The Search For A Second Earth

Able to identify the next earth
astronomers suspect there could be tens
of billions of rocky Earth-like planets
in the Milky Way places where perhaps
life has gotten the foothold
but life as we know it requires water
how can scientists possibly find this
miracle substance on planets light-years
away from water divides our living world
those with it prosper
those bouts suffer remarkably the water
we drink today contains the same atoms
as the water dinosaurs drank 100 million
years ago it’s the same water that
formed clouds of the earlier four
billion years ago and every organism
that has ever existed on earth has used
this single ration of water as the
the biochemical powerhouse that keeps it
alive on earth all life requires liquid
water to grow and reproduce it’s the
the common ecological requirement for life
liquid water is just so good for getting
evolution going molecules can dissolve
in the water actually interact with each
other for more complex chains it does it
with the charge, there are positive charges and
negative charges separated between the
hydrogen and the oxygen in h2o those
charges break apart the hydrocarbons the
carbon-based molecules that persist
everywhere in nature now that’s very
rare hardly any other liquids do that so
liquid water is a natural starting place
when you look out into the universe and
say what planets could possibly have
to understand how much liquid water is
out there
astronomers must first calculate how
common water is in all its forms
amazingly they find it everywhere they
look water is incredibly common in its
the gaseous form we see water vapor filling
the space between the stars we see it in
clouds of material that are actually
forming new stars and planets right now
since water is a fundamental building
block of stars and planets exoplanet
worlds must surely have it in abundance
but if you’re looking for the life you need
to find liquid water and plenty up to
find it
astronomers take their cue from a fairy
everybody knows the famous story of
Goldilocks and the three bears and the
the cup of para girar one was too hot
one was too cold I was just right when
it comes to cooking up life like a
porridge you need to have an environment
that’s not too hot not too cold just
right and traditionally we look for that
at a certain distance around a star at
first astronomers based this magical
distance known as the Goldilocks zone on
the Earth’s orbit around the Sun but as
they found more and more exoplanets
they’ve had to re-evaluate the
boundaries for liquid water there isn’t
a single distance it depends on the
the brightness of your parents a dim star
you need to be closer a hot star very
brightly to be farther away scientists
have calculated just how many rocky
planets may lie within the Goldilocks
zone of their stars it comes out to over
30 billion potentially watery world
even more remarkably recent discoveries
have shown us it’s not just planets that
can bask in the warmth of the Goldilocks
zone there may be moons painted blue
with oceans – most of the planets were
finding our big Jupiter-sized planets
however, a lot of them were are orbiting
roughly where the earth is orbiting the
Sun so even if the planet that we’re
finding can’t support life it could have
a moon a moon with an atmosphere that
could support life
and the biggest of these rocky moons
they resemble our home there could be
billions upon billions of XA means out
there and even perhaps countless
paradises teeming with life
David kipping searches for exomoons by
looking for double dips in the
brightness of distant stars we look for
XA means in a very similar way to the
way that we look for planets by looking
for them transit their host star
now if that planet had a moon then we
should expect to have one big dip
due to the planet and then one smaller
depth either to the left or to the right
due to the new
habitable exomoons may play host to one
of the most spectacular sights in the
imagine a warm rocky world just like our
own with oceans mountains but in the sky
a massive ringed planet with a fiery
sister moon shooting hot magma into
exoplanets and now the vast potential of
exomoons int a galaxy filled with the
possibilities for life but a rocky
surface and liquid oceans may not be
biology needs the breath of life air
backlit by the Sun a halo appears around
the earth a pale blue ring of light our
atmosphere and we oh it’s everything the
Earth’s atmosphere provides the gases
that fuel the biochemistry of advanced
life but it also protects the oceans
from the full fury of the sun’s rays
preventing the water from boiling away
into space without an atmosphere there
would be no wind no rain no freshwater
and probably no life atmospheres are
absolutely essential for life take a
look at the planet Earth and you realize
that just like the skin of the Apple the
skin of the Apple preserves the Apple
well the atmosphere of our planet
preserves the oceans and makes possible
the presidents of life as we know it
scientists in search of living
exoplanets hope to detect the thin gassy
envelope that should surround these
alien worlds to do it they’re turning to
the power of rainbows in the same way
that water splits Sun lights into a
rainbow astronomers use instruments to
split starlight into a band of colors
called a spectrum
it’s one of the oldest tricks and
and one of the most revealing several
hundred years ago scientists first began
to take something like a prism and put
it in front of their telescope so he
started taking the light from stars like
the Sun and actually spreading it out
into a spectrum and what they saw was
kind of surprising so instead of seeing
a ream continuous rainbow of light they
saw that rainbow but they saw these dark
lines superimposed on top
each chemical elements of the stars
atmosphere absorbs different parts of
the spectrum creating signature dark
bands for instance up the top there’s a
pair of lines in the yellow part of the
spectrum which are due to sodium like a
DNA profile for stars spectral analysis
has taught us almost everything we know
about stars today but these same lines
may hide a marvelous secret the faint
signal of alien atmospheres and perhaps
also alien life so the challenge is that
these planets are very small and very
faint so we can’t actually go and
directly measure the light emitted from
the planet the same way that we go and
measure this lovely spectrum for the Sun
instead, we have to rely on more indirect
methods so one indirect way of doing
that is to wait until the planet passes
in front of the star when the light of a
star passes through an excellent atmosphere
the gases that surround the planet
should stamp their own faint lines on
the Stars spectrum so as we watched the
light from the stars hands mitad through
that atmosphere its atmosphere is going
to act like a little filter so part of
the starlet’s gonna pass through that
the atmosphere and we’re gonna see that in
printing extra lines on it which are due
to the planet’s atmosphere so that
change in the spectrum tells us
something about the properties the
planet’s atmosphere
the one chemical astronomers most want
to find is oxygen because only life can
produce enough oxygen to be easily
detected it’s a so-called biosignature
the race is now on to find bio
signatures in the atmospheres of rocky
exoplanets and while some groups look
for rainbows indirectly others are
tackling the challenge head-on all right
then Oppenheimer is part of a team
trying to take direct photographs of
exoplanets using massive ground-based
telescopes we’re within minutes of
taking our first long exposure and me
hope it’s good the greatest challenge to
imaging exoplanets is the blinding light
of the parent star which shines tens of
millions of times brighter than the
planet itself
the trick is to stop the light of the
star from entering the telescope sensors
by blocking it using a series of masks
and lenses called a coronagraph right
now we’re standing right underneath the
telescope’s primary mirror and the light
comes through a hole in the middle of
the mirror and goes into this crazy box
here which is full of optics motors
sensors and electronics that all allow
us to precisely control the starlight
that’s coming through the system
using state-of-the-art software they
manipulate the coronagraph to black out
the unwanted light under good conditions
we can actually carve dark holes into
this image of the star so that we can
see really faint things in those regions
coronagraphs presents an intriguing
problem though errors within the optics
produce tiny flares of starlight called
speckles that look just like exoplanets
but man has come up with an ingenious
way to tell speckles from planets so
