Colonizing Mercury

  • #26
Chronos
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You can't just seed a hostile environment and hope for a miracle. A few isolated patches might manage to survive a single 'season', but, the odds of long term survivor prosperity are grim.
 
  • #27
I don't propose hoping for a miracle. More research needs to be done on selecting the proper microorganisms to release and where exactly to release them. We have incredibly robust bacteria on Earth that are anaerobic, radiation-resistant and radiation-thriving, and hydrogen-oxidizing. With temperate polar zones shielded from the sun (craters) containing water ice and likely organic materials as well, combined with an atmosphere on the surface, it's unreasonable not to consider the possibility that certain microorganisms could survive and flourish in this environment. Afterall, we have extremophiles living inside of nuclear plants and far below the ice in Antartica. It is believed that the Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977 and now soaring through interstellar space, still contains millions of live bacteria spores.
 
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  • #28
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Spore are not metabolizing and will die eventually. They are in hibernation. Life requires chemical energy to continue to function. Even if in the barren wasteland of Mercury there are a few pockets rich in nutrients. What then? The bacteria will eat until they run out of food. Once you break down the nutrients, what's left? Living beings can not exist in space. You either have to have natural processes like volcanos replenishing the nutrients which there are none, or a living biosphere with cycles, which there is none.
 
  • #29
The Voyager spores are out in the freezing cold of interstellar space. Mercury has regions with moderate temperatures. The organisms released on Mercury would be radiation-resistant anaerobic hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria, for example, which would use the hydrogen in Mercury's surface-bound exosphere for energy.
 
  • #30
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anaerobic hydrogen-oxidizing bacteria
And what would it metabolize? The oxygen has to come from somewhere, there aren't very many chemicals with oxygen on Mercury, the oxygen got blasted away when the sun formed. Even if it could find a material that it knew how to metabolize, what then? How would the metabolized oxygen turn back into a raw material without a cycle to replenish it? Forget oxygen, where would the nitrogen come from? All earth life has nitrogen in it, even the extremophiles. How do you grow and reproduce without the atoms you require? Mars is easy, there is nitrogen in the soil. Mercury has none of that.
 
  • #31
Anaerobic bacteria don't require oxygen. They can obtain all their energy from the hydrogen in Mercury's atmosphere.
 
  • #32
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Anaerobic bacteria don't require oxygen.
Very very wrong. Anaerobic means it does not require free oxygen. All earth life requires oxygen, it's one of the atoms that make up our DNA. Same as nitrogen. How can a create a creature made of nitrogen and oxygen atoms reproduce in an environment with only traces of one stored in rocks and none of the other?

They can obtain all their energy from the hydrogen in Mercury's atmosphere.
How? There are no extremophiles that do this. It doesn't even make any sense from a chemistry standpoint. Mercury's atmosphere is made of atomic hydrogen, not molecular hydrogen. Life metabolizes by breaking chemical bonds which releases energy into the life-form, which then gets used for something else. The hydrogen in the atmosphere of Mercury has literally zero chemical energy in it.
 
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  • #33
Molecular[/PLAIN] [Broken] Hydrogen on Mercury

Have a look at the list on the right-hand side of the page.

"Mercury's exospheric hydrogen and helium are believed to come from the Solar wind, while the oxygen is likely to be of crustal origin."
 
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  • #34
Uh... how do we know for certain that there is no life on Mercury and we would be doing the solar system a favor by dropping in our own version(s) of life?
 
  • #35
Correct, we don't know if there is currently life on Mercury, but we will certainly never invest the vast resources necessary to scour every inch of the planet in search of endemic life. Yes, releasing terrestrial bacteria could indeed interfere with any life that may already be there. It's also possible that Mercury is a barren rock waiting to be seeded with life. Either way, we could ensure the existence of sustainable life on a planet other than Earth, which would mark an incredible achievement on the part of mankind. It is the ethically correct thing to do.
 
  • #36
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Molecular[/PLAIN] [Broken] Hydrogen on Mercury

Have a look at the list on the right-hand side of the page.

"Mercury's exospheric hydrogen and helium are believed to come from the Solar wind, while the oxygen is likely to be of crustal origin."
Read the actual wiki you posted. It stated very clearly that the hydrogen in the atmosphere came from the sun. That's atomic hydrogen, it even specifies that it's atomic later in the article. We know what kind of atoms come off of the sun, they are not molecules.

You also haven't responded to the following problems:
When will life get the nitrogen it requires?
How will life pull atoms into it with an atmosphere of 10^−14 bar of pressure?
Where would the oxygen come from (the amount in the air is not enough for a colony to exist)
How would it replace nutrients that it's already metabolized?
Where will it have liquid water to perform it's chemistry? Mercury has ice, not water, and at that pressure, it'll sublimate, not melt.
 
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  • #37
Drakkith
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Thread locked for moderation.
 
  • #38
berkeman
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There have been too many personal assertions of fact without peer-reviewed journal articles offered as supporting references. The Mentor consensus is that this thread will remain closed.
 

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