Mars vs. Venus

The illustrated novel by Sandi and Jennifer

Mars vs. Venus

Postby Volair » Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:10 am

Let's have a thread about the comparative difficulties and benefits of terraforming Venus vs. Mars!

Case for Venus:
Same size as Earth: thus, same gravity, no need to solve the "escaping air" problem.
Closer to sun means orbital solar platforms get way more juice.
Venus all but certainly good and sterile, as compared with Mars which probably has a few old viruses or molds lying around...
Flight will be aided by denser atmosphere.

Case for Mars:
Can survive on surface in little more than a wet suit and a parka. No, you can't live on it in a MOTHERFARGNAXING* TENT like in Mission to Mars, but surprisingly enough a kevlar greenhouse might work out okay.
Flight will be aided by the air not being hot enough to melt solder joints.
Instead of having to figure out how to fix Earth's greenhouse effect in order to make Mars liveable, all we'd really have to do is run the greenhouse effect forwards, full tilt, until the ice caps melted and flowed back into the channels. (Of course we still have to keep Mars from evaporating off its atmosphere, but causing a greenhouse effect might be easier than shutting one off.


From these thoughts I arrive at another: Venus is where you go if you've got any kind of a budget. If you can afford protective mech suits, if you can afford bulky, dense launches and large construction efforts, you go to Venus. If, on the other hand, your space program is barely more advanced than our own turn-of-the-century British-flavored-Xanatos-powered space navy, and Earth is already choked under gasping fumes and drowning in muddy icecap runoff, you go to Mars.

And hope you can figure out what the hell to do next.


*WAY more horrible if you know the origin of the curse "fargnax"
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Alfador » Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:18 am

I'd better have a damn good parka; I don't deal with cold temperatures that well.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Tychomonger » Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:20 am

Does the Mars atmosphere have anything thats good for combustion?
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Volair » Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:09 am

Tychomonger wrote:Does the Mars atmosphere have anything thats good for combustion?


The atmosphere? No. It's carbon dioxide. And traces of other gases, none of which are especially high energy.

There may be fossil fuels on Mars, since it very probably once had life, but nothing like the abundance of coal and oil on Earth. (Also, where're you going to get the oxygen to BURN the stuff? It's all stuck to carbon already...) What Mars does have is a thick layer of permafrost consisting of both dry ice (ie, yet more carbon dioxide) and the regular kind, both of which, if vaporized, are decent greenhouse gases. (Yes, water vapor is a greenhouse gas-- our present planetary issue is that we're adding more to the atmosphere faster than the existing recycling systems are used to.)

Vaporise the permafrost and, assuming it doesn't leave the planet (it's likely the reason Mars doesn't have life is that it's too small to hold onto air), you've got a comfortably warm carbon-dioxide and water-vapor atmosphere. Just add fir trees.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Tychomonger » Sun Jan 27, 2008 11:34 am

Volair wrote:(Also, where're you going to get the oxygen to BURN the stuff? It's all stuck to carbon already...)

That was my question. It's just that so much of our technology depends on burning stuff, we would have to go fully electric on a planet without plentiful oxygen.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Wizard CaT » Sun Jan 27, 2008 4:50 pm

Unless it's another movie, I think in Mission to Mars, there was O2 producing moss being eaten by O2 producing bugs, so thats why it was breathable.

Also, Venus has 100% cloud cover no? People might tend to go insane without seeing the sun.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Mitsukara » Sun Jan 27, 2008 8:25 pm

Volair wrote:*WAY more horrible if you know the origin of the curse "fargnax"

I eventually found out, and I have to say, that could really make quite a hentai (really, it's like one step past tentacle rape. Also, those guys sound like Cthulu a bit). I'm sure it'd have a market somewhere.

I think people could adapt to a 100% cloud cover, but it would certainly bother some people when it was still a new thing. If it were plausible, I'm sure they'd take trips off the planet just to see the sun now and then.

Terraforming Mars or Venus has been an interesting idea to me for a while, and I wonder; if it were succesfully done, what kind of environments would those planets hold afterwards? I think it's a stretch to assume they'd follow the exact same sort of routine as Earth.

