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Humans need two Earths?
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freeyourmind
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 11:38 am 
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A bittersweet peice of news from the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Footprint Network, suggesting that by 2050 we'll be using up Earth's natural resources at twice the rate at which it can replenish them.

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"On current projections, humanity will be using two planets' worth of natural resources by 2050 if those resources have not run out by then," the latest report said. "People are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources."


http: www msnbc msn com id 15398149

The argument these organizations pose is that humanity needs to cut down its consumption of resources, and this is, in my opinion, quite true. However, this report seems to explicitly support our goals here at RC and MD, and may even help down the line in providing quantifyable evidence that supports the need for Martian exploration.
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JohnBono
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:52 pm 
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I love being the naysayer; Mars won't put a dent in the problem. How much of its surface is inhabitable? How much surface area does it have in the first place? Even if it could support half of Earth's population, it'll take hundreds of years to solve the problem that thirty years creates, and with a cost that can't be afforded.
Space colonies are cheaper, closer, and could support trillians of people in the Solar system. They have a much faster economic return and they provide a much better living environment than anything but a mediterranean climate. Mars is a novelty at best.
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John Carter
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 1:57 pm 
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By 2050, we'll probably be using alternative natural resources as well as man-made resources. Nuclear energy is safe. Gas-electric hybrids are becoming more common. All-electric vehicles are not too far off. The resources required to make ceramic-tile building materials are plentiful.

The article says "On current projections." I would wager that these projections operate under the premise that the materials that will be consumed in 2050 are going to be the same as those used today. This is bad logic. The industrial revolution was powered first by wood, then by coal then by oil. Today, we continue to explore alternative energy sources: Hydroelectrics, wind, solar, nuclear, etc.

Of course, this is typical "alarmist" stuff intended to steer the world into looking into alternatives. It says, "it's not too late! We can still slow down and change course."

As more nations mature and as the population continues to increase, we will surely see a rise in the consumption of the world's resources. I think that we have plenty of natural resources available to sustain this growth, I just don't think we are using the right resources as of right now.
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John Carter
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 2:10 pm 
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Space colonies are cheaper, closer, and could support trillians of people in the Solar system. They have a much faster economic return and they provide a much better living environment than anything but a mediterranean climate. Mars is a novelty at best.


Ah, but Mars has something that space colonies will never have! Mars has it's own natural resources. Space colonies will always be dependent on help from Earth. Supplies will have to be sent up, waste will have to be sent back (simply dumping waste into space will just create more problems, especially if you are talking about the waste from trillions of people.

Need uranium for the power plant? A space colony has to have the uranium sent up from somewhere. On Mars, you can mine it. Need to add an additional habitation module? Send it up from Earth. On Mars, you can mine the materials and have it fabricated on-site.

No my friend. Mars is no "novelty." But a space colony is, at best, an interim solution, not a permanent one. If we are ever going to live off-planet, it needs to be someplace where we have a chance to survive independantly, just in case one of those NEOs falls out of the sky and obliterates your home planet.
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freeyourmind
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 6:11 pm 
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Ok so, the points I was trying to make were not that Mars would provide us with the resources to sustain our current growth. I did consider the conversation might go in that direction.

Rather, doesn't it make sense that such alarmism could be used to help rally people to our cause? It at least puts into perspective that mars could be helpful in our expansion. Regardless of the actual relevance in this regard, I see no reason why these studies could not be used to help people see why Mars is important.

Secondly, people living on Mars would learn a great deal about how to have a sustainable lifestyle. Mars is relevant not because it could provide space or resources for growth (in significant amounts, before 2050, which in all realistic likelyhood it could not) but because it can help to show Earth the way.

Also, John, they aren't necesarrily talking about power generation.
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...depletion of resources, such as the forests, oceans and agricultural land upon which our economy depends...

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Tyrannis
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 11:12 pm 
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John Carter wrote:
Ah, but Mars has something that space colonies will never have! Mars has it's own natural resources. Space colonies will always be dependent on help from Earth. Supplies will have to be sent up, waste will have to be sent back (simply dumping waste into space will just create more problems, especially if you are talking about the waste from trillions of people.

