Colonizing Mercury

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I thought about some hydroponics garden for recycling.


A bit offtopic, but Mercury colonisation was also mentioned here.
I read that Messenger was protected from the heat and radiation by sunshades and heat shields.
Could this method also work on the sunny surface of Mercury? Or no, because there is heat all around.
Or only if the machine is completely in some black box, and no access outside?
The poles of Mercury are best suited for colonization due the large water ice craters there and the planet's lack of axial tilt. This keeps the temperature moderate and protects against radiation. I've been campaigning for years to have a 1-pound vat of the most resistant anaerobic extremophile microbes released on each of Mercury's poles. Although it would not be human colonization, there would be sustainable life on Mercury.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #4
There are microbes on Earth that would proliferate in that environment. We just need to get them there first.
 
  • #5
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There are microbes on Earth that would proliferate in that environment.
That is the statement where I asked for a source. How can you be sure that microbes could live and reproduce there? Where is a peer-reviewed study showing this?
 
  • #6
I don't know of any peer-reviewed studies specifically concerning microbial life on Mercury. However, Bacillus subtilis 168 and Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 are considered to be among the hardiest microorganisms that exist and have proven their robustness in a number of long-term experiments simulating the harsh conditions of other planets and outer space. They ought to be able to survive in temperate zones on Mercury with water ice and protection from ratiation. The fact is that we'll never know for sure until we take action and release the microbes and check back a few years later. Mercury is the most reasonable target out there at present, with all other promising planets and moons being on the planetary protection list. Mercury is not (yet), which is why we need to act now. The money it would cost should be viewed in the grand scheme of human history. A few billion dollars here or there, we would have the certainty that life, regardless of how simple, exists somewhere else besides Earth. It would be the most profound accomplishment in the history of mankind.

Removed politics - mfb
 
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  • #7
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no politics here please.
 
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  • #8
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I don't know of any peer-reviewed studies specifically concerning microbial life on Mercury.
Then don't make claims that are not backed by actual science.

There are huge differences between "it can survive for a while - if we put it back in normal conditions it is still living", "it can survive and show activity", and "it can gain energy and reproduce".

If life from Earth could survive and reproduce there (and I see absolutely no indication of that), there could be life now. The fact that Mercury doesn't get special protection shows that all the experts disagree with your opinion that life would work there.
we would have the certainty that life, regardless of how simple, exists somewhere else besides Earth.
Now something no one apart from you expects becomes a certainty? That's not how it works.
Also, we have this certainty already - all our space probes have long-living spores in them.

Please leave politics out here, I removed that part.
 
  • #9
"Complete Course in Astrobiology" by Horneck/Rettberg, page 206/207. There is a free downloadable PDF online....

"The potential for Mercury to host life is very low but not completely negligible. Although the temperature range experienced at its surface is extreme, there are some regions where ice has been predicted, or observed, to occur. Radar images of the Polar Regions have been interpreted as showing the presence of water ice, and where there is ice there is the possibility of water and thus the possibility of life. In addition, the lack of tectonic activity on Mercury might allow organic molecules (delivered by comets and asteroids) to be preserved on the surface within the regolith. It is known from observations of extremophile microorganisms on Earth that there are some microbes that thrive in high-radiation environments (see Chapter 5). Indeed, there are some microorganisms that survive inside nuclear plants, and so the surface radiation of Mercury might hold no fears for such organisms."
 
  • #10
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That is in no way backing your claims.

The potential is very low - for organisms that evolved there, and had billions of years time to adapt to the conditions there. It is even lower to completely negligible for Earth-based life not adapted to those conditions.
Radiation is not an issue for some organisms - so what? Mercury is not Earth with higher radiation levels, it is a completely different environment.
 
  • #11
It does not state that there is potential for life only for organisms that evolved there. The book clearly suggests that some extremophile microbes on Earth (such as the ones living in nuclear plants) may be able to survive in some areas of Mercury. Given the discovery of water ice, organic materials, and moderate underground temperatures, it seems reasonable that some radiation-resistant anaerobic Earth microbes could in fact survive there.
 
  • #12
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It does not state that there is potential for life only for organisms that evolved there.
It also doesn't state that Paris is a town in France. It is not about what is not said.
The book clearly suggests that some extremophile microbes on Earth (such as the ones living in nuclear plants) may be able to survive in some areas of Mercury.
It does not do this, and "may be able" is a very weak statement anyway - it just says we cannot fully rule out something.
 
  • #13
You misunderstood. You stated "The potential is very low - for organisms that evolved there, and had billions of years time to adapt to the conditions there." I meant that nowhere does it state that this potential is limited to organisms that evolved on Mercury.
"It does not do this.." Interesting how you interpret that statement. May I ask (respectfully) if English is your native language?
 
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  • #14
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I meant that nowhere does it state that this potential is limited to organisms that evolved on Mercury.
I also don't see why it should state that. I think the statement is clearly about life that might exist there. There is simply no statement made about life from elsewhere. The radiation hardness of microbes on Earth is discussed to establish that it is possible to survive the radiation doses there.
May I ask (respectfully) if English is your native language?
It is my second language. So what?
I'm working with scientific English every day.
 
