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Political danger for private space travels?

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Tue Nov 30, 2004 8:30 am
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Political danger for private space travels? 
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Post Political danger for private space travels?   Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 8:30 am
At the german section of the Mars Society today is an article saying that the british Microbiologist Charles Cockell and the german Astrobiologist Gerda Horneck have proposed National Parks at the Mars at which it is forbidden to land or crash robots or men. No modifications, alterings or changes there are allowed.

I suppose this could tend to have severe impacts on explorations of Mars, travels to Mars, future colonizations of the Planet and all industrial and mining projects.

National Parks after detetction of martian life and research of that life - allright if the Parks are not to extended (which these proposed Parks seem to be).



What do you think?



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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 11:36 am
Mars is big enough that you could make half the planet a reservation and still take hundreds of years to properly explore the rest. In that time frame its possible that detection devices from orbit would be sensitive enough not to require anyone going to these "reserves" anyway.

The odd rover crawling across the planet now is not going to upset the entire ecosystem of the planet. I think that conservation should not be allowed to get out of hand so soon.

I notice that people are already talking about preserving the landing sites on the moon, I am in two minds about this as well. While it would be nice that these areas are kept for future generations where does it stop, will we preserve every area visited which means that we only ever visit a place once.

If you are not allowed to go to an area of Mars because it is protected how do you know what you are protecting?

In the case of Mars or moon it would be impossible to set up a base as once visited you could not go back again so infrastructure would never be built up. Also what about today's Mars missions will be preserving the landing sites for future generations or will we be able to study them in greater depth in the future with new instruments.

Perhaps living in London has given me a different view on these things as it is almost impossible to dig a hole in your back garden without unearthing something a couple of hundred years old. :)

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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:03 pm
Alright - I agree to you.

But what about the Greens - will they take the few facts indicating the pure possibility of martian life (atmospherical methane, formaldehyd) as a sufficient political reason to not only assist the proposal but to oppone against any Mars probes too? Back in the seventies they would have done I think - the german Greens at least.

Wouldn't it be advantegous if the space entrepreneurs, firms and trusts together with the government develop their own ideas down to details with the goal to work out better concepts than that of the both scientists? What about a prize for such a concept? WTN XPRIZE or Centennial Challenges? Or an additional prize? ...



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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:51 pm
I dont think that the green party is as strong in the UK as it may be in Germany and they are more concerned with this planet than Mars. I suspect that the Kyoto agreement is much more important to them than any future Mars conservation treaty.

It is not going to be anytime soon that the human race will be in a position to pollute Mars and if there are bacteria on Mars that can survive the radiation levels and extremely thin atmosphere I would have thought that it would be very hard for us to hurt them. When Appollo 12 astronauts recovered parts of a previous robotic mission (surveyer 3 I think) they discovered that bacteria deposited on them by someone sneezing when the craft was assembled on earth had laid dormant until they returned to earth and were re-animated.

I think that it is premature to create legislation yet, its going to be at least a few decades before this problem has to be addressed. Besides it is in the interest of scientists and engineers not to contaminate the area they are trying to study and private industry will not be going to Mars to exploit its resources for a long time.

I'm a little confused, what are you suggesting a prize be awarded for? Developing a conservation treaty or procedure to operate on Mars? :?

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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:07 pm
I am thinking of a prize for methods, procedures, techniques and concepts to explore, travel and live on and colonize a planet possibly bearing life in a manner that leads to results similar to results of the establishment of National Parks protecting that planet.

Such a prize and the methods etc. developed would prevent possible criticisms and prove or at least show that the explorers, travelers and all the firms constructing the equipment are respecting there alien environment.

This way the prize could assist to keep the public perception at a certain level and perhaps increase it. May be the methods etc. can be used on earth too.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:57 pm
I havent seen much evidence that governments care what people think of them (only whether or not votes will be lost). I think that one of the reasons that goverments exist is so that they can be critised by the ordinary person and you could almost say that a government not attracting critism is doing very little, although it would probably be critised for that.

If you asked a hundred people in the street whether they thought Mars legislation was important to safegaurd any possible Mars life most would agree that it was worth doing something. If you then asked those same people whether it was more important to look after our own planet all of them would say that it was. In any choice Mars would come out second. What if the colonisation of Mars were to kill any Mars bacteria, is it more important to save Mars bugs or improve humanities chances of survival from a meterite strike? When in the past a choice arose between humanity and something else, common sense dictates we always choose ourselves; hence the absence of Mammoths and Dodos on our planet.

The USA can do pretty much as it likes at the moment with regard to space exploration, as seen by their recent reconsideration of the treaty limiting nuclear weapons in space. If they think that it is in their interest to opt out or ignore something they do (I believe all governments would act the same given the opportunity:- the UK included).

With no international focal point to determine rules governing Mars exploration and countries being able to ignore anything without consequencies I do not see how any legislation can be enforced. What penalties could you exact on someone breaking the rules anyway?