we’ve developed a technique where we
exploit an aspect of speckles which is
that they change position in the image
depending on what color you take your
image at so Ben takes the same image of
the star through different color filters
and runs them like a movie the speckles
appear to move across the screen but the
planets stay stock still allowing Ben to
easily pick them out and so I’d like to
point out that there is a little thing
right here that if you watch for you’re
careful you’ll notice that it doesn’t
move and the speckles are washing over
it this stationary blob is a candidate
and below it and to the left is a second
they both appear to orbit a star around
200 light-years from the earth just a
decade ago capturing an image like this
through a telescope was unthinkable but
today thanks to the ingenuity of
astronomers like Ben we have hundreds
and by analyzing the light from these
distant worlds scientists can work out
their chemical composition
and potentially the fingerprints of life
at this point we’re studying much larger
planets gaseous things like Jupiter that
most likely don’t have any kind of life
like we know it but that’s a first step
and we’re going to fainter and smaller
and smaller planets as time goes on as
we develop this technology in the
not-too-distant future scientists may be
able to simply scan a star for
earth-like planets and find the
signature of life there we can look
right at the light from a little planet
around its distant star and that opens
up a whole range of possibilities for us
to not just detect the planet but to
study the planet I mean this all sounds
like science fiction but there is a
reality to this we have a scientific
method to actually determine whether
there is life on another planet life is
one thing intelligent life another all
together that requires billions of years
and a powerful force field like the one
we owe our lives to every day
if an alien astronomer were to file a
report on our home solar system they
might make a surprising observation
because of all the eight planets that
orbit the Sun they could easily conclude
that two not one
were suitable for life
it’s an easy mistake to make because the
Sun has two planets within its
Goldilocks zone the Earth and Mars
both planets have surfaces warm enough
for liquid water to pool on but while
the earth is blessed with warm liquid
oceans ours is dry and dead
the one crucial difference between these
two planets could be the key to finding
truly habitable exoplanets a magnetic
shield our Sun is constantly hurling
deadly radiation out towards us
only our magnetic shield the
magnetosphere saves us without it the
solar wind would blow our atmosphere
away and without an atmosphere liquid
water could not exist on the surface in
order to have liquid water not only do
you need the right temperature but you
need the right pressure you know if
there were no atmosphere here right now
even at the same temperature we are
today all of the water would boil off
into vapor immediately so where does the
Earth’s magnetosphere come from and why
does it Mars have one actually in the
past both Earth and Mars had
magnetospheres but Mars lost its around
4 billion years ago and with it the
potential for life both the earth and
Mars were born into a realm of violence
asteroids smashed into their surfaces
turning rock and metal into a molten
as they started to cool a solid crust
formed on the surface but the molten
metal below churned as the planets turn
inducing a magnetic field which rose
high up above the surface of both
planets at the same time active
volcanoes pumped gas into the space
around each planet protected by the
newly formed magnetic field these gases
built up into thick atmospheres creating
the air pressure for liquid water to run
on the surface for over a hundred
million years both Mars and Earth were
warm wet paradises primed for life to
take off then quite suddenly
Mars’s magnetic protection disappeared
the solar wind blew its atmosphere into
space and its oceans boiled away leaving
the dry sterile red rock we see today
Mars is fundamental problem is is that
it’s smaller than Earth and because it’s
smaller the internal core of Mars cooled
down and solidified and once it becomes
a solid metal there’s no more magnetic
field the magnetic field shuts off
essentially and the atmosphere therefore
is vulnerable to both energy and
radiation from the Sun and the rest of
the galaxy and probably just blew off
whatever life was on there at least on
the surface is now completely exposed
all rocky planets will one day lose
their magnetospheres as their cores cool
and turn solid so to know if an
exoplanet is alive you need to work out
if its magnetosphere is still active but
magnetospheres are tough to measure
because they are unbelievably weak the
earth has a magnetic field of
approximately half a Gauss which when
you think about it is actually really
weak our fridge magnets are about a
hundred Gauss they’re much stronger
Excel planets are too far away for us to
measure such weak magnetic fields
directly but there is an indirect method
when electrons in the solar wind
interacts with a planet’s magnetosphere
they emit radio waves that beam out into
space turning the planet into a giant
radio beacon
astronomers like of geniu hoped to use
these signals to spot habitable
exoplanets not only that the frequency
of the signal should also tell her how
big the planet is
if we’re looking for the magnetic
signature in radio waves of a giant
planet say a hot Jupiter we expected to
have a strong magnetic field and
therefore it would have a high frequency
and around 100 megahertz kind of where
the limit of this radio is however a
weaker field like Earth’s requires us to
go down to lower and lower frequencies
so instead of a hundred megahertz we go
down to ten megahertz but hunting for
exoplanets at ten megahertz presents a
unique challenge because the Earth’s own
magnetic sphere creates a deafening
radio roar at that frequency so to find
alien Earth’s using radio requires a
dish in space when we want to look for
magneto spheres of extrasolar planets we
really need to get outside of the
earth-moon system in order to get away
from all the radio frequencies that are
bouncing around the earth
with a slew of new technologies and
upcoming technologies scientists are
edging ever closer to the ultimate prize
finding a second earth
I wouldn’t be surprised if we have that
data about an earth and about life on it
around another star in 10 or 15 years
I’m hoping to see that soon
using shadows rainbows and now radio we
finally have the tools to detect a
planet just like our own
but in the rush to find the Earth’s
identical twin are we missing something
what if earth is an outlier a freakishly
lucky place on very fringes of
could there be another kind of planet
out there even better for life
for years astronomers have scanned the
heavens for planets that could sustain
they’ve faced their search on the earth
seeking the exact same conditions an
exact same size I think right now there
is a huge focus to finding earth-like
planets now whether or not there
actually is life there that is another
question all together but after 20 years
of searching for an earth clone the
exoplanet hunters may be about to switch
targets recent observations have
revealed a brand new class of planet
it’s one that may eclipse our own home
we’ve learned something in the last few
years that really shocked us with the
Kepler space porn telescope we have
found hordes of planets that are a
little bigger than the earth we never
imagined that there would be such
planets in fact in our own solar system
there are no planets between the size of
the earth and the next largest planet
that of Uranus and Neptune astronomers
call these mysterious planets
super-earths differ earths are about
three to five times the mass of the
earth and there’s nothing like that here
we don’t know what they’re like it’s an
entirely alien sort of planet in just
the last few years astronomers have
begun to imagine the conditions on this
new class of planet and they’ve come to
a startling conclusion super earths
could be super habitable
there are probably planets out there
that are even more hospitable for life
planets that have even more chemicals
necessary to create the organic
materials that created life conditions
that make it more likely to get life off
the ground
imagine a rocky planet twice the size of
the earth
dramatic volcanism on the surface
betrays a vast part of fire that beats
within its core
we expect that a heavier earth will be
more geologically active that the
increased amount of geothermal heat
within the super earth will lead to
stronger motions of the magma underneath
