A book review on the latest Weinersmith creation. It’s true, there is so much we don’t know.

Just throwing this out there on this forum because missing technology is the problem that kills the dream of Mars, according to the authors.

  • @lloram239
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    187 months ago

    We could absolutely do it

    Every exploration into hostile environments heavily relies on goods and services imported from the rest of Earth. Biosphere 2 is as far as I know still the only time we ever tried to actually build a completely independent ecological system, but that was 30 years ago, in a non-hostile environment, only run for a short amount of time, still had tons of problems and would still be missing a lot of stuff to be truly self sustaining for long time periods (e.g. no industrial facilities).

    • @guitarsarereal@sh.itjust.works
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      7 months ago

      I mean, Biosphere 2 failed because it was started by a cult that mismanaged the shit out of it, then Steve Bannon took over and outright killed the company. A lot of the really crazy shit that happened was a result of corporate power struggles. The first Biosphere experiment lasted two years and is considered overall a success, probably because Steve Bannon wasn’t there.

      Before it collapsed, they actually did one better over the previous experiment and achieved self-sufficiency in food production. Colonists would need equipment shipped in until a manufacturing supply chain could be set up locally, but mostly Biosphere 2 serves as a cautionary tale of letting Steve Bannon and cults run things.

      Even the claims of stir craziness were kind of overblown. They got evaluated, everything they experienced was consistent with everything that was known about long-term isolated group environments. They’re a rough experience.

      It was a fine enough experiment in the early 90’s, but there are incorrect assumptions about how it would apply to space travel. For one, the Biosphere project is considered a “failure” because they set themselves the goal of creating a completely self-contained bubble that needed no outside inputs, and yet at various points systems in the sphere needed repair and replacement, which is completely normal and absolutely what would happen in space. No space company worth anything would let a mining colony collapse because a carbon scrubber broke and “hAhA yOu NeEd oUtSiDe InPutS tO kEeP lIviNG JuSt LiKe tErReStRiAl cOloNieS.” No, they’d ship in a new scrubber and keep the line moving.

      • @scarabic@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        They would ship in a new scrubber but could they? We have to assume that a colony might need to self subsist for long periods, at least as long as Biosphere 2 was running, because of the practical considerations in shipping replacement parts to Mars.

        • @guitarsarereal@sh.itjust.works
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          7 months ago

          Yeah, absolutely they could. It’s a very romantic notion to, I dunno, send thousands of people to fuck rust on Mars until they die for absolutely no reason, but the reality is that they’re not gonna put the money into a colony off Earth until they know they can set up a shipping route and there’ll be something valuable coming back. That means regular trips to said colony.

          If they put it on Mars, it’s because they realized all that rust is really valuable or something. More likely it’ll be the asteroid belt. But there will be regular shipping.

    • @scarabic@lemmy.world
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      147 months ago

      Biosphere 2 is a great story and I wish there were more follow ups. They tried to set up favorable initial conditions and then seal the hatch. They found that the environment inside shifted and became inhospitable. The crops they planned on didn’t all sustain. Then they called it all off.

      What if they had allowed the biosphere to keep shifting until it found its equilibrium point, and then set about finding advantages in that? Crops that would sustain in that?

      An iterative process could build on mistakes and learnings. A one-shot, naive, all-or-nothing attempt where your starting conditions have to be just right… no wonder that it failed, but where was the next iteration? Why give it all up instead of tuning? I know it’s about money, but I wish someone with money cared enough to keep this thread going.

      • @PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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        7 months ago

        That’s not why it failed:

        “The vast majority of Biosphere II was built out of concrete, which contains calcium hydroxide. Instead of being consumed by the plants to produce more oxygen, the excess carbon dioxide was reacting with calcium hydroxide in the concrete walls to form calcium carbonate and water.”

        In any case, it is still in operation.

    • @SCB@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      Every exploration into hostile environments heavily relies on goods and services imported from the rest of Earth.

      These would be the problems that are currently being worked on prior to manned Mars (and to a lesser extent, lunar) missions.

      We absolutely will not be shipping containers of food to Mars. That’s absurd.

      • WHYAREWEALLCAPS
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        67 months ago

        We absolutely will not be shipping containers of food to Mars.

        We absolutely will be. You have no concept of the amount of energy and resources needed to feed a single human being on Earth for one meal, let alone a whole colony on another world without a breathable atmosphere and possibly toxic dirt for an indeterminate time. Farming under the best of conditions is extremely energy consuming, then there’s the need to either import hardware from Earth that is specially made for Mars or go old fashion and do a lot of it by hand. There is no where else in the solar system where you can just throw seeds at the ground in large enough quantities and feed whole cities. I do homesteading, my dad tried to be totally self sufficient foodwise when I was a teen. Guess what? Turns out that’s really, really hard to do. And that’s under the ideal conditions of Earth.

        • @SkyeStarfall@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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          07 months ago

          But you didn’t have NASA level technology. There is a lot you can do to increase food production using less space if you’re willing to pay the upfront and energy costs.

      • @AA5B@lemmy.world
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        17 months ago

        This is one of those things that will need baby steps.

        — using local water and dirt are probably a minimum for any non-trivial stay

        — yes we really need to be able to grow our own food, at least if we want to scale up from a temporary base for a handful to something larger or more permanent. Again, this is one of the things we probably need to go there to find out: is it possible to grow a lot of our own food?

      • @PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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        07 months ago

        I disagree, I believe we would ship containers of food to Mars in the early days. Just like we do for mcmurdo in Antarctica.

        • @SCB@lemmy.world
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          27 months ago

          It’s doubtful we’d ship past the initial landing and support phases, which was my point. It’s likely we’d send several ships out for any permanent presence, but 18 months is just too long and too much investment between trips.

          • @PersnickityPenguin@lemm.ee
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            7 months ago

            If you send say 20 people to Mars, let’s do the math. An average person requires approximately 2 to 3 lb of food per day. 18 months = 6,500 days x 20 people = 131,000 pounds of food, or about 65 tons. You could probably drop the weight significantly by freeze drying it and recycling the water.

            In any case, 65 tons isn’t a whole lot - that’s about what, half of a starship payload? Zubrin’s a case for Mars likewise discussed the need to bring all of your food supplies over with you.

            Now over many years you could build up enough buy a waste and build a recycling system to start recycling to buy a waste in a greenhouse, but we don’t know how viable like greenhouse on Mars will be for growing food. It’s likely going to have to be more of a grow lab/vertical farm setup. Very energy intensive.