Massive quantities of ice crystals on Mars

Eugen Leitl
Fri, 31 May 2002 00:17:24 +0200 (CEST)

On Wed, 29 May 2002, Jim Whitehead wrote:

> When I look at Mars, I see a place that could eventually become a new

At 6 mbar surface pressure (less than 1% of Earth surface) of carbon
dioxide, that's an awfully long way to go to anything you would consider
to be comfortable. I woulnd't call it an atmosphere, it's barely enough
atmosphere to annoy you (dust storms, heat conduction), but not good for
much else (okay, feedstock for chemistry). Terraforming a small body takes
a long time, and results in a large loss of volatiles. Intuition says
resources are free, especially in such a big place as the solar system,
but eventually (and it may take shorter than you think), every atom will
be accounted for.

> Earth, a place where humans could live unassisted on the surface. The

I see two big problem-words in this sentence: humans, unassisted, and 
surface. Did I say two? Three, THREE problem-words.

Humans. They seem an expiring model. Don't look right now, but there's a
big "EXTINCTION CANDIDATE; KICK ME" label taped to your back. Every
anthropocentric model extending much beyond 100 years thus needs to be
heavily revised (preferably, by removing said bipedal primate dependance
it hinges upon).

Unassisted. See above. Dry life has a different habitat, and will probably
wreck hereplace for good before very short (could be as short as 100
years. No harsh feeling, I hope. It ain't personal).

Surface. Gravitational containment is awfully ineficient, as far as
volatile containment/mass is concerned. Ecology bubbles are much, much
better in regard of useful volume/mass units. You can assume that the bulk
of planetesimals will be gone for good, soon. The free floating habitat
bubbles will dim the Sun, and make planets uninhabitable, unless tracked
by a lighthouse artificial sunlight beam. Before long, planets will be
disassembled into habitats (though it's not life as you know it, Jim).

> Martian landscape has an emotional effect on me that is not matched by
> the Moon. Both are beautiful, but only Mars calls out and says, "make
> me your home".

Artifical ecology bubbles (whether free-floating microgravity, centrifuge
faux gravity or sublunar caves) could look like anything you like.  
Augmented reality could make you feel right at home even in the naked
molerat tunnels. In any case, engineering out sentimental attachement to a
specific environment is doable and necessary.