the crust
belching volcanoes dot the surface of
this super earth
their gases feed a super thick
atmosphere and help to regulate a super
stable climate many times life on Earth
was nearly extinguished for example once
upon a time the earth was snowball earth
completely covered in ice maybe in these
other planets there are earth in which
snowball earth never happened that the
climate was always stable and temperate
the grip of gravity is three times
stronger here than we’re used to it
pulls mountain ranges down to a third
the height they’d be on earth gravity
also flattens the ocean bed making
shallower CD’s filled with volcanic
island chains and the nutrient-rich
waters that surround these archipelagos
provide the perfect conditions for life
in these other planets perhaps they have
conditions which would make DNA get off
the ground much earlier and flourish
much more quickly
finally our super earth may be protected
by a super magnetosphere the magnetic
field strength is a condition both of
the mass of the planet as well as its
rotation speed and so it is quite likely
that a planet that is a couple of times
bigger than the earths would be able to
develop a stronger magnetic field may
shield the planet even better than our
magnetic field shields us having a
stronger magnetosphere would be a
distinct advantage for life on a super
earth surrounding the Milky Way’s most
plentiful kind of star the M dwarf or
red dwarf star red dwarf habitable zones
are much closer in than the earth is to
the Sun because their host star is so
dim as if you took the terrestrial
planets in our own solar system and
zapped it with a shrink ray gun and
shrunk them down to orbital periods that
are less than about 30 days meaning that
they’re very close to their stars some
astronomers believe these planets are at
risk from solar activity such as deadly
but a super-earth with a super
protective magnetosphere may well resist
these deadly rays allowing life to
flourish under a psychedelic sky full of
swirling Aurora’s
if one was standing on a super-earth we
would see the Aurora come down to lower
latitudes you might get different colors
if I had the opportunity to travel to
one of these exoplanets I would snap
that up pretty quickly most intriguing
of all if life does exist on a red dwarf
super earth it could be home to the
longest-lived civilizations in the
entire universe the advantage of the M
Dwarfs is that they last for much longer
and if you had a super earth then
keeping a strong magnetic field going
for billions and billions of years
especially now around a red dwarf that
is going to exist for billions and
billions of years you might be in that
perfect system where life can exist and
evolve into even more complex beings
than us
we’re getting so close
our local neighborhood of stars teens
with red dwarfs bursting with the
potential for advanced life
but they’re also cosmic killers out
there lurking in our galaxy primed to
wipe out life on a regular basis
is anywhere safe the exoplanet
revolution is in full swing the Kepler
space telescope has scanned our local
neighborhood of stars for planets and
it’s found them by the thousands
for a long time we didn’t know if the
other stars in our galaxy had planets
and for thousands of years there was no
way to answer that question finally now
with modern technology we can do that
and to our surprise we found they are
extremely common from Kepler’s small
sample astronomers believe there could
be tens of billions of rocky earth-like
planets throughout the Milky Way where
life may already be thriving but how
many of these countless worlds has held
on to this life long enough for
intelligence to evolve
the answer surprisingly may depend on a
planet’s galactic zip code
the universe is not a happy safe place
the universe wants to kill us
it’s it’s incredibly violent out there
and there are solar flares and
supernovae and black holes and colliding
galaxies and all these really amazingly
dangerous and violent events it’s
actually kind of amazing that we’re here
at all
in order to develop advanced intelligent
life and exoplanets may have to avoid
these cosmic killers for over three
billion years if we look at the history
of the earth the first thing that
happens that’s important is the origin
of life right away very quickly but then
nothing for a long time you have nothing
but microbes stopping on the earth for
the first two and a half billion years
the earth was ruled by single-celled
multicellular life has only been around
for a billion years fish for 500 million
mammals for 200 million and modern
humans have only walked the earth for
the last 200 thousand years
the lesson is clear it takes a long time
to cook up intelligent life
but most planets in the Milky Way don’t
have that kind of time
astronomers believe that a planet’s
position within a galaxy may determine
if it gets hit by global extinction
events there’s an idea of a habitable
zone for a galaxy and it’s in analogy to
the habitable zone around stars stars
too close to the galactic center are in
the firing line from their violent
neighbors which frequently blast them
with deadly high-energy radiation
in the middle of a galaxy we have a lot
of bright stars and young stars and
maybe even supernova going off and so
there’s a very harsh radiation field
that’s not good for life fired up by the
supermassive black hole that sits at the
center of the Milky Way
this cosmic Killzone stretches out
around 8,000 light years from the
galactic center and extends out along
the densely packed spiral arms
any planets that exist within this zone
are likely to have their surfaces
regularly scrubbed clean of life
fortunately for us our home star the Sun
sits in a relatively empty quiet zone
between two of the galaxy’s spiral arms
so there’s this idea that there’s a band
in the middle of the galaxy that’s the
Galactic habitable zone where you don’t
have too many stars going off you don’t
have it too many supernovae so it’s
quiet in that way those might be great
places for a complex life
these green zones are like the suburbs
of the Milky Way galaxy they’re
sheltered from the worst of the galaxy’s
radiation it’s here that earth-like
worlds will have the luxury of long
uninterrupted periods for life to take
hold and develop into more complex forms
and eventually perhaps intelligent life
like us
the Galactic habitable zone is no more
than a fledgling theory but if it’s true
it reduces the number of places where
advanced life could flourish in the
Milky Way the good news is those places
should be near us and aliens more likely
to be on our doorstep and with our
technology getting better every day it
surely won’t be long before we find them
I think in 20 years time I’m gonna be
able to look up into the night sky and
say there really is another place I
could stand like this and feel at home
suddenly we humans will realize for the
first time that there are other cultures
other civilizations probably other
religions out there among the stars and
we are just one member of a grand
galactic tribe to have cousins that we
one day may communicate with seems to me
to be potentially one of the greatest
developments that humanity will ever
ever experience and if that isn’t worth
doing I don’t know what is all systems
are go for entry descent landing
at the dawn of the 21st century space
agencies in Europe and America began
making plans to land the first humans on
but manned missions to the red planet
have been proposed before
for some Mars holds the answers to
mankind’s future in space others say
Mars is too far too dangerous and too
expensive for humans to explore
and in a world torn by troubles some say
there is no need or will for mankind to
reach into space anymore more than 30
years after the last Apollo astronaut
walked on the moon the American manned
space program seems to have lost its way
unable to reach beyond even in low-earth
orbit we’ve got a problem
NASA has been literally going around in
circles with its space program for the
past 30 years astronaut school engineer
dr. Robert Zubrin has been arguing for
years that sending humans to Mars is the
mission the space program needs it’s
time that we set goals for NASA that
were worthy of the risks of human
spaceflight Mars is the next logical
step in our space program it’s the
challenge that’s been staring us in the
face for the past 30 years it’s the
planet that’s most like the earth it’s
the planet that has honored the
resources needed to support life and
therefore someday technological
civilization it’s the planet that will
provide us with the answer as to whether
life is prevalent in the universe or
exclusive to the earth and it’s the
planet that will give us the critical
tests to whether humanity can break out
