Tag Archives: Mars

Mars Needs Children!

Everyone’s seeing Red for the next millennium. Will our children be living on the red planet? (First published on Technocopia in 1999. Remember it’s partly future history now.)

Events are heating up in the space race and our nearest planetary neighbor is the target. Mars has been of interest to scientists and writers for decades. Now, more than ever, exploration is taking place, as well as educational programs and developmental projects in the hopes of colonizing Mars in the near future.

NASA, the Planetary Society, the Mars Society, as well as individual groups and organizations, are encouraging interest in colonizing Mars. The children learning about it today could be manning those first missions planned for 2020-2030. That’s only twenty years! (Or ten, now.)

The big questions being asked are:

  • Does Mars still have water (frozen beneath its crust)?
  • Is there any life form from microbe to bigger evident on the planet?
  • Can we afford to economically, ethically and physically send manned missions to Mars?
  • Can Mars sustain an artificially generated environment?
  • Can it be colonized in the future?

On December 3, NASA’s Polar Lander will land on Mars. This is the just the beginning of Mars exploration. The Planetary Society’s microphone, as well as the Deep Space 2 microprobes, on the exploratory vessel will record any sounds. These recordings will be available several days after the landing on Mars and broadcast through the society’s Planetfest ’99 program so that people can listen to the first sounds ever heard from the Red Planet.

At least two soil/info-gathering missions will be launched from 2001 on; the Mars Surveyor 2001 Orbiter and Lander. It will land on Mars in 2002 with the first soil samples returning in 2003. More samples will come in four-year intervals afterward. The analyses on these will tell if there is past or present life and what minerals make up Martian soil. Scientists now believe that all the planet’s water is still there, but buried as permafrost and beneath that a liquid water table kilometers deep.

Will We Destroy Before We Create?

There are probably not many planetary environmentalists yet but the possibility of Martian soil samples containing microbes that could contaminate and wreak worldwide havoc on Earth is already being considered. As well, there is some concern that Earth vehicles landing on other planets might carry microbes that could contaminate and destroy alien life before we have a chance to study it. It’s less than five years until Martian soil arrives on Earth.

It’s argued that Earth microbes couldn’t contaminate Mars because:

  • Atmospheric pressure is so low that any liquid would boil away to vapor
  • Atmosphere is so thin that solar ultraviolet light has sterilized Mars’s surface
  • Most of the planet’s surface is below freezing

Most probes and launchers starting with the Viking landers were baked for 40 hours at 112 degrees C, but considering the strong anti-oxidants in the Martian surface, it was decided that only on “life-detection” landers will sterilization be necessary. This leaves less possibility of contaminating a sample with possible “chemical fossil” or microbes from Earth left on a lander. However, any manned mission would complicate the possibility of contaminants. Germs would escape from an airlock opening; likewise any waste produced by a mission would have the same problem. The first manned missions would most likely have astronauts in orbit around the planet while sterilized machines gathered data and transported it back to the space stations or ships. Testing in underwater volcanic regions and beneath Antarctica’s ice is already underway to simulate possible situations on Mars.

Optimists like Robert Zubrin, former Lockheed Martin engineer and now president of the Mars Society, say that the first manned mission could be in ten years. NASA takes a more conservative approach and believes manned missions will begin around 2014-2020, with the first manned team launching in 2018. They hope to have the Mars team stay on the planet for a year and a half. That’s at least a five-year mission for any astronaut.

Looking to the Future

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley, launched the Mars Millennium Project in August. Partially sponsored by the Planetary Society, it involves “artists, scientists, and astronauts,” as well as school age children. Over 40,000 schools and youth organizations have already signed up to participate in designing a possible community and its needs for 100 colonizers to live on Mars in 2030. That’s a great way to get tomorrow’s citizens participating in missions to Mars and other planets.

Buzz Aldrin, the second person to set foot on the moon thirty years ago, is highly supportive of the Mars projects and hopes to be on one of the manned missions in 2012. He has a patent for a space station that will orbit Earth and Mars. He believes future funding will come from many areas including the “liberal arts community” and sees Mars as viable not only for exploration but as a tourist resource.

BBC and China Online report that China is also getting into the race for the Red Planet. Reports say that China is looking at manned missions to the moon and Mars by 2005, but with China’s secrecy about their space program it is difficult to find supporting documentation.

MIT graduates and students entered a Mars contest this summer with a business plan for Mars exploration. NASA definitely is planning for the future and priming people from school children to graduates into thinking of ways to generate funding and consider habitation solutions. According to CNN writer Robin Lloyd the Think Mars group, organized by Boston graduate students, first entered a NASA contest with a “goal to complete a business plan for human exploration of Mars in accordance with NASA’s objectives.”

Today’s children will be tomorrow’s Mars pioneers. Mars exploration opens up so many new fields of technology from making oxygen to how a life form alien to an environment can thrive many light years from home. Move over, Star Wars. Mars is real and getting closer every day.