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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 4:23 pm
I got to thinking about your reasoning for valuing human existence over that of a possible alien life form. I guess you're a typical human. But then I wondered ... how does this human know mars wont bite the big one first?

Why risk destroying something interesting and new and possibly valuable on the basis of what is, at bottom, a giant coin-toss?

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Post    Posted on: Tue Nov 30, 2004 8:34 pm
You are right that there might be something nasty on Mars that could be harmful to humanity but that wont stop us from going there or eradicating it if we need to. We cant help ourself it is in our nature, we are the dominant species on this planet and we are used to this position.

I am not saying that this is right or that I didnt wish we could live more harmoniously with our environment, I just state the facts. Thousands of species have become extinct because of us and whole rain forests have dissappeared because of our actions. Why would we treat anything we found on Mars that didn't agree with us or prevented us from doing what we want any different?

I suspect the wonder of finding life on Mars would soon wear thin if it got in our way.

Perhaps I am over pessimistic about humanity but I dont think so. All the breeding programs and conservation activities exist because we did something to make them necessary. :(

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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 9:16 am
Andy Hill wrote:
You are right that there might be something nasty on Mars that could be harmful to humanity but that wont stop us from going there or eradicating it if we need to. We cant help ourself it is in our nature, we are the dominant species on this planet and we are used to this position.

I think you misunderstood my post. I didn't mean to suggest that mars could have a superbug. It's amazingly unlikely. I meant that, in the context that you suggest we could go to mars just in case earth may be destroyed by an asteroid, what makes you think mars wouldn't get hit first? I don't know whether or not earth is more or less safer from such a catastrophe than mars, but I'll guess it's about equal. Hence the coin toss thing.

Andy Hill wrote:
I am not saying that this is right or that I didnt wish we could live more harmoniously with our environment, I just state the facts. Thousands of species have become extinct because of us and whole rain forests have dissappeared because of our actions. Why would we treat anything we found on Mars that didn't agree with us or prevented us from doing what we want any different?

Because we can learn by our mistakes, that's why we would do things differently. We would, in other words, find a way.

Andy Hill wrote:
I suspect the wonder of finding life on Mars would soon wear thin if it got in our way.

I doubt it. Remember the 20th century? It wasn't that long ago. The trend has, despite many setbacks, gone towards environmental protection against the wishes of corporate greed.

Why do some of you boys persist in thinking that the first steps in planetary population would be under the aegis of private companies unencumbered by moral values inherent to the greater population? Did you never take history classes?

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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 11:49 am
Mars has a similar chance of being struck my a meteorite that Earth has but the chances of them both being struck in a short time scale are considerably higher, its the "all your eggs in the one basket principle" that I was referring to.

I dont think there is much chance of a superbug on Mars either but you never know.

I disagree I think history is littered with examples of humanity repeating its mistakes. The loss of 2 space shuttles for instance, although through different reasons one of the problems was the inability of NASA to listen to people telling them that they had potential problems, another was the pressure that were being applied to managers for financial reasons. NASA spent Billions developing hardware that it then cancelled in mid project before real benefits were seen (X33, X37, X38 and the latest X43), if one had been pursued the CEV programme might have already had hardware, seems like history repeating itself to me.

As for a trend for more environmental protection, that only holds true to some extent, species are still becoming extinct and not all governments will ratify treatys such as Kyoto.

History is littered by greedy people taking what they want from others, I dont believe that there have been to many changes to the human Psyche over the last few decades. There are still plenty of wars going on around the world and refugees exist in their millions.

I hope that I am wrong about humanity but fear that I am not.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 12:58 pm
If Mars and Earth both were right on the course of an asteroid coming from outside the orbit of Mars then Mars will be impacted. If they are both not right in that course but a short way off that course the impact will occur only if the course leads close enough to the planet to be effected by sufficient gravitation.

If there a swarm of asteroids instead of a single rock Mars will be impacted first and remove many of the asteroids this way. But Mars is smaller and has less gravity - the greauter amount of asteroids will impact on earth I suppose.

Propably in most cases the two planets will not be in the course the same time. If Earth will become wasted and Mars not and there are sufficient vehicles and preparations time so much people will go to Mars that the National Parks will be removed. A selection of people won't be possible for many reasons I think - one is complexity of interdependencies.

Repeating mistakes? Both yes and no as it seems to me - it seems to be merely a repetition of results than of ways, methods etc. Errors and mistakes are detected - then the causes have been analyzed one day and the methods of doing things have been modified, changed or substituted - in the hope only that it won't be new errors and mistakes. It only can be hopes because the future is open, probable or likely only and allways only a small percentage of interdependencies is known. So they are intended repetitions of bad results mostly I suppose.

May it be relevant and important to search for improvements, better ways, techniques and alternative methods?