of the planet of our birth and become a
spacefaring species
in the early 1990s Zubrin was the head
of the Mars direct program at Martin
Marietta astronautics his team developed
a mission to Mars that could be done at
a fraction of NASA’s projected costs
using only existing technology Zubrin
argues that the first steps on Martian
soil could be made within 10 years there
is absolutely nothing in this that is
beyond our technology we are not ready
to send humans to Mars right now we
don’t know how to keep them alive there
are people out there who say we can go
to Mars tomorrow one of my requirements
one of NASA’s requirements is that if we
send humans to Mars we bring them back
alive for the past 15 years
Zubrin and his colleagues have waged a
campaign to convince society and the
political class that humans on Mars
should be the goal for NASA now
this is the story of a cold neighboring
planet and the debate over whether man’s
fate is tied to the red world it’s the
story of an engineer’s journey and the
Battle of ideas over which direction in
space will truly benefit mankind we’re
at a crossroads today we either muster
the courage to go or we risk the
possibility of stagnation in the case
the victor in this debate could
determine the fate of mankind will we
become a spacefaring species will we
live on more than one planet
in the winter of 2003 the Chinese put
their first Thai connell in space
the Chinese space administration plans
to begin a manned program of moon
exploration by 2017
the european space agency has outlined a
plan for humans to the moon by 2024 and
to mars by 2033
and the Russians building on years of
experience are conducting tests for
long-duration Mars missions
in America with the impending retirement
of the shuttle fleet in the completion
of the International Space Station the
Bush administration announced in 2004
the constellation program on the moon a
plan that would return Americans to the
moon by 2020
but the program was never fully funded
was eventually cancelled
in 2010 the Obama administration
announced its vision for NASA and human
Mars exploration by the mid 2030s I
believe we can send humans to orbit Mars
and return them safely to earth and
landing on Mars will follow and I expect
to be around to see it
with a new timeline for humans to Mars
sometime after 2035 and with
administration’s changing every four or
eight years it is far from certain that
such a plan will be realized twenty
years earlier the first president Bush
also proposed a long internal human
exploration program under great fanfare
the program quietly died in Congress a
few years later if you want to go to
Mars you cannot do it in 30 years you
can’t do in 20s you gotta do it in ten
years or some program start or you’re
more or less guaranteeing political
failure to date only the Apollo moon
program which was announced in 1961 and
had men on the moon eight years later
has succeeded in getting astronauts
beyond low Earth orbit
I was 5 when Sputnik flew and while to
the adults Sputnik was a terrifying
event to me as a child who was already
reading science fiction it was
exhilarating because it meant that this
possibility of a spacefaring future was
going to be real and I was 9 when he
gave his speech committing us to the
moon I grew up during the 60s when it
was mercury was Gemini Apollo every
month NASA was doing something more
impressive than in a month before we
were gonna be on the moon by 1970 Mars
by 1980 Saturn by 1990 Alpha Centauri by
the year 2000 we were moving out and I
wanted to be part of that and so I got
myself a scientific education but then
in the early 70s it’s all collapsed we
achieved the first part of that program
moon by 1970 but the Nixon
administration shut down the rest and we
did not move out into space and for a
while I accepted that grudgingly it
became a science teacher but then in the
early 80s something hit me and I said
I’m not going to accept myself doing
less than what I had dreamed of doing
when I was a boy Zubin went back to
graduate school getting advanced degrees
in engineering into aerospace he then
went on to work at Martin Marietta which
later became Lockheed Martin designing
interplanetary missions
it was here that zubrin’s obsession with
the red planet began to take hold
while at Martin in the 1990s Zubrin and
his colleagues developed a plan for
sending humans to Mars that changed
NASA’s thinking on the issue but the
plan has languished on the drawing
boards ever since now as president of
the Mars Society Zubrin is at center
stage in the debate over the future of
manned spaceflight known as a smart
visionary scientist he’s authored
several books on exploring space and is
the self-appointed spokesman for the
possibility of colonizing Mars Mars is
where the futurist Mars is the closest
planet to the earth that has honored all
the resources needed to support life and
therefore technological civilization it
has water it has carbon it has nitrogen
it has a 24-hour day it has a complex
geological history that has created
mineral or it has sources of geothermal
energy Mars is a place we can settle
one reason for such optimism over a
frozen world like Mars is evidence that
two billion years ago Mars was a much
warmer and wetter place we think that at
one time in the ancient past Mars was
very similar to the condition of early
this Martian war mage lasted for over a
billion years and could have been a
suitable environment for the development
of life if we go to Mars and find
evidence of a second Genesis on Mars I
think we can conclude that the universe
is full of life we can probably conclude
that on some planets that life evolves
to more complex forms and I think we’d
be reasonable to conclude that
intelligence could also emerge on some
planets as well it really does answer
the question are we alone that to me is
a question that transcends science it’s
a philosophical societal as well as
scientific question to me that’s the big
prize that’s what why Mars is
interesting that’s why human exploration
makes sense space programs are often
criticized for the huge sums of money
they require although the American space
is less than 1% of the federal budget a
human mission to Mars may have to wait
for better times there are those who say
then we have many problems to deal with
here on earth and we need to postpone
ventures such as the human exploration
on Mars until these problems are solved
well there are many problems in Spain in
1492 and there still are there are
problems that need to be dealt with here
on earth and should be dealt with but we
also have to think of the future you
also have to think about opening up new
volumes in human history
I believe that it’s essential for a
positive human future that humanity
expand into space
the greatest value that we got out of
Apollo was the creation of intellectual
capital through the inspiring of
millions to go into science and
engineering to be part of the great
adventure of human expansion to space
there’s a phrase that happened with the
Apollo program which was if we can go to
the moon we can and then everybody’s
filled in whatever they were interested
in build mass transit cure cancer do
this through that the point is it did
give us a sense that we could accomplish
great things it did bring out the best
of us
we excited a generation of engineers and
scientists the generation that built the
computers and cell phones and all the
technology everybody uses today it takes
for granted if we send humans to Mars as
our goal we’ll get millions of new
scientists that will create new
inventions new industries this is the
enormous payback and we can get it if we
set the kind of challenge that will
inspire the youth
to Zubrin civilizations like people
thrive on challenge decay without it we
have everything we have today because of
our predecessors who had the courage to
leave the world of the known and go out
into the wilderness and build new cities
and if we stop being people like that
then we will hand down much less to our
posterity that our ancestors handed down
to us so there’s the choice in life one
either grows or one decays grow or die I
think we should grow history proves that
we have never lost by pressing the
limits of our frontier
in the summer of 1989 the first
president Bush announced the space
exploration initiative directing NASA to
draw up long-term plans to get humans
back to the moon and begin developing a
program of manned Mars exploration at
Martin Marietta Zubrin and his
colleagues looked forward to moving
NASA’s Space Program outwards after two
decades in low-earth orbit of course we
were very excited when Bush made his
call saying that he was making a
national commitment to implement such a