The problems facing Mars colonization:

  • Requiring anywhere from $40 billion to $450 billion in funding
  • Psychological effects on astronauts so far from Earth physically and emotionally
  • Physical effects on astronauts in a sustained low-gravity environment
  • How to generate enough fuel, food and oxygen for the trip, which could take up to 26 months
  • Contamination of the planet by Earth microbes that could kill any existing organisms and the ethical consequences of destroying a new life form
  • Microbes, bacteria or radiation detrimental to plants or humans that are native to Mars
  • Not able to make a sustainable oxygen rich environment

The solutions and benefits to colonizing Mars:

  • Discovering other life and a better understanding of the universe
  • Building a space station to manufacture and process samples and equipment
  • Exploration landers are being sent up beginning in 2001 to carry out tests on the environment and to bring back soil samples
  • A MIPPP (Mars In-Situ Propellant Production Precursor) is already being tested that can generate oxygen out of a simulated Mars-thin atmosphere.
  • Space Station MIR has already given valuable information on prolonged space dwelling and its affects on the human body
  • Support of government, scientific, educational and commercial/corporate bodies in funding space exploration
  • Continued technology and ethical concerns for any preexisting life on both Mars and Earth

 Some sites:

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Writing Antithesis: Shine and Catastrophia

There are always anthologies coming and going. Unlike a magazine that comes out regularly, an anthology is a collection of stories by different authors often with a theme. They’re usually in book format as opposed to a paper magazine or an e-zine format, and they are one ofs.

This is much easier to do than deal with a magazine, continuous sales and subscriptions. Both types have their place of course. It’s something I want to do, some day edit an anthology. But until I can convince a publisher of the idea or get a bigger name, I think it’s going to have to wait. The problem with anthologies published in Canada is, that unless they’re distributed in the US, we just don’t have the population basis to sell enough. For that reason, most publishers shy from anthologies.
Two interesting anthologies coming up in Europe (though anyone can submit to them) actually are the antithesis of each other.

Dutch writer and editor Jetse de Vries will be editing Shine, an anthology due out in 2010 by Solaris Books. He’s not accepting submissions until May but that gives plenty of time to write a story specific to the theme. Shine is about shiny futures, the realm of optimistic SF. Often stories dealing with new technologies in the future end up with dire consequences. Shine is to be convincing and optimistic and of the near future (within the next 50 years).

There has of late been a movement in SF to write realistic near-future works, something that could or will possibly happen. No alien invasions, no faster than light travel, no transporters, but more of perhaps setting up a colony on the moon and the research required, or missions to Mars. These are aspects of space travel that NASA is seriously working on (as well as other space agencies) and they hope to have a manned Mars mission by 2030.

The name for this type of science fiction (which my brain can never seem to remember) is mundane SF. I guess it’s because I have connotations of mundane as being boring but there are two definitions:

1. everyday, ordinary, and therefore not very interesting
2. relating to the world or worldly matters

Obviously it is the second meaning that refers to the anthology and to the subgenre of mundane SF. I tried writing one story and I did find it hard, partly because I tend to write dark fantasy more often than SF. But then I realized I just finished a novelette that is in fact mundane SF. I don’t know if it will be shiny enough for Jetse but I’ll have to work on it and polish it and see how bright it looks. For full information on Shine, go to: http://shineanthology.wordpress.com/category/guidelines/

PS Publishing, out of England will be publishing Catastrophia. Edited by Allen Ashley, this anthology centers around post-apocalyptic fiction, disasters and catastrophes. Although hope and light can also come of such tropes in horror and SF, it’s not always as likely. If anything though, these tales start in a darker place.

Whereas Jetse isn’t accepting submissions until May, Allen is accepting now with a closing date of May or when full, whichever comes first. The theme of mundane SF could also be applied to this anthology since the aspects of disasters pertain to life on Earth, and that Allen Ashley wants them to be treated in a “modern manner.” No historical pieces here though modern or slightly futuristic will work. Of course, it’s possible he’d look at a futuristic post-apocalyptic world and the societies and cultures that would develop then. Full guidelines can be found here: http://news.pspublishing.co.uk/2008/09/09/catastrophia-anthology-call-for-submissions/

Between Shine and Catastrophia, there is something for everyone: the optimistic and the fatalistic, or perhaps fatalism with an uplifting end. Many anthologies don’t pay much. Pay could be a cent a word, fifty bucks, a share of royalties should the anthology actually sell. Catastrophia and Shine will both be paying professional rates.

I’ll probably give both of these a try. A themed anthology is always a good way to push the envelope and write something new. Like that one mundane SF I wrote about a mission to Mars; it was a challenge. I had to do a fair amount of research and extrapolating. But it was fun too and though I think that I hit both meanings of mundane, I did finish the story. But I need to do something else to it first to give it a bit more vim. And I’ll start thinking of something for Shine and Catastrophia.

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