Need uranium for the power plant? A space colony has to have the uranium sent up from somewhere. On Mars, you can mine it. Need to add an additional habitation module? Send it up from Earth. On Mars, you can mine the materials and have it fabricated on-site.

No my friend. Mars is no "novelty." But a space colony is, at best, an interim solution, not a permanent one. If we are ever going to live off-planet, it needs to be someplace where we have a chance to survive independantly, just in case one of those NEOs falls out of the sky and obliterates your home planet.



Actually I do believe that you'll be quite wrong about the NEOs being too much of a problem and the space colonies have stuff sent up to them, they'll probably be sending a lot down to Earth and Mars from the NEOs and belt asteroids that they are mining for resources and space will become available on those mined/mining asteroids for colonies to set up. They also have the ability to be moved where you need them to be, so forget uranium, just use the sun for everything, since you'll have a constant supply all day and night at the same intensity without the atmosphere diminishing anthing and huge kilometers wide panels can be used as well. Mars however also provides that home feeling of a planet, which for those who were born on a planet might prefer. So both are gonna be needed, billions of people can live in space colonies, and a few billion can live on Mars
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 2:26 am 
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Tyrannis covered a few of my points, but I'll try to put them a little more clearly.
John Carter wrote:

Space colonies will always be dependent on help from Earth. Supplies will have to be sent up, waste will have to be sent back (simply dumping waste into space will just create more problems, especially if you are talking about the waste from trillions of people.

Waste can be sent many places besides Earth (and almost always recycled anyway). Supplies sent up are minimal after the first Bernal Spheres. More will be sent down, than up, likely.
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Need uranium for the power plant? A space colony has to have the uranium sent up from somewhere. On Mars, you can mine it. Need to add an additional habitation module? Send it up from Earth. On Mars, you can mine the materials and have it fabricated on-site.

Solar power in space would be about three times cheaper than the cheapest nuclear available today. Really, a powerplant would be a waste of resources.

Lastly, how is mars not a novelty again? Ten billion (at best) people versus the approximately quadrillion people that we can before we start harvesting planets.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:54 am 
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Lastly, how is mars not a novelty again? Ten billion (at best) people versus the approximately quadrillion people that we can before we start harvesting planets.


Because Mars is not nearly as speculative a subject as these space colonies.
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John Carter
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 12:15 pm 
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Well. Let me address some of these comments.


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Actually I do believe that you'll be quite wrong about the NEOs being too much of a problem and the space colonies have stuff sent up to them, they'll probably be sending a lot down to Earth and Mars from the NEOs and belt asteroids that they are mining for resources and space will become available on those mined/mining asteroids for colonies to set up.


First of all, when I mentioned NEOs I did so in the context of Big Giant Planet Killers smashing the home world to bits. In this context, the statement that they won't be "too much of a problem" doesn't make sense. They are so much of a problem as to be the principle rational behind off-world colonies. Second, JohnBono's original statement indicated that the space colonies that he was referring to would be "closer." This gives the impression that he is talking about space colonies located at the Lagrangian Points or in high Earth orbit, not near the Asteroid Belt or near Mars. Space colonies have to be built from something and this material has to be sent from somewhere. Until we possess the capability to create something on the scale of a Dyson ring / sphere every resource used by a space colony will be a non-renewable one.

Unless you change the original parameters of JohnBono's statement, sending materials from Mars or the asteroid belt first to an orbital space colony and then back to Earth makes no sense. If you want to discuss colonizing the asteroid belt, that's fine, but that's a whole new set of parameters to argue and you won't find me defending Mars colony viability against asteroid belt colony viability. My original statements were in defense of Martian colonies against colonies "closer" to the Earth that can support "trillions" of people.

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just use the sun for everything, since you'll have a constant supply all day and night at the same intensity without the atmosphere diminishing anything and huge kilometers wide panels can be used as well.


