Solar radiation: We live within the envelope of Earth’s electro-magnetic dynamo, protected from the life-destroying short-wave radiation our star is constantly spewing. Over time (billions of years) this has helped create a relatively stable atmosphere and biosphere; stable enough for the life we know on Earth.
Despite this stability, of course, we know the star-energy we eventually consume as food and water to be scarce as such conditions are coded at the cellular level (and since we’re being depressively realistic, there’s vulcanism, earthquakes, cold, heat, other people, parasites and viruses to contend with). Such facts define us as does the occasional catastrophic event and the eventual catastrophe awaiting each of us. There’s love, friendship, knowledge, music, hope, beauty and a whole world to explore.
Okay, enough of that for now.
Zero or altered gravity: On the surface of Earth, we live x units away from a mass ball at the bottom of a gravity well. In space, we wouldn’t feel this force at all, and on Mars we would feel it about 40%. What if blood vessels contract/expand or slowly atrophy in zero Gs for reasons yet unknown? What if this dims your vision slowly, over time, and impairs cognitive functioning, especially during the reproductive process, pregnancy or early childhood? Wouldn’t you like to know this before it starts happening to you on the six-months-plus journey to Mars?
Once we know about such problems, we can figure out some solutions.
If there is life on Mars (a possibility, still, as of 2019), it’s probably microbial, living on an energy source beneath the surface. Up top, all that solar radiation has created a toxic layer of perchorates, oxidized, rusted dust and rocks, apparently hostile to life as we know it.
Imagine a place colder than Antarctica, drier than the driest desert, with so little atmosphere the atmosphere’s barely there. The EM dynamo and envelope petered out long ago. You look around and see a barren landscape, familiar yet strange; alien.
Imagine, one morning, stepping from a rover on an exploratory mission, feeling a deep nervous tension and excitement. You focus in on the scripted tasks and procedures the next few minutes require.
You know that if your suit becomes compromised, your blood would alternately freeze/boil and you’d die almost instantly. You know some little, unplanned problem can become a big problem. Any sort of help/supply lines would be pretty much impossible, at least six months but at least a year in coming, and probably not coming at all.
Yet, here you are:
As posted: It looks like Gale Crater has its advantages.
‘Research suggests habitable conditions in the Yellowknife Bay area may have persisted for millions to tens of millions of years. During that time rivers and lakes probably appeared and disappeared. Even when the surface was dry, the subsurface likely was wet, as indicated by mineral veins deposited by underground water into fractures in the rock. The thickness of observed and inferred tiers of rock layers provides the basis for estimating long duration, and the discovery of a mineral energy source for underground microbes favors habitability throughout.’
You can also watch a 12/05/13 press briefing from JPL discussing those papers above. These rocks are much newer than the older wet period theorized.
They’re more focused on the search for organic carbon, now, within the environments they’ve discovered.
Why was Mt. Sharp chosen for the Curiosity Rover landing site, and what about those rounded stones that it photographed, indicative of long ago ankle to hip-deep water? If the Martian surface is likely so full of perchlorates and life-hostile, irradiated soil, what are the chances of pockets of microbial life below ground?
The discussion later moves to Venus, Jovian moon Io, and the Chinese lander on the dark side of the moon in the final minutes:
Event Horizon discussion with Emily Lakdawalla.
Imagine sub-freezing temperatures and free radicals bombarding the near atmosphere-less Martian surface (oxidized and rusted red, barren), but below the Martian surface lurk big blocks of briny ice; ice with freezing cold, incredibly salty water around them and maybe just enough O2 to support some microbes.
Worth thinking about.
What are you doing with your imagination?
‘Due to the scarcity of O2 in the modern Martian atmosphere, Mars has been assumed to be incapable of producing environments with sufficiently large concentrations of O2 to support aerobic respiration. Here, we present a thermodynamic framework for the solubility of O2 in brines under Martian near-surface conditions. We find that modern Mars can support liquid environments with dissolved O2 values ranging from ~2.5 × 10−6 mol m−3 to 2 mol m−3 across the planet, with particularly high concentrations in polar regions because of lower temperatures at higher latitudes promoting O2 entry into brines’