“The idea is that every two years, two boosters launch off Cape [Canaveral] – one to open up a new site and one to exploit the previously opened site, an average of one per year. When we were launching shuttles in a serious way, we were talking about doing six per year. So it’s one-sixth of our previous heavy lifting capability to run a continuous program of human exploitation on Mars.”
What happens when humans get there?
Astronauts will spend 18 months exploring the rocky, red planet searching for answers to two questions: ‘Was there or is there life on Mars?’ and ‘Will there be life on Mars?’
“Mars was once a warm and wet planet – it was warm and wet for a billion years which is five times as long as it took for life to appear on Earth,” says Zubrin.
The first evidence of life on Earth is in Australia in the form of stromatolites, the bacterial equivalent of coral reefs. Bacteria can create macroscopic fossils that go back around 3.5 billion years, says Zubrin.
“Almost immediately after water could form on Earth, life developed. If the theory is correct that life phenomenon of chemical complexification that occurs naturally when you have the right physical and chemical conditions, then it should appear on Mars,” he says.
Zubrin says that if scientists can find similar fossils on Mars, then humanity would have proven that the development of life in chemistry “is a general, not an exceptional phenomenon.”
“We now know that most stars have planets – the Kepler telescope has found thousands of extra solar planetary systems. Since the entire history of life on Earth is the development from simple to more complex forms manifesting greater degrees of capacities for activities and intelligence… if life is everywhere, it means that intelligence is everywhere and we are not alone in the universe.”
While on Mars, scientists will drill down about one kilometre to reach the groundwater.
“If there is life on Mars today, that’s where it will be found not at the surface,” says Zubrin. “If we can bring those samples, examine that stuff and find life in it subject to biochemical analysis, we will be able to find if it’s the same as Earth life.
All Earth life is fundamentally the same at the level of its information system, it all uses DNA and RNA, which is idiosyncratic, a very specific method of recording and translating and utilising information, he says.
“It’s as if every computer was a Mac – that would be a disaster. But imagine this is what the cosmos is like. That’s what you see on the Earth, there’s only one information system in operation.
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