program NASA assembled a large team to
take on the space initiative in 90 days
the team developed a 30-year plan that
required an enormous buildup of space
infrastructure what the NASA bureaucracy
decided to do was basically design the
most complex mission they possibly could
in order to make sure that everyone’s
pet technology would remain
mission-critical which is the exact
opposite of the correct way to do
engineering first NASA would triple the
size of the planned space station and
add enormous hangars as well as
free-floating fuel depots checkout docks
and cruise stations then on the moon
they would construct more shipbuilding
facilities bases and depots next the
moon crew would construct the Mars ship
a huge craft dubbed by his detractors as
Battlestar Gallactica this ship would
carry everything to Mars over an
18-month flight once in Mars orbit a
small group would descend to the surface
spend a few days then plant a flag in
the ground and
the plan became known as the 90-day
report to those of us at Martin who had
been engaged in designing Mars missions
when they saw the monstrosity of
complexity of the 90-day report we were
dismayed and it was readily apparent to
anyone with any insight that that
program would fail politically the plan
was submitted to Congress
the estimated cost 450 billion the
legislators went into sticker shock this
would have been the single most
expensive program for the United States
since World War two by the end of 1990
Congress had refused all requests for
sei funding when the realization came
that sei was doomed Zubrin wrote a memo
to his colleagues at Martin Marietta
outlining his problems with the NASA
plan and arguing for a more direct
Zubrin favored launching a Mars mission
directly from the surface of Earth using
only existing rocket technology this
negated the need for a lunar base and
avoided the complexity and cost of
building ships in space he also objected
to NASA’s plan for a short surface stay
on Mars a mission that would amount to
little more than a flag and footprints
to Zubrin we were going to Mars to
explore and develop a new world to
maximize surface time
Zubrin proposed using a faster flight
path known as a conjunction class
mission this would mean a crew could
arrive on Mars
after only a six-month journey they
would then remain on the Martian surface
for a year and a half this would give
the team time to explore a wide area and
conduct detailed research about the
planet then as the earth return window
opens the crew would launch from Mars
the six-month trip home Zubrin was
convinced that a simplified more robust
and cost-effective mission could be
designed using these principles
along with several like-minded
colleagues Zubrin decided to ask
management at Martin to allow them to
design alternative Mars missions
the management approvement and we formed
the team was known as the scenario
development team of just twelve people
from the whole very large Martin company
one team member whose thinking was
closely aligned with zubrin’s was David
Baker I went off to my office and said
alright how would I do a Mars mission if
I had to pay for it and I had to go on
the ride and I said well it’s gonna be
simple there’s gonna be no on-orbit
assembly I really tried to take
everything out of the mission that
didn’t absolutely need to be there while
the rest of the team focused on
longer-term more traditional mission
plans that required on-orbit assembly
Zubrin and Baker decided to collaborate
on a mission that could be done
near-term we decided to do Mars the way
Lewis and Clark did America okay use
local resources travel light
live off the land
Zubrin and Baker were convinced that a
Mars mission could be launched directly
from the ground the other team members
felt this was impossible that the weight
of the rocket fuel required for a round
trip to Mars was so enormous it would
render the launch ship impossibly heavy
to solve this problem
Zubrin was exploring a radical idea that
had been kicked around the aerospace
industry since the 1970s the idea was to
produce a methane-oxygen rocket fuel
directly from the Martian atmosphere it
was a relatively simple and robust
Chemical Engineering procedure that was
done commonly in the 1800s the air of
the gas life if the idea worked
astronauts could land a relatively light
ship with empty tanks they wouldn’t have
to ship all the fuel with them for their
return trip this would radically lower
their size and weight
the only problem was methane-oxygen fuel
requires a hydrogen component hydrogen
exists on Mars in the form of h2o but
water may be difficult or impossible to
extract from the Martian environment
really the hydrogen was only 5% of the
total weight of the methane-oxygen
propellant being manufactured so if you
just say ok we won’t be pure we all get
all of the propellant from Oris will
just get 95% of the propellant from Mars
the other 5% of the hydrogen will just
bring from Earth another fundamental
resource that could be extracted from
the Martian environment is oxygen second
processing unit could separate oxygen
molecules from the thin carbon dioxide
atmosphere providing breathable air for
a Mars crew if used intelligently the
same resources that make Mars
interesting are precisely what could
make it attainable Baker and Zubrin had
greatly reduced their mission mass but
they still found their ship was too
heavy and would require two launches and
assembly in space then Zubrin hit on an
idea one of the key events of the Mars
directive element was one morning Bob
burst in my office and said I’ve got it
the idea that I finally hit on in 1989
was that we had split the mission up
into two parts and we’d send the return
vehicle out first with its own return
propellant plant so the propellant would
be made on Mars before the first
astronauts ever left her
with two separate direct mars launches a
human crew would have a fully fueled
ship waiting for them on the surface of
mars before they ever left Earth
so Zubrin and Baker had come up with a
plan that seemed to accomplish all of
their goals it was relatively
inexpensive development time was short
they could use existing technology and
it allowed for a long stay on the
Martian surface
they dubbed their idea Mars direct the
board and Ares rocket is the earth
return vehicle or ERV
no one has aboard this ship it will pave
the way for the astronauts who years
later we’ll use the ERV to return to
on its second day the ERV deploys a
small nuclear power reactor the reactor
powers a chemical plant inside the ERV
the plant will produce the
methane-oxygen rocket fuel for the
launch home nearby a second robotic
rover is guided to a pre-picked landing
site for the human crew it places a
radar transponder to help guide the
astronauts in the long journey to land a
human being on Mars begins
three two one engines
carrying the most skillfully assembled
flight team in history four astronauts
begin their two and a half year mission
to the Red Planet this will be the first
time a human has gone beyond the
earth-moon system 250 million miles
farther than any person has ever been
to counter the health problems of
zero-gravity and to fully acclamations
to Mars the ship will deploy a weighted
tether attached to the last stage of the
spent rocket booster by thrusting the
ship into a rotational spin the
counterweight of the rocket will create
centrifugal force and thus artificial
gravity the crew will be able to live
with their feet planted firmly on the
floor during their six-month transit but
the hab is not entirely alone on its
journey just ahead of it is a second ERV
identical to the first launched just a
few weeks prior to the harp it will
prepare the way for a second human crew
that will follow two years later it can
also function as a backup for the first
mission if anything should go wrong
on sixth month of the flight the crew
gaze upon an alien world this is the new
after days in orbit unsatisfied with the
landing conditions the crew will receive
final word from Mission Control on earth
it will be a tense 40 minutes before
people back on earth get the signal from
Mars and know if everything has gone
okay in this stop
for more than 500 days the astronauts
will live on Mars and embark on one of
the greatest journeys of discovery in
the history of science
will they find life or the fossilized
remains of past life
such a discovery could tell us whether
our solar system has seen more than one
Genesis and answer the ultimate question
are we alone
in any case these explorers will be
learning how feasible the colonization
of Mars really is and whether or not
mankind has a future among the stars
then when the time comes in the window
for Earth return opens crew will climb