That's not to say it'd be fantastic either. I halfway expect Venus to look like Washington (state) and Mars to look like Arizona or maybe Utah. But that could be underestimating, too. There would be poles, certainly, right? And different climate zones. I think it would be interesting if Venus did indeed retain a complete cloud cover- in fact, it would probably be beneficial to terraforming, if the clouds could be made to reflect more of the sunlight rather than absorbing it and insulating the place like they do right now- otherwise it'd be way too hot for most Earth life. I can (overly idealistically) imagine a bright gray cloudy paradise, nicely temperate, with gentle rains... like Washington only without being cold as shit as much. :dead: (I'm trying to adapt to it... but darn it, I grew up in Texas... plus I can't afford to run the apartment floorboard heater things... and I fear fire, that sounds like one waiting to happen anyway)

Another easily not-thought-of point: Venus and Mars would definitely have different lengths in a day from Earth's. Their spin isn't identical. Not only would that affect petty matters like how people schedule their time, but it could have climate implications as well- the longer or shorter your area faces the sun affects the warmth it retains, etc.

I think another argument in favor of Venus is, theoretically, isn't it thought that while Mars looks like maybe it used to have more life, Venus is theorized to be more like some kind of proto-Earth and may naturally become more Earthlike over eons (especially if the sun cools down slightly)?

I wouldn't write off the possibility of some form of life being on either or both planets, either. For all we know there's highly intelligent, outright sentient vapor beings on Venus, or Graboids lurking on Mars. Or far less noticeable microscopic bacterial lifeforms with incredible intelligence or something. Seriously!
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby draque » Mon Jan 28, 2008 11:54 am

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus <- Obligatory link to Venus' wiki entry

I think that Venus would be a lot more difficult, but the better planet if we managed to actually terraform it. The big issue would really be the atmosphere... It's essentially made of lose and fail right now in terms of supporting any sort of life that we're familiar with. It's not just poison, it's what makes the planet so hot that in the summer season, many of the materials we use for industrial applications would not only melt, but evaporate. To make it habitable in any sense that we're familiar with, we would have to find some way to remove at very least the layers of atmosphere that create the ultra-greenhouse around it. After that, we might be able to start making colonies. Also on the plus side, it's very likely that Venus is far richer in heavy elements than Mars is, which would allow self sufficiency much more quickly... again, provided the temperature problem could be solved.

Unfortunately, it looks like the atmospheric conditions are held in place largely by the active volcanic activity that goes on, so the atmospheric problems might be something that are insurmountable. All in all, Mars is going to be much easier to start with, even if there's more long term potential in Venus.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Quaeras » Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:15 pm

Terraforming is never going to happen. It's too slow, too expensive and too difficult. That sort of effort would require will as a species, something we don't have (and I don't see developing). What's far more likely is artificial environments placed in conditions that are close to hospitable. Deep caves in Mars that can be constructed in segments by robotic construction teams. Boats that float on the upper-middle atmosphere of Venus (there's actually a layer of Venus' clouds that would be perfect to live in, given the ability to develop a permanently floating habitat and Gas transformers- from sulfur dioxide to Earth's air mix). Of course, we haven't completely closed the loop on any environmental system yet, so we have a ways to go, even without worrying about the super microbes that keep popping up on the ISS.

Second, terraforming is unethical! We'd be polluting a planet that was never meant to have the types of life we'd be bringing. Tales abound of interplanetary contamination. We'd be imposing our presence on a planet that may have life we cannot detect- How long did it take us to find the deep-sea life we now know exists? How recent are the Hydrothermal vents that Alvin just discovered less than 25 years ago?

Mitsu is right about rotation. Venus is pointed magnetically downward, and spins so slowly it's almost imperceptible. Only a closed artificial environment would be able to deal with that. However, while the sun is prone to slightly cooler cycles, it is definitely increasing it's output. It's just how solar fusion works, choking on your own waste until you eventually are forced to eat it, and getting hotter all the while. Also, Venus is in what's called a "Runaway Greenhouse". Venus isn't going to get cooler unless it gets smacked by a planet-killer asteroid. Only earth is within our solar systems critical zone, where water is capable of being liquid unassisted.

Until we can get a working ISS that's large enough to close all the important systems (Air, water and energy) we're not going anywhere beyond our own Lagrangian points at the most.

