Sunday, April 26, 2015

Living Off Earth

With my last post, I received a few comments about how I didn't make Mars sound all that bad, mostly due to my analysis on the possibility of terraforming making it look tolerable.  So, with this post I wanted to talk about how living on areas off of Earth would look like. At least, how it would look before we had sunk a truly silly amount of time and work on making other planets livable.  Even working very quickly with a good budget, it would take hundreds of years for Mars to get anywhere near Earth-like. Until then, any people looking to live on Mars would need to build and live in their own artificial habitats there.

Try thinking of somewhere on the Earth's surface that you'd consider very inhospitable.  For me, some top winners would be places like the Sahara desert, Antarctica, and inside volcanoes.  Compared to Mars though, both the Sahara desert and Antarctica are by far much nicer places to live compared to an average location on Mars - if for no other reason than it being nice to step outside without the water in your lungs or the tears in your eyes boiling away.  It's easy to think about not breathing, given that we're far more used to that as a problem in our daily lives, but trust me when I say that is the least of your worries if you're caught outside without the proper precautions.

Obviously, going outside on Mars without equipment would be quite the bad idea. But what about other characteristics?  For instance, the average temperature on Mars would be surprisingly close to that of Antarctica, so you'd better bring plenty of fuel for heating!  Meanwhile, the dust storms would wreak havoc against surfaces and vastly reduce vision if someone were caught outside.  Antarctica at least only has to deal with snow storms, which aren't nearly as damaging to equipment as a good sand storm in the Sahara.  In other words, living on Mars would be most similar to living in the Antarctic, with a bit of the Sahara thrown in, except even deadlier outside and much farther from proper civilization.

This is all before we get into the small little quirks that would continue to screw with designing a proper colony for living on Mars.  Flying as we're used to it would be near impossible. This post over at XKCD describes flying in different atmospheres, with a description for flying on Mars. "The X-Plane author compared piloting Martian aircraft to flying a supersonic ocean liner." Easy flying as we're used to on Earth would not work well as a common form of transport, and helicopters are certainly ruled out (not enough air).  Better get used to building roads and trains for everywhere you're interested in going.

All told, this means anyone wanting to live on Mars will be traveling quite the distance to live in a metal can.  Personally, I think you'd have to be crazy to want to go live there.  But, I'd certainly like to go anyway.  We have to start somewhere, even if it is in a metal can.  I'm not going to let Nature tell me where I can and can't live, and it's classic for humans to take an area and mold it into someplace better. It's only human nature.