  • #15
Hmm, I guess I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on the language question. If you're near Frankfurt/Wiesbaden we could further discuss this over a beer.
So do we at least agree that some Earth-based anaerobic microbes could survive the radiation exposure on Mercury? If so, what in your opinion would cause the microbes to die off if not the radiation, temperature, lack of oxygen, or lack of water?
 
  • #16
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I've been campaigning for years to have a 1-pound vat of the most resistant anaerobic extremophile microbes released on each of Mercury's poles. Although it would not be human colonization, there would be sustainable life on Mercury.
Why would you campaign for such a thing? Nobody with any say in space policy will listen to that request. It is in severe violation of an international treaty (the Outer Space Treaty) , the planetary protection policy of international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), of the planetary protection policy of the German Space Agency's Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrtmedizin - Astrobiologie, and of the NASA Office of Planetary Protection. Even if you did convince the German space agency to do that, that treaty (to which Germany is a signatory) is still there to get in your way. The treaty specifically invites NASA's Office of Planetary Protection to go knocking on the door of the German Space Agency and ask them to rethink what they are doing.

This thread is about Mars, not Mercury, so please stay on topic.

The concept of planetary protection is on topic with regard to Mars, if discussed in the context of the exploration of Mars. (Note well: Current planetary protection policies might be a showstopper when it comes to human exploration of Mars.)
 
  • #17
I'll respond to your comments before we get back to discussing Mars. I don't campaign for this in Germany. There is a network of investors in China, India, Russia that can be leveraged for funding. Ideally it would be a Chinese probe sent to land on Mercury for research. The Chinese government would be paid to carry along the vats of microbes and release them in the craters. Unlike Mars, Mercury is not covered by the planetary protection treaty.
 
  • #18
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So do we at least agree that some Earth-based anaerobic microbes could survive the radiation exposure on Mercury?
Yes.
If so, what in your opinion would cause the microbes to die off if not the radiation, temperature, lack of oxygen, or lack of water?
I'm not an expert, but I guess you are not one either.

Can we agree on "it is not known if microbes from Earth would be able to survive and replicate on Mercury"?
 
  • #19
I'd agree with that, and add that we should try to find out.
 
  • #20
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Unlike Mars, Mercury is not covered by the planetary protection treaty.
That is true, currently. Mercury is in Category I (no protection is warranted and no planetary protection requirements are imposed). However, from https://planetaryprotection.arc.nasa.gov/solarsystem/bodies,

"Reassessment of the planetary protection concerns for Mercury are underway due to the recent discovery of water ice and organics by the MESSENGER mission."​

China, India, and Russia are all signatories to the outer space treaty and are members of COSPAR.
 
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  • #21
Thanks for that link. Based on that list, it seems that the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos as well as the Jovian moon Io are not subject to planetary protection requirements.
 
  • #22
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This still seems like the archeologists who used dynamite to open ancient tombs. You get a nice study, but destroy everything that was there in the process. Forget treaties and laws, laws are meaningless. The laws of ancient Rome mean absolutely nothing today, why would you think future generations would care what our laws were at the time? All they will see is that you destroyed the natural environment of Mercury for the sake of just planting life? We are not gods, we are not titans, we are scientists. You seem to have some sort of god complex: let's create life just because we can.

Observe, but do not interfere. Any science that doesn't do everything possible to minimize contamination is bad science.

Also, they won't survive. What would they metabolize? There are no hydrocarbons there. Life can't just be set lose on a planet and be expected to survive. Life destroys its environment. You have to have cycles to balance it out. What happened to Earth when photosynthetic bacteria evolved? Nothing at first, then they started to choke themselves because they pumped out poisonous oxygen. There is also no liquid water. Just because a bacteria can survive being frozen is not the same as it living in ice. On earth, ice-bound bacteria either go into hybernation when they're frozen or exist in super salty pockets. On mercury, the ice never melts so it'll die in hybernation, and it has no atmosphere, so any liquid evaporates immediately.
 
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  • #23
I don't view the proliferation of life as contamination. What good is Mercury to us as a barren rock? If it has the conditions to support life, let's get the ball rolling and not leave things to chance. I realize you have a different opinion. However, I dispute some of the claims you made about a lack of atmosphere, lack of water, and lack of anything to metabolize.
Actually, Mercury does have an atmosphere, more specifically a surface-bound exosphere containing hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, calcium, potassium, and water vapor. Atmosphere of Mercury
With regard to metabolization, hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria, which use hydrogen (H2) as a source of energy, could be transported to Mercury. Hydrogen-Oxiziding Bacteria
 
  • #24
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According to wiki lore, some extremophiles can barely withstand martian conditions for a while, but dont reproduce, what makes you think a planet without any air is better?
 
  • #25
It's very cold on Mars. The average temperature is -67 degrees Fahrenheit. While some extremophiles likely would not survive on Mars, it is believed that others would, especially in the more temperate regions favorable to sustaining microscopic life. This is why such precaution is taken to sterilize everything sent to Mars.
Mercury is a completely different ballgame. First of all, not all microorgamisms require air to survive. As I wrote above, Mercury's surface-bound exosphere contains hydrogen, oxygen, water vapor, and other molecules. From space.com: "Messenger's neutron spectrometer spotted hydrogen, which is a large component of water ice. But the temperature profile unexpectedly showed that dark, volatile materials – consistent with climes in which organics survive – are mixing in with the ice."
 

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