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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

The Martian chronicles...

Posted 3/12/14 (Wed)

Whether you find this interesting or not, there is quiet research going on in this country that will someday allow humans to inhabit the surface of Mars.

There is information describing buildings and breathing systems to allow living on the red planet.

This research has been going on for years, and as the space probes that have landed on Mars become more efficient, so does research.

You have to wonder first, if it is even possible? Anything’s possible, right? Did anyone believe President Kennedy when he said humans would land on the Moon by the end of the 1960s decade?

The first gut check on Mars is a lack of oxygen. The thin Martian atmosphere is largely made up of carbon dioxide, so in order for humans to live there, that CO2 would have to be converted, likely through some sort of filter system.

NASA once said that temperatures can reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit on the Martian equator. That’s great, just 7 degrees shy of what humans call the perfect temperature. However, because the atmosphere is thin, that heat escapes quickly at night and the temperature at that same spot can drop to 30 below zero in summer.

Since the Phoenix probe landed in 2008, it almost immediately discovered water as we know it in the form of ice near the North Pole.

OK, so there’s water, or can be as long as it can be melted. But astronauts need food to live as well.

I doubt NASA would want to send a spacecraft full of food  on a mission because it would compromise too much space and weight.

That said, if humans inhabited Mars, they would most likely have to create their own sources of food.

With that in mind, you have to wonder how that is possible since water on Mars is not an abundant commodity. Nor is good soil, but there is some good news.

Because plants thrive on carbon dioxide and Mars has plenty of that, imagine the exchange from CO2 to oxygen. That would bring a totally new meaning to Jack and the Bean Stalk fable. Corn plants would be 25 feet high.

Another downside of any mission to Mars is time itself. At its closest approach to Earth, which is called perihelic opposition, it would take a spacecraft with today’s technology, 16 months to touch down on Mars. If the eliptical orbits of both planets were opposite, a trip would take more than three years.

Are there any advantages to doing this other than exploration, something that humans have pursued since Cain killed Abel and fled to the land of Nod.

Consider the minerals. Mars must be rich in gold and diamonds, as well as other rare and expensive commodities like propane and gasoline.

There’s lots of relatively flat plains and areas that could be used for decent protection from the elements. Unfortunately, there isn’t a tree on the planet so buildings would have to be made from sourced material like rocks... lots of rocks.

In reality, inflatable buildings are suggested as living quarters for anyone who inhabits the red planet.

If you are actually interested in going you may be too late. There is a web site (www.mars-one) that indicates that 78,000 people have already signed up to take a one-way trip to the Roach Motel.

Yes, that means they would never come back to Earth and would live out their lives doing scientific research as a de facto Martian.

But face it, we’ve always had this fascination with space since Leonardo Da Vinci designed a flying machine in 1488 that didn’t fly.

From the talk in the 1890s of canals on the surface of Mars to 1971 when two Soviet space crafts crashed on the planet to July 1976 when Viking 1 landed and beamed the first pictures back for the TV news, it’s been an intriguing topic of conversation.

Movies about Mars have been shown beginning with “War of the Worlds,” (1953), and “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” (1964) and the 1980 TV mini-series “The Martian Chronicles,” have all sparked interest in our mysterious next-door neighbor.

Space probes have landed all over that planet and have learned a lot since then. One of the latest, Curiosity, which landed in 2012, has sent back some stunning photographs of the planet’s surface.

It’s just like North Dakota; cold, barren, flat, and nobody lives there like they say in Minneapolis.