into their earth return vehicle and head
they will arrive home heroes the first
to stretch the limit of man’s expanse
from one planet to another
their names added to the list of great
explorers of new worlds
in their footsteps others who follow
what began as a trickle is free to rise
into a deluge of humankind sweeping over
a once barren land and transforming it
into a viable new world when Baker and
Zubrin presented Mars direct to their
bosses at Martin they expected the worst
to their surprise management was excited
about it they liked the fact that
everything needed was relatively simple
and near-term
as time went on Martin Marietta embraced
Mars direct as their creation and put
Bob and I on an airplane to several NASA
centers to present Mars direct and try
to build some momentum for Baker and
Zubrin flew to the Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville Alabama this had
been one of the original design hubs for
the Apollo moon landings but recently
many of the engineers had become
demoralized by the failure of NASA’s sei
program tag-team style Baker and Zubrin
presented their alternative mission
architecture the response was thrilling
the old-school Apollo crowd embraced it
this was a plan that actually made sense
and was within reach Baker and I gave a
number of briefings the first was at the
Marshall Space Flight Center
next was a Johnson these people were
incredibly excited over the next few
Zubrin and Baker were flown around the
country pitching to all branches of NASA
and everywhere they went the response
was electric
the plan was standing up to scrutiny and
groups all over NASA were converting to
Mars direct their tour culminated in a
public presentation to the National
Space Society the crowd gave the two
aerospace engineers a standing ovation
a week later the story was in newspapers
around the country
but a counter-attack was beginning to
form within NASA the space station teams
and many in the advanced propulsion
groups were against the idea since Mars
direct didn’t need their programs they
felt under threat as quickly as doors
opened for Zubrin and Baker they began
to close NASA didn’t want to pursue a
Mars mission at that time they didn’t
want to be derailed by a bunch of Mars
fanatics that thought that their idea of
what NASA should do should overwhelm
what NASA thought NASA should do what we
did in Mars direct was literally come up
with the leanest solution the one that
involved the least spending on an
assortment of technologies and
infrastructural elements including for
example we made no use whatsoever of the
International Space Station and so
people involved in all those programs
were very upset because we were showing
they shouldn’t go to Mars without their
program being required they felt that we
were justifying them the NASA
administration rejected Mars direct the
two engineers were outside is again but
Zubrin remained determined Bob had
grabbed hold of it and I could see that
it was his and no matter what I did he
was gonna do what he was going to do and
he was going to be a proponent for it
and push it and I really saw my role
sort of evaporate it’s a little bit like
being a dim planet next to a bright star
around him in terms of his enthusiasm
and you really can’t compete with that
all you can do is decide how you’re
going to deal with it
by February 1991 Baker quit Martin to
start his own firm
Zubrin battled on for the next year and
a half Zubrin tried to get NASA to pay
attention giving speeches writing papers
but Mars directs time seemed to have
but then in 1992 a new administration
came into power at NASA and Zubrin saw a
second chance I was invited to brief
Mike Griffin who was the associate
administrator for space exploration in
charge of the whole space exploration
initiative he immediately became a very
strong supporter Mars direct but before
the engineers at NASA would take another
look at Mars direct they wanted Zubrin
to prove the producing rocket fuel on
Mars could work
they gave Martin Marietta a small budget
to do an experiment
Zubrin and his team built a machine
called the in-situ propellant plan it
could take carbon dioxide the dominant
gas in the Martian atmosphere combine it
with a little hydrogen and produce a
methane-oxygen fuel we did it in three
months with a very small team we built a
plant that was 94% efficient and no one
who actually participated in that effort
was actually a real chemical engineer
they were all aerospace engineers like
me who were simply dabbling in chemistry
in order to prove to NASA that 19th
century chemical engineering really
worked with the experiment to success
the administration had Zubrin give
detailed briefings of the mission plan
to the engineers of the Johnson Space
Center they liked it but had some
problems Dave Weaver was the lead
mission architect there were a number of
things that we were concerned about with
bob zubrin’s mission first of all we
thought his estimates of mass were
probably too optimistic didn’t have
sufficient margins for a variety of
things not the least of which would be
things like provisions for the crew the
amount of water that would be required
we thought as a sent vehicle was very
large which meant his power requirements
his propellant requirements were much
larger than needed to be his trip times
out were too long and that for a very
little effort you could get him shorter
the other problem was the size of his
crew he had a four-person crew I think
virtually every study that’s been done
says that a four-person crew for a
three-year type of mission is probably
not realistic
Weaver took Zubrin into his office and
the two men worked out compromised
mission architecture first Weaver wanted
three launches for every mission instead
of two the first year three ships would
launch a MAV Mars ascent vehicle an
unoccupied hab and an ERV earth return
vehicle the harb and MAV would land on
the surface and begin producing fuel for
the return flight and air for the crew
these crafts would spend to solitary
years on Mars allowing NASA to test all
of the system’s before sending a human
crew then in the third year three more
ships would launch this time with the
hab occupied by astronauts the other two
ships are for a future mission unless
needed as a backup for this crew once on
Mars the team could also utilize the
first half then after a year and a half
stay the crew would climb aboard their
small capsule and rendezvous with the
return ship this ship would carry them
back home in a roomier environment than
zubrin’s ERV Zubrin called the plan Mars
semi direct NASA called it the design
reference mission they had a larger crew
than we had they had bigger ships they
had more equipment they had heavier
equipment so they had to do the mission
in three launches instead of two but it
was done with the same principles of
Mars direct the plan was subjected to
the same cost analysis that tagged the
90-day report with a four hundred and
fifty billion dollar price tag the
design reference mission came back at a
fraction of the cost fifty five billion
spread out over ten years could be done
within NASA’s existing budget the plan
made the cover of Newsweek
here was a mission architecture that was
affordable and could be done today with
existing technology but NASA’s
astronauts have not left low Earth orbit
with the completion of the International
Space Station and the retiring of the
space shuttle program a debate rages
over the future of space exploration
should NASA continue to focus on
low-earth orbit developing technologies
for the future or shouldn’t a sir have a
goal like it did in the 1960s with
Apollo the way we got to the moon was by
a presidential imperative that demanded
that NASA get to the moon within a
so NASA was forced to sit down design a
plan for how to do that and then fly the
mission since that time without the
presence of the driving imperative we
engage in basically a random set of
constituency driven programs which are
justified ad hoc afterwards by the
argument that they could prove useful at
some time in the future when you
actually have a plan to go somewhere I
think nASA has focused on a steady
process where the government can’t just
pull the plug on their funding
I think the Apollo cancellation was very
traumatic for NASA and it really
transformed NASA from what it was in the
60s to more of what it is now if you
have a singular program like going to
Mars then it is very vulnerable to
having its funding pool
NASA must be destination-driven it is
the only thing that allows the agency to
be productive NASA was a hundred times
more productive when it was
than in the period that has not been and
we have stagnated in NASA since 1973
thirty years more than a generation has
