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Why would we ever terraform if we can develop cyborgs?

  1. Jul 31, 2011 #1
    I know this is slightly speculative, but it is all based on real science so please bear with me.

    I don't get why some people are so interested in terraforming other planets. Wouldn't it be much much easier to develop a medical device that can extract the elements of the planet's atmosphere necessary for human breathing?

    I mean, we already have hearing aids, speech aids, seeing aids (i.e. glasses), etc. Actually we also have breathing aids. All we would need is a breathing aid made for a different environment.

    Maybe it'll take a few centuries before the technology is ready, but surely it would be less time-consuming than terraforming.

    No?
     
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  3. Jul 31, 2011 #2

    Chronos

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    It's not just breathing, there are a host of other factors to consider. One of the principle goals in terraforming is to establish photosynthetic plant life. That eventually resolves the oxygen issue.
     
  4. Aug 1, 2011 #3
    Breathing aids seems like a short term solution. Terraforming, however, solves this problem permanently. Once when you terraform, any colony which you build on the terraformed planet becomes self-sustaining as you can establish photosynthetic plant life.

    The only problem is an ecosystem on Earth is far more complex than we understand it in it's current form.
     
  5. Aug 1, 2011 #4

    Ryan_m_b

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    It's really not. What you are essentially asking for is for someone to invent an ecology that fits into a suit! Do you realise all the necessary interactions our body has to go through with the environment to A) stay healthy and B) develop properly?

    The main reasons people who advocate terraforming do so is because they like the idea of living on planets (obviously if we had the science, technology and industry to terraform a planet it would be far easier and more efficient to make stable ecosystems in giant space habitats). People are quite wedded to the idea of a pioneering colonisation effort on another planet and often don't see past that.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  6. Aug 1, 2011 #5

    FlexGunship

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    I think we should terraform empty space. The hard part is done... coming up with the idea. Now for the easy part: engineering it.
     
  7. Aug 3, 2011 #6
    Even though we would be able to develop a medical device that would make humans able to sustain the harsh atmospheric differences, I don't even think we would make it. The conditions are varying to much. For example the atmoshere on Mars is only 0.4–0.87 kPa and Venus's 9.3 MPa (mega) compared to Earth's pressure 101.325 kPa. Atmospheric change is necessary for sustainable living such as food. A planet have to be self-sufficient. Terraform might look inefficient but it's the best way.
     
  8. Aug 3, 2011 #7
    A few flaws

    1. If the idea was the hardest part and engineering the easiest part, does that mean that some ridiculous idea such as creating something which travels faster than the speed of light is engineerable once we think of this idea.

    2. Technically, terraforming relates to modifying planets, so you cannot "terraform" empty space.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraform

    But in all reality, it will be many, many years before we even get close to starting to terraform our nearest neighbour. We should, instead, take care of our own backyard, our own planet.
     
  9. Aug 3, 2011 #8

    Ryan_m_b

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    Hubewa I think you missed the fact that Flex was being sarcastic. "Now for the easy part: engineering it" probably refers to the fact that simply saying "why terraform when we can cyborg?" doesn't make it a proper fleshed out idea because you're missing out on all the gargantuan details.
     
  10. Aug 3, 2011 #9
    I completely missed that... . Man, it's sometimes difficult to detect sarcasm in text but, in hindsight, that was pretty obvious
     
  11. Aug 6, 2011 #10
    I missed that as well. But I also think it's unfair as the exact same sarcasm could be applied to terraforming. Both the cyborg and terraform solution would likely take centuries before we have the engineering skills.

    In this phase of speculating (or pre-engineering if you will) however, we have a responsibility to think through what would be the most efficient approach. We don't know if terraforming will ever work.

    It's just like discussing if we should send people to Mars or robots to Europa. It's a very important decision we need to make BEFORE we have the engineering skills to actually to do it. Of course planning will come before implementation.
     
  12. Aug 6, 2011 #11

    Ryan_m_b

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    No it is not similar to discussing manned Mars missions and unmanned Europan missions because we have a relevant scientific understanding of the issues good enough to allow a meaningful discussion.

    All we can do with terraforming and sophisticated prosthetics is outline what we don't know that we know we are going to need. This is all. This allows us to roughly suggest areas and technologies that we may need to develop but, crucially, this is a world apart from being able to meaningfully discuss the implementation of the end product.
     
  13. Aug 6, 2011 #12

    I like Serena

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    I don't thing either terraforming or breathing aids are out of reach of current technology (although I wouldn't do it in vacuum just yet ;)).

    If we would go to Mars now, we could terraform *locally*.
    That is, put up a plastic bubble with proper atmosphere, enrich the soil, and start crops.
    In time these plastic bubbles might become bigger and bigger....
    Just start small and don't try to do everything at once.

    At the same time breathing devices can be developed for use on Mars, so people can walk around on Mars outside the plastic bubbles.
    At first it will probably only extend the time you can walk around and in time... anything is possible.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2011
  14. Aug 6, 2011 #13

    Ryan_m_b

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    I'm sceptical that we could even enrich the soils and plant crops as crops need very specific soil conditions as well as a complex ecology to grow well in. It would be an interesting task but it wouldn't scale proportionally to partial or whole terraforming. To build an ecology would take a phenomenal knowledge of the ecome and how it operates. Bigger and bigger greenhouses wont cut it because ultimately they are dependent on an ecology elsewhere.

    It's conceivable that a good enough spacesuit can be designed that would suck the trace amounts of oxygen out of the atmosphere but that sounds really inefficient compared to an oxygen bottle. Also the OP is talking about radical prosthetics integrated into a person to extract all the nutrients they need from the environment. That is far outside of any science we have now.
     
  15. Aug 6, 2011 #14

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    I guess we would have to start on earth and/or the space station, isolate an ecology, and see how well it behaves.
    Now that I think about it, it seems rather likely that experiments like these have already been done.
    And again, it doesn't have to be perfect right away. We just have to start somewhere, and augment it on the way.


    Let's start with small steps that *are* feasible.
    Anyway, I suspect we would have to extract oxygen on Mars, since we can only bring a limited amount with us, and we can extract it from water on Mars.
     
  16. Aug 6, 2011 #15

    Ryan_m_b

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    Whilst this is true the scale is immense. We will need an understanding of how ecologies work and the infrastructure to manipulate them far in excess of today. The difference between something like the Eden project and terraforming is greater than the difference between paper plane making and the Apollo missions.
    Yes but to repeat what Flex has said...
     
  17. Aug 6, 2011 #16

    I like Serena

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    What would happen if we plant seeds on Mars into soil we brought from earth?
    Is there a known reason why the seeds wouldn't grow or wouldn't sustain people?


    At least I know we can make oxygen from water on Mars.
    This only requires a solar panel and water. Electrolysis will do the job.
    Now that I think about it, I think that a spaceship travelling to Mars would bring water, which seems to me the most efficient way to transport oxygen in space.
     
  18. Aug 6, 2011 #17

    Ryan_m_b

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    Well it depends on what you are growing but that small patch of soil wouldn't last long before it was depleted of nutrients. You've also got to make sure that you've got the right soil bacteria for the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil_life#Bacteria". And then there's all the other ecological associations such as the need for pollinators, parasites etc. You can only simplify those systems so far and we don't even know how to extract specific ecologies we would need to sustain the flora/fauna we want.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
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