Thursday, 3 November 2016

E-mail from Mars — URGENT


Mars sent me an email yesterday about a WaitButWhy article, written by a human. Mars marked it URGENT—he's seemingly worried (or ecstatic) that my ailments will be passed to him via humans.

I completed some preliminary research. Below is my reply:


Dear Mars,

Insightful article. This Musk character sure wants to shake things up. Personally, I think they'd be wise to back up the 'human hard drive' but I wouldn't worry too much mate, at least not yet.

From the information gathered, a small infection of humans is likely in the near future due to high human levels of curiosity and exponential advances in technology. But, I'm sceptical about outright infection:

  1. They have enough problems of their own trying to build a sustainable species on me.
  2. It's breaking unchartered territory. I'd be surprised if they tried the full infection ('Terraforming') on you before they tried it on me (although they kind of are now).
  3. Human ambition and funding has waned; "humanity's exploration envelope" has shrunk since the Moon experienced a small infection. However, SpaceX's revolutionary spaceship and reusable rocket technology (below) does threaten this.
  4. Human ethical concerns but a human recently investigated the ethical dimensions, saying it was "potentially moral if based on the motivation of preserving 'Life', which is of the highest intrinsic value because of its unparalleled rarity in the known universe." Interesting logic.
  5. You'd be more hospitable to plant, rather than human life due to your reservoirs of COand H2O, according to other human literature. Humans demand O2 rich atmospheres.

Also, not proud to say it mate, but you have several unappealing characteristics (from the perspective of humans of course): your atmosphere is "hopelessly tenuous" at 0.8% the thickness of mine; you only receive 43% of the sunlight I do (being further away); and your average temperature is -60°C. Even if they sorted all the above out, to get plants growing and producing O2they'd need to:

  1. Increase your heat absorption efficiency using potent GHGs called CFCs (though these are damaged by ultraviolet radiation making this difficult)
  2. Encourage the process of CO2 release from your soil (after about -20°C) in order to propel you over 0°C, allowing water vapour (another GHG) to self-generate.
  3. 'Unmars' (unearth) plenty of N2 (which they do know about).

How long would this take? It depends on where the CO2-saturated soil is in your regolith. A century at best but probably closer to thousands of years if deeply distributed.

Basically it all comes down to how rich your elemental components are, how accessibly these can be freed up, and what technology they can harness to accelerate it. This is if they can even get to you!

Don't worry. Yet.


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