been wasted
the American space programs been
stagnant for thirty years there is a
once-in-a-generation shot right now to
get it moving again by giving it a goal
that will take it somewhere some
mistakes today are high
and if you ask me if I am nervous right
now hi and
dr. Zuber why is NASA stuck in low-earth
the problem with NASA’s lack of current
achievement is not money the problem is
lack of focus its lack of a goal it
shouldn’t be humans to Mars in 50 years
it should be humans to Mars in 10 we can
do this we do not need gigantic
nuclear-electric spaceships to send
people to Mars that that is pork it’s
nonsense the primary question I get from
American people is why aren’t we doing
this there’s a big sense of
disappointment almost verging on a sense
of betrayal the purpose of spaceships is
to actually travel across space and go
to new worlds not to hang out in space
and observe the health effects from
doing so dr. Zubrin in your testimony
you were very passionate but you also
were mad you’re mad we haven’t done this
or that this vision has been stolen from
a generation I guess you could say that
it’s like Columbus coming back from the
New World and Ferdinand and Isabella
saying ask so what forget it burned the
ships okay you know that’s what has
happened in this country
we’ve won our point that there needs to
be a destination what we need the point
we need to win on now is the destination
needs to be Mars and it needs to be
the movement to send humans to Mars in
the near term began at the University of
Colorado in 1978 a graduate student in
Astro geophysics named Chris McKay gave
a small seminar on the possibility of
introducing life to Mars I got
interested in Mars in graduate school I
enter graduate school the same year that
Viking landed on Mars and sent back
these images and it sent back data that
showed all the elements needed for life
are here on this planet and yet there’s
no life here I know that’s odd sort of
the lights are on and nobody’s home and
I thought well that’s curious so some of
my other grad students and I we sort of
got together to talk about well if
there’s no life on Mars now could we put
life there and that evolved also into
the question was maybe there was life in
the past and so we could find fossils
evidence of it well how would you do
that while you do that by sending people
there together with fellow graduate
students the group decided to put
together a small conference to discuss
the matter of human Mars exploration we
basically just started a forum we
invited everybody from all the NASA
centers and from all the universities
were involved in it and they all came
and it was it really was in retrospect I
realized a very important step toward
building a consensus for human
exploration of Mars in 1996 I published
my first book the case for Mars and the
response was phenomenal
I got 4,000 letters from all of the
I had parisian bankers and
twelve-year-old kids in poland and
firemen from Saskatoon and astronauts
and they’re all writing me and saying
how do we make this Bob Zubrin came to
the 3rd Mars conference and got very
much involved he was willing and
interested in forming a society forming
a group in organizing said look if we
could pull these people together we can
get them to work together we could have
a force that could actually make humans
to Mars happen the group formed the Mars
Society Robert Zubrin became the
president they held their first
convention in 1998 the convention was
just magic we had no idea how many
people were coming they were there not
just from the United States and Canada
Europe they were there for Israel they
were there from Mozambique we are there
from New Zealand
it was astonished
since its inception the Mars Society has
attracted members worldwide
Derek Shannon is the head of the
Southern California Chapter he’s met
with political leaders from all over the
country if you make them look at the
whole Mars vision in historical terms it
becomes a much easier so how will be
Martians remember our century they’re
probably not gonna remember our deficit
our Wars or healthcare those will be
footnotes what they’ll remember is it
out of all of human history there came a
generation that decided to take this
amazing step out into space and if you
tell politicians that they’re the ones
whose names actually get to be
that’s when hopefully the space program
starts going somewhere
in order to further the knowledge
necessary for a manned mission to the
red planet the Mars Society has been
building research stations around the
globe all of them based on the design of
zubrin’s hab module
most recently the society set up a
desert Research Station in Utah here
international researchers and aerospace
students come to do experiments under
the harsh desert conditions and learn
what’s necessary to keep a Mars crew
alive and productive basically what
we’re doing here is undergoing analog
studies crews of up to six people at a
time come together to live in a full
simulation environment for up to 14 days
so what that means is every time we go
outside they have people have to Don
after depressurize when we go outside
they called extra vehicular activities
they can only be of a certain duration
to the air supply we have to recycle all
our water and basically have our own
food as well
it’s great to fantasize but it’s another
thing when you have to put it together
when the nuts have to hit the bolts like
the Apollo missions to the moon sending
human beings to Mars will mean putting
people in harm’s way there are many
dangers in outer space and many things
could go wrong a serious equipment
breakdown could doom the crew to their
deaths some argue that the risk of
failure is simply too high you know back
in the days when medieval man was
looking out from Europe thinking about
exploring in the world the world was
unknown and mapmakers populated their
maps with dragons we’ve got the same
thing today there are people who are
afraid to go out into space and they’ve
populated their maps of the solar system
of dragons
you know we’ve got cosmic radiation
we’ve got zero gravity we’ve got bat
contamination but these are dragons that
we can take on
there are two kinds of radiation
astronauts must contend with in outer
space solar flares and cosmic rays solar
flares are floods of protons that burst
from the Sun at irregular intervals and
would be dangerous to an unshielded
human crew we are not ready to send
humans to Mars right now
we’ve got to know a lot more about
radiation and radiation mitigation one
of the Apollo flights barely missed like
by a week a major solar event if it had
gone off when the Apollo astronauts are
on the way back and forth to the moon
they would have gotten their entire
lifetime radiation dose in that one
mission and that’s just one solar flare
so that’s why we worry about this in the
Maz direct plan Zubrin envisions a
central insulated core where a crew can
retreat to while the radiation passes by
the core would be surrounded by all the
provisions of the mission this should
stop any harmful dose of radiation from
reaching the astronauts basically you
use your pantry as your storm shelter so
a solar flare happens the alarm bell
rings the crew goes into the storm
shelter they stay in there cramped up
pretty tight for a few hours until the
all-clear rings and they come out this
is gonna happen once it might happen
twice in the course of the mission the
second type of radiation is cosmic rays
this constant rain of charged particles
comes from interstellar space and cannot
be avoided without many metres of
shielding we can experience some of this
type of radiation on earth at high
altitudes airline pilots who spend their
career is flying high in the atmosphere
can receive almost as much of this
radiation throughout their life as a
Mars astronaut would on a two-and-a-half
year mission it’s a long trip it’s a
six-month trip there are six months
reback is probably a year on the surface
that’s a lot of radiation the best
estimates are that the magnitude of that
dose is not that great perhaps 60 REM of
radiation scattered over two-and-a-half
years now 60 REM of radiation delivered
over a long period of time like that
would not create any noticeable effects
at all it would though it is believed
increase your statistical risk of
getting cancer at some point later
life by about 1% right now if you’re an
average American and you do not smoke
you have a 20% chance you’re gonna die
of cancer this would make it 21 if
you’re an average American smoker it’s
40 in fact if you recruited the Mars
crew out of smokers and sent them to
Mars without their tobacco you would be
reducing their chance of getting cancer
with the immense distance from Earth
