The Pale Blue Dot

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Science suggested that there would be many (define ‘many’) planets that would be hospitable for life as we know it. The reality is very different. There are planets such as K2-18b that are a big reach in terms of being “near earth conditions”, but they’re about as close as we’ve come, and they’re a long way from here. Sure, a million monkeys pounding on a million typewriters will some day write the Gettysburg Address… but it looks as though we’re going to have to make it work here. There don’t seem to be many places to go even if we could travel really fast or utilize some sort of wormhole technology.

Mars is inhospitable. I understand that we have plans to terraform the place with the next (mumbles) centuries, but anyone we send there is as expendable as a red shirt on Star Trek. Space itself is dangerous and once you land, so is Mars itself. And while the Moon is a smart first step, Mars is an order of magnitude distant from there.

In order to have life as we know it – based on what we now (think that we) know, you need a large moon that can keep the interior of the planet churned up, hot and liquid so that it will generate protective radiation belts. The distance from the star needs to be within tolerances. The star needs to be stable over a long period of time. It helps to have one or more really big “Jupiters and Saturns” out there sweeping space of comets and debris. The star should be metal rich (third generation or later), but it doesn’t have to be. The planet needs to have large water seas.
15,000 years ago, much of the planet could be considered to be a ‘giant snowball’ with ice sheets extending far down toward the equator. Many people think that the ‘global warming’ that is discussed is noting more than an end to the ice age.  Which is to say that even a planet as hospitable to life as ours goes through growing pains.

16 thoughts on “The Pale Blue Dot

  1. As large as the universe is it's likely that life does indeed exist somewhere else though it may be quite a distance away. It would be a shame if we were alone.

  2. Remember back in the 50s when everyone thought if we were going to stay in space, we'd spin the space craft or space station to create a simulation of gravity? Good old days. Then the engineers figured out how much stronger the ships would have to be – which means heavier and more expensive to put up there. The budgets won, as they tend to.

    I read recently that one of the guys who stayed on ISS for a year – Scott Kelly whose identical twin brother is Gabby Giffords' husband – has had a problems with pains and leg swelling that they think was caused by living in free fall. I haven't heard if any of the others have had similar issues.

    smh.com.au/lifestyle/astronaut-scott-kelly-on-the-devastating-effects-of-a-year-in-space-20170922-gyn9iw.html

    The worst of the changes seem to have eased up, if what we can read online is correct, but it raises the questions about a six of seven month voyage to Mars, and year in lower gravity, and another seven months back.

    I don't know of anyone or any company trying to come up with a vehicle that could create simulated gravity for the crew. We even have to wonder if living on the moon or Mars would be protective since there's so much less gravity.

  3. The conditions for life are incredibly complex. It's almost as though there was a God, sorry! Thing behind it all.

  4. Humans haven't reached the point they can survive any length of time in space. Even for a Mars venture, the amount of dangerous ionizing radiation damage potential is only speculative. If estimates are wrong, those taking the trip may experience all the horrifying effects of overexposure, including skin damage, organ failure, blindness, dementia and even death. Those observing from Earth would be completely helpless, and those on the spaceship would have no hope.

  5. I think that any trip to Mars is a one-way ride. Sure, there's talk of a return, but the time in space outside of the protective radiation belts (that extend in part to the Moon) may be too hostile and shielding may be insufficient.

    We don't really know what the long term effects of low gravity will be, but better to study them on the Moon than on Mars.

    I'm not anti-Martian exploration but at this point, Mars 2020 and other robotic missions seem to be the way to go. We're not ready to send people there to hang out.

  6. You'd leave Earth normal and arrive at Mars acting like Joe Biden…

    Yes, I take your point completely. But I couldn't help making a jab at Slow Joe.

  7. This is the best argument for nuclear propulsion or something that accelerates them halfway to Mars and decelerates the rest of the way. If I'm remembering those numbers right, it turns the journey from 7 months down to a 7 weeks.

    The crew will get irradiated less if they put nuclear engines on the ship.

    As for the environment and getting irradiated on Mars, one word: tunnels. Burrow underground, live underground.

  8. Well, yes, we need to go to nuclear propulsion in space as a rule and we need to have plutonium generators for the crew when they land.

    There are a number of underground scenarios including hoping to find caves (such as lava tubes). Or maybe send digging equipment with them, but that's a lot of heavy gear for the crew. On the Moon, the scenario is the same except for the lava tubes. The Moon is a lot closer and we can land heavy equipment over time. Mars is a far more challenging scenario.

  9. The only way I can think of for something like Starship to spin to simulate gravity would be a pair of them tethered together with noses pointing at each other, like a bolo. There'd be some issues to work out, especially mid-course corrections, but the structure's already strong enough in that axis (I'm assuming the tethers attach at the base, not the nose).

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