It’s springtime at the asylum…

“I believe it’s roughly a 50/50 chance that young children now alive will walk on martian meadows…will swim in martian lakes,” Wood said. It is not technology, nor money, he said, the pacing ingredient is marshaled will.


Scientist Calls Mars a Terraforming Target for 21st Century

This little gem actually stumped me for awhile. The premise, that we could actually terraform Mars in less than 50 years, is so laughable that I didn’t know where to begin. But I knew that I had to – because it is precisely the serving of this sort of Kool-Aid that we Cynics are railing against on a regular basis. Who holds these sorts of modern day shysters accountable for spewing forth such fables in the guise of seriousness? What of the lives they ruin by convincing some young naive person to pursue a life of Mars terraforming, only to find out 30 years later after a wasted career in a dead-end area, that “oops”, it was all a pipe dream?

There are plenty of good areas to be working in to actually advance the cause of space development, and research, without spewing such drivel – eminent scientist in a totally unrelated field notwithstanding. The only way “young children now alive will walk on martian meadows…will swim in martian lakes” is if they accidentally get frozen, a la Fry, and wake up in the year 3000.

11 thoughts on “It’s springtime at the asylum…

  1. Damn, Shubber, you beat me to it!

    What’s worse, people had to pay at least $1600, plus airfare and fancy Aspen, CO hotel for three days, to hear this drivel.

    Even the event host, Esther Dyson, the tech-investor guru who nevertheless checks her due-diligence at the door when it comes to firms, was skeptical of this bit, with her comment that VCs would not be interested. (Well, yeah, I GUESS….LOL)

  2. Shubber, Tom, Oldspacecadet and everyone:

    The Mars Terraforming article, the subject of this excellent post by Shubber, has spawned many responses across platforms. I have the permission to share the comments of Dr. John Mankins on this particular article/Wood suggestion. John is internationally recognized as a successful leader in space systems and technology innovation.
    In his most recent position at NASA, he was the manager of the Exploration Systems Research and Technology (ESR&T) Theme within the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

    John sent out this note to a discussion group of which I am a member. Again, its repeated here with John’s permission.

    Did anyone look at the article recounting Lowell Wood’s claim that Mars can be terraformed within the next century or less, over on Space.Com…?
    It’s Wood’s assertion, NOT’s…so please understand that I do NOT fault for reporting his statement.
    However, Wood’s claim is utterly ridiculous. This kind of specious claim from someone of stature is very detrimental.
    The sheer volume of atmosphere to be “changed” from near vacuum to “Earth normal” is so stupendous that this claim is absurd on it’s face. Even the entire industrial output of the Earth (6 billions of people, on the way to 9 billions), consuming millions of years and giga-tons of fossil fuels and oxygen already in the atmosphere, will only change the Earth’s atmosphere by a few degrees in temperature by the end of the century. Of course, in our case, that’s a big deal–because we are so close to the point of “phase change” for the polar ice caps. However, Mars has almost no atmosphere, no billions of people pumping out gases as part of their economy, no millions of years of stored fossil fuels, and is no where near the “tipping point” for its frozen climate….
    Moreover, the probability that the population of the world–and that’s what it would take–would turn all of it’s efforts to terraforming Mars in the next several decades is vanishingly small.
    I believe in being visionary, not hallucinatory…

    John, thanks for allowing me to post your comments on Space-Cynics.

    Professor L

  3. Fifty years? Yes, that’s totally preposterous. Changing an entire planet from a frozen, depressurized, toxic iceball into a verdant garden world where lovers can run through the fields at sunset would require 55 years at the very least. 🙂

  4. Heh! And I thought Zubrin’s 1000 years was fast! (I’m leaning towards a hundred times that!)

    But terraforming timetables aside, where would he get the money to turn a rusty, dusty desert world into a paradise?

  5. It would seem a double waste of money: Spend all that dough learning how to live and work on Mars, then wreck the whole thing rapidly changing the climate with probably unforeseeable effects. You might build a whole pressurized city, and then it’s flooded or ripped apart by hurricanes because you’re trying to terraform. What do you do between the nice, placid near-vacuum stage and the nice, placid meadow stage? Mars would be a maelstrom, flooding, muddying, tornadoing, quicksanding, hurricaning, and sink-holing all over the place for centuries.

  6. I thought that without a significant magnetic field, and c. 40% earth gravity, that any atmosphere on Mars would leak away faster than we could replace it.

    It would be far cheaper to live in mythical domed cities, or under ground.

  7. Science fiction surely, but with nanotech and engineered organisms promising technical revolutions we can scarcely imagine, nay-saying seems like the wrong profession to be in….

  8. nay-saying seems like the wrong profession to be in….

    Nay-saying, or as we like to refer to it, calling bullshit on kool-aid predictions of near-term amazing feats, is a worthwhile endeavor because if we can help steer the conversation to the areas that are in fact not based on science fiction but based on reality, perhaps we can actually get humanity into space sooner, rather than later (or not at all).

  9. I thought that without a significant magnetic field,

    Adding an artificial magnetic field to the planet (by wrapping a great many superconducting cables along latitude lines), while extremely challenging, is probably one of the easier parts of terraforming it.

  10. Is a magnetic field even necessary? Water breaks down on a vastly slower timescale than it would be dumped into the atmosphere through evaporation and new deliveries, and developing a food/fertilizer additive to block most of the additional DNA damage would be a lot simpler. Under a reasonably thick atmosphere, it wouldn’t even be a necessity for a person, just another “vitamin” to take for longevity.

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