Huge kilometers wide panels anywhere close to the Earth end up being nothing more than huge targets for micro meteors and man-made debris. Even a small impact can be catastrophic at the relative speeds between objects in space. Atlantis recently was hit by something, and they lucked out if you ask me. No. Giant solar panels are not much of an option for space colonies close to Earth, yet anything smaller, no matter how good the solar cell tech gets, won't be adequate to supply the needs of "trillions." It's going to take nuclear (unless as stated earlier, we change the parameters of the argument and move the space colony to somewhere other than "closer."

Of course the affect of "a constant supply (of solar energy) all day and night at the same intensity without the atmosphere diminishing anything" has its own set of problems. Namely radiation. It's going to take a LOT of shielding for these "trillions" of people to survive. Crewmembers of the ISS get by because of the protection from the Earth's magnetosphere, but anywhere beyond direct Earth-orbit (even the Lagrangian points) will be too far away from the magnetosphere to enjoy this benefit.

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Solar power in space would be about three times cheaper than the cheapest nuclear available today. Really, a power plant would be a waste of resources.


As previously discussed, these giant solar panels become giant targets for space colonies that are "closer" to Earth when compared to the distance to Mars. Earth's gravity well is going to pull in debris and accelerate it. Nuclear is much cheaper near-term technology.

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Lastly, how is mars not a novelty again? Ten billion (at best) people versus the approximately quadrillion people that we can before we start harvesting planets.


Ten Billion at best? The land-surface area of the Earth already hosts 6 Billion. The Martian land surface is roughly equal to the Earth's continents. That's 6 Billion at an average of 105 persons per square mile. The city of Monaco has a density of 43,000 persons per square mile. Since the surface area of Mars equals 55,907,000 square miles, we are talking a potential population of nearly 2.5 trillion people. That's if we think like Terrans and only build UP instead of being logical and building DOWN and utilizing the entire interior volume of Mars as a habitat. We do that and the potential population of Mars becomes limitless (Mars has no molten core to prevent drilling all the way to the center.)

Mars a novelty? Not as much as those orbital colonies are. We would probably be much better served by covering the surface of the moon in these big giant solar panels we've been talking about and then carving out the moon into a giant habitat. At the aforementioned population density of 43,000 persons per square mile (with the moon's 23,568,609 square miles), we could house potentially more than a trillion people on the moon alone.

All this begs the question: If you are convinced that colonies on Mars are nothing more than a novelty, then what is your interest in taking part in a web site and forum dedicated to that concept?
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 3:25 pm 
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So are we talking about colonies in LEO? I thought we were talking about any space colony between the sun and asteroid belt essentially.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 4:03 pm 
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So are we talking about colonies in LEO? I thought we were talking about any space colony between the sun and asteroid belt essentially.


JohnBono's post said that these colonies would be "closer" then Mars. This implies either LEO or Legrange and that was the basis of my argument. We can discuss the viability of a space colony outside of Earth's gravitational influence, but that drastically changes the nature of the argument. Yeah, mining the asteroid belt makes really good sense. Is it a better idea than colonzing Mars? That I'd give a 50/50 toss up on.

Of course, the further out you go from the Sun, the larger your solar panel array would have to be in order to collect enough power. However, the asteroid belt probably contains uranium deposits to help augment the solar power.

The Bernal Sphere thing is fine... but something about looking up and seeing countryside instead of sky makes me feel more claustrophobic then being stuck in a small room for hours on end. Kinda like when I was in the Navy and out to sea. As long as I was inside I never felt like I was closed in. As soon as I stepped out and saw that we were surrounded by ocean with no way out, I felt trapped.

The first colony will likely be on the moon. It's close and you don't have to worry about orbital mechanics. We can send up tele-operated equipment to begin the work and not have to worry about sending up colonists until the colony is ready. It's also close enough allow significant testing and experimentation. How do mammals adapt to a lifetime in moon gravity? Can someone born in the moon's gravity live comfortably on Earth? So many questions.