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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 1:52 pm
Andy Hill wrote:
I disagree I think history is littered with examples of humanity repeating its mistakes. The loss of 2 space shuttles for instance, although through different reasons one of the problems was the inability of NASA to listen to people telling them that they had potential problems, another was the pressure that were being applied to managers for financial reasons.

Yes, history is littered with repeated mistakes. By folks who don't see the value in learning from past experience. Your example is pretty poor though. The shuttles were lost for different reasons, they weren't mistakes per se, just catastrophic experiences (each vastly different from the other in how they precipitated) we have since learned from. Now if the second shuttle was lost due to an o-ring failure ... you would have a point with that specific example.

I guess you are resigned to a probability that humans are doomed to mess up life elsewhere "if it gets in the way", and in being so resigned you seem prepared to accept it as all part of the necessary survival of the human race. It's a good thing lots more people think otherwise.

Andy bashes NASA wrote:
NASA spent Billions developing hardware that it then cancelled in mid project before real benefits were seen (X33, X37, X38 and the latest X43), if one had been pursued the CEV programme might have already had hardware, seems like history repeating itself to me.

It's tiring to hear people beating up on NASA for very stupid reasons when there are clear and valid reasons to do so. You make it sound like the engineers have short attention spans, or as if publicly funded hardware development exists in a vacuum totally isolated from the realities of being publicly funded.

Andy wrote:
As for a trend for more environmental protection, that only holds true to some extent, species are still becoming extinct and not all governments will ratify treatys such as Kyoto.

That it holds true at all makes the point. Examples where universal accord is not reached are easy to dig up. Think of mines (the explosive ones) as another example. But the world still works towards the ends being resisted. Nobody is giving up. The key is that governments (and their ideologies) change (sometimes slowly) but the pressure to deal with problems common to multiple governments generally outlast the individual governments.

Mars is extremely unlikely to be subject to a hell-for-leather colonization if extra-terrestrial life were discovered there. Even if people do colonize mars, it wont be because their thinking of the cosmic russian roulette game.

DKH

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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 2:12 pm
what you say appears to be true we are already finding new ways to investigate Mars (see link), what about crashing meteors into it or setting off underground nuclear bombs;- seems like a plan. Like I said, its in our nature to change things so that they favour our existence, I wish it were otherwise.


http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/redplanet.html


The failure of NASA is not learning that it does not have all the answers and to be willing to listen to outside people (as the Aldridge report stated). This same mistake was made with both Shuttle disasters and I believe the Mars orbiter that burnt up in the Marsian atmosphere. The same failure in all 3 instances - Lack of communication.

Irrespective of my "NASA Bashing" I believe that it is capable of doing amazing things and well worth the money it gets, however it also has the ability to dissappoint by the same margin.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 5:10 pm

Hey interesting link. But ... and I'm not trying to start a flamewar ... I think we're having a fairly animated discussion here ... (I have to say something encouraging now because around about this point people get tired of the thread and begin to whine because they don't have the brains to stop visiting it.) ... anyway, to continue ... but ...

It's written by a fiction writer. He's basically supporting the thesis he put forward in his fiction. For a brief moment I thought you had found some weird-ass white paper ... and that would have been really interesting ... but no, it was just a guy on the fringe who writes fiction really really well.

Oh well.

Andy 'kpow' Hill wrote:
The failure of NASA is not learning that it does not have all the answers and to be willing to listen to outside people (as the Aldridge report stated). This same mistake was made with both Shuttle disasters and I believe the Mars orbiter that burnt up in the Marsian atmosphere. The same failure in all 3 instances - Lack of communication.

Hell of a broad brush you're using there ... by the minutest extension you could fit "lack of communication" to the root of every single technological snafu there ever was. Those mistakes are not repeats of one another, they are different mistakes (and that interpretation is debatable for two of them) made by the same organization, its historical repetition of error that we were talking about. Your interpretation means that every mistake ever made since Thog accidentally banged his hand with a sharpened stone has been a historical repetition of error.

DKH

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Post    Posted on: Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:11 pm
like I said humanity is doomed to keep making the same mistakes and Thog was probably no different to us. :)

Even though it was a SI-FI writer postulating ideas it makes you wonder what people are capable of though dosn't it? These wild ideas often have a way of coming true, although I hope not in this case.

There was an article dealing a bit with conservation (the original thread) I saw in the same journal, see link

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/germ.html

In it the person details some of the lengths that NASA goes through to clense their spacecraft before they send them off to other planets. The precautions were quite impressive up to the point she describes a picture of an astronaut on the moon's surface with a cloud of water vapour coming out of the space suit's exhaust system containing all sorts of bugs.

You're right about being bored with the thread. I dont really want to be caste in the role of "NASA basher", I think they have enough detracters without me adding to the general carping. I hope the recent changes they seem to be making gets them away from feasibility studies and start them producing hardware again.

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