Water on Mars
March 2, 2004
Almost Clinches It.
The big news tonight is the existence in the past of significant amounts of water on Mars. Additional information will be trickling in over the next week or two as further observations are added to the mix, but so far, it looks like water: 1; other sculpting mechanisms: 0. This raises recollections of the recent lordly arguments that there never was water on Mars: that it was all sculpted by carbon dioxide or by volcanic outpourings.
Mars, Here We Come!
This should boost interest in Mars to a fever pitch, and bolster plans to explore the Red Planet. This also lends credence to the claims a few years ago that the Martian meteorite found in Antarctica might contain fossilized Martian organisms.
Time will tell.
Mars Will, Perforce, Be a Troglodyte's Paradise
If ice is available on Mars, it would greatly simplify the job of establishing a Martian outpost. Any such colony will have to be subterranean in order to protect explorers and colonists from radiation. One could imagine cut-and-cover tunnels, with electric trams running just below the surface. Dirt might even be heaped up over the tunnels, with sunlight piped in fiber-optically or using mirrors that would be transparent to radiation but would reflect sunlight into the "caves of Mars". Solar power, perhaps using concentrators, may play a role on Mars.
Huge periscopes may bring the outdoors indoors.
Surface Equipment Will Probably Be Remotely Controlled from Underground
Remotely controlled freight trains could ply the open surface of Mars. Only human transportation would have to tunnel underground to protect passengers against radiation hazards.
Most of what happens on the surface of Mars will have to be remotely controlled from underground, or performed by semi-autonomous robotic equipment. The development of light-weight earth and rock-moving equipment will probably find a purpose on Mars. (One could use inflatable, or screw-operated jacks to roll rocks out of the way rather than shipping up heavy bulldozers.)
Given Water, Perhaps We Can Come Up with Something Like Concrete
If necessary, we could ship adhesives to Mars, but the identification of a local material that could be mined on Mars and would "set up" like cement would make construction a lot easier. Given the astronomical costs of transportation, we'll want to transport to Mars only the highest-tech items, drawing upon Martian raw materials for Martian construction and manufacturing..
How Often Do Sizable Meteorites Strike Mars?
One Martian hazard might be meteorite strikes. Mars is next-door to the asteroid belt. Still, that shouldn't be too common or we'd have seen more evidence of it already.
All It Will Take is Low-Cost Space Transportation
The key to all this will be low-cost-to-orbit transportation, and space access for the masses.