Space colonies will be an important part of seeding humanity throughout the Solar System and beyond. But housing "trillions" and "quadrillions" closer to Earth then Mars? Nope. I'm not going to buy into that. Too much space junk up there already.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:02 pm 
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To be closer to Earth than Mars you could be at Venus, a lot of space in that definition. Setting up a solar farm in the same orbit as say Venus or Mercury would probably allow you to harvest more solar power and then beam it back to Earth, colonies and even those farther out by microwave which can then be converted to electrical energy plus you are correct that there should be uranium to be mined out in the belt.

I'd say that colonization of Mars and interplanetary space should be begun at the same time simply so that there are as many avenues as possible to ensure that humanity survives.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:51 pm 
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I'd say that colonization of Mars and interplanetary space should be begun at the same time simply so that there are as many avenues as possible to ensure that humanity survives.

very true.
most likely colonies will apear on mars and in the astroid belt and will be mining stations, where many of the problems being discussed will be worked out. then those will be expanded upon and more in thoses area will be made as demand for materials grows. from then on we could shift more inwards towards venus as described to produce power and farming colonies and make a huge solar transport system. the posibilites are endless, but i think whatever happens its going to be along the lines of most practical. which for all i know will be nothing more that small spining wheel stations in the asteroid belt with temperary crews rotating shifts. but thats boring and unromantic! i wanna see man-made starts in the sky and tell my kids "you see that star its not really a star its a space colony over 50 million miles away"
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 11:04 am 
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Some people here are making some good points about Space Colonies versus Mars, allow me to weigh in.

Mars cannot make any more than a dent in the population problem. It currently has land area roughly equal to Earth's. After terraforming, half that will be taken away by oceans (which we can only do so much) and a full third will be taken up by The Tharsis Bulge and Elysium Mons, which will be too high to be habitable. Even if Mars could be instantly terraformed, it will offer only 20% of the land area Earth has, and that doesn't take into account how big the southern ice cap will likely get.

Orbital Colonies will have to be built, but once built, they can be self-sustaining. Put an asteroid with lots of minerals and volatiles at the LaGrange Points and put a bunch of Orbitals in orbit around them and you have a sort of Space Archipelago. Each orbital will be able to supply its own air supply and food and a simple push-off can allow one to travel between each and to and from the asteroid, which supplies raw materials. There are only 3 long-term issues to be taken into account:

1.) Stability of the ecosystem. Not a problem so long as environmental responsibility is key.

2.) Recycling: Over time, the CO2 in the orbitals is going to get turned into carbonates by reaction with the water. This and other such reactions and erosion reversed on Earth by plate tectonics will have to be reversed by our own hands or machines. Should be easy enough, as such things are rather slow.

3.) Maintainence: Like any structure, they will gradually develop weaknesses. Windows will likely need to be replaced and the structure will need to be reinforced. Again, I think this should be easy enough, as over time, our materials technology will increase and we may even one day get nanobots capable of doing all of this almost organically.

I for one like the idea of Orbitals very much. I've heard estimates that we only live on 10% of the Earth's surface. The other 20% that is land we don't live on because it's no good; jungle's too thick, deserts too hot and dry, mountains too rugged, etc. In Orbitals, we can customize the land to suit our needs. The climate can be fine-tuned as best as we can, the ecosystem can also be customized, etc.

I think the only real obstacle here is first learning to create stable ecosystems in confined spaces. I am not disheartened by the Biosphere Project failues, they were likely too small. Bigger colonies, like O'Neill Cylinders, are likely big enough to allow for some wiggle room and stability, especially if we keep the populations away from the projected limits.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2006 1:43 pm 
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ares2101 wrote:
Some people here are making some good points about Space Colonies versus Mars, allow me to weigh in.

Mars cannot make any more than a dent in the population problem. It currently has land area roughly equal to Earth's. After terraforming, half that will be taken away by oceans (which we can only do so much) and a full third will be taken up by The Tharsis Bulge and Elysium Mons, which will be too high to be habitable. Even if Mars could be instantly terraformed, it will offer only 20% of the land area Earth has, and that doesn't take into account how big the southern ice cap will likely get.


Why even terraform Mars? If we build under the Martian surface we can populate that planet with many more people then if we try to make Mars into a new Earth. No need to worry about oceans or altitude. Build inward, not outward.
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