compared to fossil fuels?  What is the cost of infrastructure for solar power after we no longer have cheap fossil fuel energy to power that production?

What is the mass/watt ratio of our best batteries compared to a fuel tank full of gasoline?  What are the production costs and life of those batteries?  How high will the cost of battery materials go if we switch to that as a primary means of transporting ourselves?  How must toxic waste comes with collecting/processing all those materials and disposing of all the dead batteries?

Using waste organic materials doesn't have much of a downside other than limited volumes.

You said it exactly when you pointed out that we use fossil fuels because they are cheap.  Not only are they cheap, but we use that cheap energy to produce our alternative energy sources.  The novel requirement will be our need to drastically reduce our energy consumption - a full 180 of our course over the past 75 years and a complete paradigm shift in our economics.  That's not going to be fun.

@Heather

One thing one seldom hears discussed is that a huge proportion of oil is used to make a variety of petrochemicals and plastics. Petrochemicals have obvious uses, such as in lubricants, but are used in many other application areas such as foods, medicines, various materials, and, of course, the big one: plastics.

As our petro resources dwindle, we'll switch to other power sources and fuels, but if we don't have a substitute for petroleum in making plastics, we'll be screwed.

Look around you and try to imagine a life without plastics. Of course, steps are being taken to come up with non-petroleum sources from which to manufacture plastics, such as algae. But look at the great variety of plastic types and applications and you should be very afraid for our future if we have to depend on growing algae to survive as a civilization.

Clearly, if there once was abundant life on Mars (very doubtful due to the lack of a magnetic field and thick atmosphere) there MIGHT be fossil fuels there, but it would be the height of irresponsibility to bet on it.

@Unseen

I agree - and I did mention plastics earlier in this thread.  I used to broker large purchases of plastics and keeping an eye on $/barrel petrol was the most significant factor in my negotiations.

One equility I found was that, 1 cord of firewood(4x4x8') is roughly equal to 147 gals of fuel oil. I think this is roughly 197x10^6 BTU's, but it has been a while since I thought about this, I could be off a little.  

"Battery technology exists that can store the energy for when the sun isn't shining."

One plan currently under consideration is to use offshore wind energy to pump water back into hydroelectric dams when the wind blows. That's essentially a massive battery solution.

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