I have never taken the idea of large-scale colonization of Mars very seriously, at least not for the foreseeable future. Nothing about these two videos changes my mind.
When thinking about colonization, we often focus on the fact that Mars is pretty much hellbent on killing organics. But what about Lord of the Flies-like tribes of humans turning on each other in a desperate fight for resources or via the phantasms in their heads as settlers go loco from the deprivation and isolation?
I'm with Bill Nye. Exploration? Yes! Settlement? Hell no.
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Bioengineering future Martian colonists may be easier than taking the many difficult steps to reduce radiation exposure. But is it ethical? Read the rest
Venus is not exactly a hospitable-sounding place. The planet's surface can reach temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmospheric pressure is close to the psi found in a hydraulic car crusher . None of the landers that touched down there lasted more than an hour. Generally, it's a not a place that sounds very friendly to humans. But that's all on the surface. Just 30 miles up, conditions on Venus become incredibly Earth-like. In fact, the upper atmosphere of Venus is home to the most Earth-like conditions in our entire solar system. Read the rest
Frycook posted this fascinating video from the Apollo era on the BoingBoing Submitterator. The basic gist: Back in the day, NASA scientists tried exposing various crops—corn, lettuce, tobacco ... you know, the essentials—to moon dust. The plants weren't grown in the dust, exactly. Instead, it was scattered in their pots or rubbed on some of their leaves. In this study, the plants that were exposed seemed to grow faster than unexposed plants.
That's pretty interesting, so I dug around a little to find out more about these studies. Turns out, growing plants in lunar soil isn't quite as promising as the video makes it sound, but it's not a ridonculous idea, either. In 2010, scientists at the University of Florida published a review of all the Apollo-era research on this subject, which amounted to exactly three published studies. From that data, we can say that the plants weren't obviously affected in any seriously negative ways by their exposure to lunar soils—which is good—but we can't really say the plants grew better their terrestrial-only cousins, either.
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In the end, and as recorded in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, there were only three published primary studies of seeds, seedlings, and plants grown in contact with lunar materials. In those three cases, small amounts of lunar material were used, and the plants were relatively large. In general, the dusting of plants or the mixing of lunar fines with other support media makes plant interaction with the lunar material a small part of the plant experience.