[extropy-chat] Re: MARS: Because it is hard

David Lubkin extropy at unreasonable.com
Thu Apr 15 15:06:44 UTC 2004

Eugen wrote:

> > How long before we can create organisms (plants, bacteria, insects)
> > suitable for seeding on Mars, whose metabolism produces a useful 
> benefit in
> > extracting a resource or in terraforming?
>Right now, at 6 mbar CO2 and waay subantarctic temperatures you'd be hard
>pressed to have any detectable (that's a far cry from terraforming) microbial
>activity. Notice that any detectable (assuming, the methane is biogenic)
>activity comes from the few first km of submartian rock.

Life here has not had to adapt to Martian extremes, so there won't be 
anything we can use off the shelf. That doesn't imply that we can't modify 
an existing organism to be capable of thriving there.

We can certainly simulate the atmosphere and temperature now. Next step 
would be bringing back a hefty soil sample.

> > Of course either effort would dramatically alter whatever modest biosphere
> > may exist there now.
>Most of it is underground. Any life capable of living on the surface (i.e.
>not under ice) would be wonderful to behold, but I'm not counting on it.

Sure, but if we kudzu the surface before we look, the beholding will be 
that much harder. And seeded life will spread to every niche it can, which 
may lead it into the subsurface biome. (This is certainly an argument for 
nano over bio, which could be programmed to stay away from the subsurface.)

Because of the scientific and ethical considerations to be resolved, I'm 
not yet advocating a biological assault. But I'm curious as to how much we 
could accomplish that way.

Mike wrote:

>The necessary first step to terraforming is to drop a comet or two on Mars.

This is certainly a useful way to go. But is there any value in seeding the 
planet sooner, before we're ready to drop comets? We have a proven ability 
to do sample return and cargo drops; we only have theories about how to 
redirect comets.

I'm not just talking about terraforming. Organisms can be designed that 
will extract materials from the soil or atmosphere and convert them to a 
useful substance, as we have long done for terrestrial conditions.

Obviously there are trade-offs. A Zubrin propellant factory produces a 
concentrated material in one location; a biological product may be more 
dilute but will be planet-wide.

>Read Martyn Fogg's "Terraforming" textbook. Good read.

It's on my list.

-- David Lubkin.

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