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Sidetracking a little here: I will say the same about James P. Hogan. I have a Comp.Sci Masters degree and 40 years of experience, judging his books from the perspective of a computer expert. I picked up the 1979 "The two faces of tomorrow" again not too long ago, and it still holds up. "Realtime Interrupt", 16 years later (but 25 years old today) still raises essential questions that cannot be pushed aside. (And a few of my collagues, to whom I have recommended the book, have had nights of bad sleep, essentially because the comp.sci parts still holds water after 25 years.
As a computer professional, I know that the issues are real. People with less background tend to laugh it off as more or less pure fantasy. If I read books too far out of my own field of expertise, I would like to have other experts confirm the realism. For a Mars settlement, there are so many issues that it would take a large flock of experts in different areas to confirm the realism of it.
That is what Weisman did with "The World Without Us". While he wrote the text, and is fully responsible for it, in every chapter he leans heavily of one or more top experts in the field. (Hogan also use to include thanks in he preface to those experts that have read through the manuscript to verify that there are no factual errors or impossibilities in the story.)
KSR wrote what was reasonably solid hard SF at the time in designing the initial colonization ship and terraforming program; the biology stuff (anti-aging and brain reset) used to help keep some characters alive for centuries was always a bit iffier. The bigger issue at this point is just that he started writing in the 80's and some parts of his science/tech have become dated since. ex the first Mars ship was build out of US and Soviet Space Shuttle external tanks, and he totally missed the last 20 years of laptops and then phones providing computers everywhere.
Caveat, it's been at least 15 years since I last read the books.
Did you ever see history portrayed as an old man with a wise brow and pulseless heart, weighing all things in the balance of reason?
Is not rather the genius of history like an eternal, imploring maiden, full of fire, with a burning heart and flaming soul, humanly warm and humanly beautiful?
Training a telescope on one’s own belly button will only reveal lint. You like that? You go right on staring at it. I prefer looking at galaxies.
-- Sarah Hoyt
Scientists may not have reached an agreement, or your sources may be outdated, or Wikipedias sources may be outdated: Wikipedia states, in the introduction to the "Mars" article: "The two polar ice caps appear to be made largely of water".
This is so far from my own field of expertise that I will file both alternatives under "Some say this, some say that".
I checked Wikipedia and the permanent polar caps are made of water ice. The seasonal cover is from frozen carbon dioxide which sublimes in summer. I didn't know that. So you are right, there is enough water for a colony, but you'd need to melt it and transport to the colony in pipe I guess.
I read somewhere there might be underground deposits of water ice which can occasionally melt during summer and even flow on the surface for a while. I don't have any reference for that however.
May be an interesting read - but it is classified as science Fiction, not a science.
I pointed to "The World Without Us" because it is classified as Science (although somewhat popularized). The author (and his informants) have not take the freedom to ignore nature's laws when they are a hindrance for the progress of the story.
I haven't read Man Plus, and the book may have a general respect for scientific knowledge, but when it is labeled as fiction, you cannot be certain of it. (And, the Wikipedia article does not give any impression of this story carrying any realism. E.g. the brain is one of they body's major consumers of oxygen, and that will prevail even if you create an artificial body.)
You're obviously not familiar with Pohl's work. He used to research more stringently than 99% of astronomers, and make up less cr@p than 100% of them.
Member 7989122 wrote:
the brain is one of they body's major consumers of oxygen
It also consumes (AIRI; can be checked) between 70 and 95% of all the glucose you ingest, depending on what you're doing, and harvesting monosaccharides is a tad more destructive to the plants than just letting them produce O2.
Just find a list (there are probably hundreds of instances of them on-line) of nutritional needs at the biochemical level, and you'll easily be able to roughly classify them according to difficulty.
I wanna be a eunuchs developer! Pass me a bread knife!
He said he'd put a million people on Mars by 2050. He didn't say they'd be alive when they got there. It's probably feasible now to put samples of the cremated remains of 1 million people on a vehicle and have it soft land on Mars.
Myself, I never considered to be anywhere in the neighbourhood of realism. Not by a magnitude or two. But when you meet the fanboys, you often wish you had a checklist to point to, displaying 24 main reasons why the project is completely unrealistic, each of the 24 points certified by an internationally recognized expert.
Okay, okay, I know: Internationally recognized experts don't have a clue when you try to defend your own job in the coal or oil industry; then the experts are just talking bullshit. If you are working with Ovibos moschatus[^], you do not want that work to be turned down, either. But a list of 24 well argued objections would be welcome.
Next question: How many plants does it take to produce a ton of oxygen a day? Obviously, a huge pine tree will produce more than, say, a tomato plant. I guess that plants will have to double as both oxygen and food sources; there wouldn't be room of huge forests within that plastic bubble. Do food plants vary a lot in their oxygen prodction capabilities? With Mars being roughly speaking at 1.5 times the Earth's distance from the sun, solar radiation is at 40-45% of Earth levels; I guess that could affect the photosynthesis.
with the use of solar energy collectors and artificial lighting, Earth-like levels can be replicated or increased. but will the 'soil' support terrestrial vegetation ?.
There's non-biological ways to produce oxygen. A few years back I got interested in recycling of CO2 back to O2, and there's multiple paths to do that. There's also other ways to get O2, like by disassociating water.
However, as raddevus pointed out about the biosphere project, making a long term viable environment is hard. The more closed, the harder.
It takes significant amounts of energy to tear up the bonds between the C and the O2 (and the process is far from 100% efficient). It is like "paying back" the energy you gained by burning the carbon, or the hydrogen.
If you want to do that by electricity from solar panels (with an efficiency in the low 20s - most PV panels sold today are below 20%) you must cover enormous areas with PV panels. We need to calculate the size. And the energy cost of shipping them from earth - I don't think we can expect neither to find the raw materials nor to establish a production plant for PV panels on Mars.
The real problem with this is that, in a colonization situation, you have to rely solely on all the things you bring with you, or on all the things that those things make. Generally, you're talking about a situation in which just about all the components which make up your colony are mission-critical, and there's maybe one or two backups/work-arounds for each one.
It wouldn't take much to kill the colony completely: perhaps two or three simultaneous points of failure - effectively, it's a question of when - not if - you go and kill a whole lot of colonists - perhaps all of them.
We're too used to thinking in terms of living in a relatively robust system which has multiple workarounds built into it to overcome any number of failures; in most cases, you have to actively put yourself into a lethal situation on Earth in order to get killed (statistically speaking, that is).
On Mars, you're in that situation all the time, and you have to actively keep removing yourself from it. Whole different concept.
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