Or until we work out Cavitronics.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby draque » Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:46 pm

Quaeras wrote:That sort of effort would require will as a species, something we don't have (and I don't see developing).


Once there were actually growing colonies of people that are living on the planets, I think it would be much more likely. There would be a ubiquitous motivation to create better living conditions and I think that if the population was self sufficient, most would be willing to put resources towards that sort of thing.

Second, terraforming is unethical! We'd be polluting a planet that was never meant to have the types of life we'd be bringing. Tales abound of interplanetary contamination. We'd be imposing our presence on a planet that may have life we cannot detect- How long did it take us to find the deep-sea life we now know exists?


Ethics are arbitrary, and mine have no qualms about terraforming a planet that we're reasonably sure are uninhabited. "Reasonably sure" of course would mean being infinitely more knowledgeable about the planet than we are now, but if we find it to be devoid of life (as it in all likelihood is), I wouldn't see any reason not to use it as we saw fit.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Wizard CaT » Mon Jan 28, 2008 8:14 pm

Quaeras wrote:Terraforming is never going to happen. It's too slow, too expensive and too difficult. That sort of effort would require will as a species, something we don't have (and I don't see developing). What's far more likely is artificial environments placed in conditions that are close to hospitable. Deep caves in Mars that can be constructed in segments by robotic construction teams. Boats that float on the upper-middle atmosphere of Venus (there's actually a layer of Venus' clouds that would be perfect to live in, given the ability to develop a permanently floating habitat and Gas transformers- from sulfur dioxide to Earth's air mix). Of course, we haven't completely closed the loop on any environmental system yet, so we have a ways to go, even without worrying about the super microbes that keep popping up on the ISS.

Second, terraforming is unethical! We'd be polluting a planet that was never meant to have the types of life we'd be bringing. Tales abound of interplanetary contamination. We'd be imposing our presence on a planet that may have life we cannot detect- How long did it take us to find the deep-sea life we now know exists? How recent are the Hydrothermal vents that Alvin just discovered less than 25 years ago?

Mitsu is right about rotation. Venus is pointed magnetically downward, and spins so slowly it's almost imperceptible. Only a closed artificial environment would be able to deal with that. However, while the sun is prone to slightly cooler cycles, it is definitely increasing it's output. It's just how solar fusion works, choking on your own waste until you eventually are forced to eat it, and getting hotter all the while. Also, Venus is in what's called a "Runaway Greenhouse". Venus isn't going to get cooler unless it gets smacked by a planet-killer asteroid. Only earth is within our solar systems critical zone, where water is capable of being liquid unassisted.

Until we can get a working ISS that's large enough to close all the important systems (Air, water and energy) we're not going anywhere beyond our own Lagrangian points at the most.

Or until we work out Cavitronics.


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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Volair » Mon Jan 28, 2008 10:52 pm

As I said before, Terraforming Venus would be a huge pain in the ass. As noted, Venus has an environment that'd pretty much melt and or vaporize any ship trying to land there. (You'll notice it took a LOT of effort to get probes to survive even a short while on the surface.) But to say that terraforming it is impossible I think is underestimating gravely the human propensity for fucking with things.

One possibility I can imagine is seeding the atmosphere with self-replicating robots, which could chemically peck at the atmosphere, perhaps weaving great cloths of the carbon in the atmosphere, which could then be pulled up into higher orbits by a rotovator (spinning carbon fillament elevator) and used for shielding against the sunlight. (Which as pointed out is not the only source of heat for Venus.)

The economics of such a venture are quite crazy-- you'd have to have a LOT of money and even more TIME on your hands. But who can say about the future?

Mars, naturally, will get some kind of terraforming, although the degree to which it will be successful I couldn't guess any more than with Venus. Suffice to say, however, it'll be less stressful and with broader base support, since there could already be colonists living there before terraforming even began. One could even imagine various terraforming projects going on independently of one another, one group blowing carbon dioxide from the poles into the atmosphere, another refining iron from the soil, releasing lots of oxygen atoms in the form of ozone and good old oxygen at a tremendous energy cost of course (un-rusting things only slightly less of a pain in the ass than bauxite refinement) and building up the greenhouse effect from there.

Terraforming other planets in this solar system is an important practice to terraforming other planets in the galaxy. Which we may or may not need to do, depending on how we develop over the next few centuries. Personally I think we may just go cybernetic to the point of not needing all this fiddling atmosphere stuff inside a century.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Quaeras » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:31 pm

Well, if we can get our act together enough as a species to colonize anything, I'll be impressed. Maybe it's shortsighted, but I think we'd require a global government to be able to allocate resources on that scale. I'm sure I'll be long dead.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Volair » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:17 pm

Quaeras wrote:Well, if we can get our act together enough as a species to colonize anything, I'll be impressed. Maybe it's shortsighted, but I think we'd require a global government to be able to allocate resources on that scale. I'm sure I'll be long dead.


Frankly I think it'll take less resources than a lot of people think. It's easy to knock the X-Prize-winning Spaceship One with it's extremely limited range, but even reaching the altitudes it attained on that kind of a budget would have been unheard of before the X-Prize. Ultimately, I'm predicting that colonization will become cheap enough that it gets done without a global government, possibly without even the sponsorship of a national one.

Reaching Mars, by itself, can be done. Living off the land can also be done, although it'd take some work and some research to be sure. Once even a few colonists can survive long term there, they can be working towards making it easier to send more people. Once you have a certain threshold number of people, you don't need Earth anymore.

How many people? You'd be surprised.

First, you only send women. Men contribute nothing to the colony's ability to produce new people and eat up as much resources as a woman. The reproductive aid of 10,000 men can be sent along with the colonists in the form of a single largeish trunk if you get me. With such a system, I can't imagine more than 20 women being required to get the ball rolling. As with their Trystlmaistan counterparts, the first few generations of colonists will need to have actual breeding strictly controlled to protect genetic integrity of the future, much larger colony.

As to the economics, there's a real issue with energy, as I mentioned before, but if you have a source of fusion power of some sort, there's plenty enough water on Mars to keep things going until other sources of hydrogen (quick trip to Jupiter, anyone?) can be found. I really do think that going to Mars is doable, and that colonizing it is equally doable.

Probably by China the way things are going.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby SilverFeathers » Wed Jan 30, 2008 1:45 am

Venus... Greenhouse Effect from Hell. And totally re-definining the term "acid rain".

Mars, I think we'd have a little better chance at.

Don't we keep looking at Titan, now?


Meh, sign me up on the first Jupiter mining ship out of this quadrant.... so long as I don't get stuck fixing soup machines. *grumpyskeek* :frown:
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Alikat » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:27 am

Just design a symbiote for humans that will allow them to live in any environment. Then they can live on any planet they want without any terraforming.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby SilverFeathers » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:45 am

Everyone loves a facehugger!
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby strange_person » Wed Jan 30, 2008 2:56 am

I think you may have gotten the subject and verb reversed, there.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby SilverFeathers » Wed Jan 30, 2008 3:03 am

Don't hate a playa.

I still think they're cute

I want the plush chest burster. And a little tophat and cane for him.
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Re: Mars vs. Venus

Postby Volair » Wed Jan 30, 2008 7:31 pm

SilverFeathers wrote:Don't we keep looking at Titan, now?


When Cassini launched in the 90's, I was paying attention. I waited for it to reach its destination. Truly. I WAITED.

And waited.

And WAITED.

Several years later, the short-bus-sized probe swooped into orbit around Saturn and deployed the probe. I'd gone through most of college in the mean time. I waited tensely for Huygens to descend-- what would it find, neath those clouds, on a world where Methane seas sloshed about, and the sun's timid rays could conceivably be creating methane rain, methane snow-- methane RIVERS?

I waited, wondering if it would fall over an ocean, or a mountainside, or dare I wish-- a coastline. As Huygens descended... it snapped a few pictures...

Of a place that kinda looked like that muddy shoreline of Gorst, Washington.

Cassini did find methane rivers and seas. Of course, Titan's actually a pretty dreadful place to colonize, except perhaps if you want hydrocarbons, which literally flow like water there. The atmosphere is not only freezing cold, but flooded with vapors that'd ignite on contact with any air humans could breathe. But with all that... churning around... one can't help but wonder... could some collection of chemicals have figured out how to live in such a place?
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