never before experienced by a human
being with the constant dangers of outer
space surrounding their small
life-sustaining craft and with nowhere
else to go the psychological impact on a
crew could be severe fear is real I mean
it would be to me abnormal for a person
to not feel the fear of getting on a
rocket and launching into space and
going to Mars so I think fear is a very
normal thing that all astronauts in fact
are supposed to have and I would be
afraid to fly with someone who does not
have fear some psychologists worry the
cabin fever could set in and the crew
might literally go crazy the human Mars
mission is a more rigorous and difficult
condition than most of us experience in
daily life but it is hardly more
difficult situation than many people
have endured throughout human history we
could compare the Mars crew to the crew
of 19th century or prior sailing vessels
many of whom were away from home for
three years or more than three years
under conditions in which they’re eating
extremely bad food without any medical
knowledge to support their health
commanded by brutal officers in every
respect the crew of the human Mars
mission with the full support of Mission
Support in the whole world cheering for
them and great rewards awaiting for them
in life upon their return is in a vastly
superior condition the Mazda eight crew
spend most of their time inside the
two-story hab carefully designed to
promote psychological well-being despite
the confinement the space where I think
everybody would spend the most time you
know just like a lot of homes on earth
it would be the galley wardroom area
there would be chairs a table some kind
of large screen for entertainment you
would have individual staterooms about
four or five feet wide the ability for
them to communicate with loved ones with
colleagues on earth I think will be
almost unlimited a Mars crew will need
to be carefully chosen and thoroughly
tested to ensure their ability
handle the extreme isolation John Young
went to the moon used to say that he
could cover the earth by just lifting
his thumb up to up to it and he says
that when you go to Mars you are going
to redefine the concept of loneliness
and so it is very important that the
crew be well-balanced and well-chosen so
that they can support each other whoever
gets picked to go they will have to
learn to live together for
two-and-a-half years if you put out a
call for volunteers for the first crew
to Mars they’d be lined up coast to
coast most people recognize what’s left
after you go is the good you left behind
and to take part in an adventure of this
character such a historic character of
extending the reach of the human species
this is something of immortal
one of the most bogus threats associated
with the Mars mission is the so called
back contamination issue which is this
notion that you go to Mars and discover
these virulent disease organisms that
you bring back to earth and destroy all
life on Earth
if we discover life on Mars one fear is
that our earth biology will have no
defense against possible Martian
some argue that missions to Mars cannot
be risked until we can prove Mars is
free from harmful contaminants this is
completely nonsensical there’s natural
transfer of material from Mars to earth
all the time we get around 500 kilograms
of unsterilized Martian rocks landing on
earth every year and they have been
doing so for the past three four billion
years and so if there were Martian
organisms that could contaminate the
earth they’ve already done so although
the prospect of Martian diseases seems
remote lawmakers have required that NASA
create elaborate protocol to ensure that
any extraterrestrial material stays
contained and like the Apollo astronauts
who spent 17 days in quarantine after
they returned from a sterile moon a Mars
crew will have to be thoroughly tested
for any harmful Martian pathogens the
probability is infinitesimally tiny but
nevertheless this is our home planet and
it’s extremely important and we have to
protect it
the idea of a pathogen on Mars is
clearly ridiculous because there is no
or mega flora on Mars for pathogens to
infect so it is impossible to propose a
credible lifecycle for a martian
pathogen the diseases that afflict us
have been Co evolving with us and our
ancestors and near relatives for the
past 3 billion years and they are
specifically designed to live inside the
habitat of the human body and to
overcome its defenses and they’ve been
engaged in an arms race with the human
defenses for those 3 billion years this
is why humans do not get diseases from
distantly related species for example I
don’t know of any person who has ever
contracted Dutch elm disease you know
and trees don’t get colds
when the first Mars Lander touches down
the crew will be staring out at a new
world a place that in four billion years
no eyes have ever seen the crew won’t be
alone millions of television viewers
back home will be watching as the first
man or woman places their footprint into
the rust-colored soil the crew will
savor these moments for here someday a
new branch of civilization might begin
and future Martians will remember and
celebrate this day
there is much for the crew to do and
explore one of their main mission
objectives will be to search for signs
of microscopic life to do this they will
follow the ancient water flows for on
earth where there is water there is life
to help the crew in their search they
will have a pressurized Rover it allows
them to explore in a comfortable
shirtsleeve environment
this means the crew can examine a vast
area around the landing site during
their 18-month stay and there is much to
explore Mars has 58 different kinds of
topography and a surface area equivalent
to all the continents of Earth combined
if these explorers can uncover the
fossilized remnants of indigenous
Martian life they will redefine
mankind’s understanding of its place in
the universe but if life arose
separately on a planet so close to our
own it strongly suggests that the
universe is a biologically rich place
and full of life
for some the ultimate question of Mars
though is will there be human
settlements on the planet will Mars
become a new branch of human
as each subsequent Mars mission explores
a wider and wider area of the planet
over several years an ideal site for a
base will be found probably worn with a
thermal vent that can supply water and
power at that point several Habs will be
landed in this one spot with crews that
plan to stay for eight or even twelve
perhaps we’ll be interconnected and a
permanent human presence on Mars will be
established this scientific community
will have to learn to become
self-sufficient to be able to survive on
Mars without supply is constantly being
sent from Earth
but unlike any other planet in the solar
system besides Earth Mars has all of the
fundamentals needed to make this
it’s 24 hour and 37 minute day is
critical for growing plants it has all
of the elements necessary for creating
building materials like plastics metals
and glass and it has oceans of water
frozen into the soil
if we can develop this craft of living
on Mars then Mars becomes in heaven not
immediately physically but
intellectually I mean look what
determines whether an environment is
habitable or not is Colorado habitable
we’re not naturally adapted to live in
Colorado where tropical animals no one
could survive the single winter night
here without technology such as clothing
efficient use of fire we invented our
way into becoming people that could
colonize such hostile environments
eventually with a lot of ingenuity and
invention the scientists will learn to
live off the land they will grow crops
in the iron-rich but potassium poor soil
and they will produce oxygen and energy
from the water and atmosphere
sooner or later children will be born
the first true Martians they will grow
up to see Mars as their home with time
more and more people will arrive these
won’t only be scientists but settlers
people who plan to stay
they may come for all kinds of reasons
but to them Mars will be a chance to
start over to build a new life for
the well of human social thought is not
exhausted by the present age and I don’t
think we’ll ever be exhausted there will
always be people with new ideas on how
humans should live together with Mars so
far away the hold of earth governments
on their colonies will be tenuous the
Martians will need to govern themselves
Mars is not going to be utopia Mars is
gonna be a lab it’s an open frontier
it’s a place where things are gonna be
tried out I think we’ll see a lot of
noble experiments on Mars perhaps some
of these Martian colonies with their
novel ideas based on the best thought
the 21st century has to offer maybe
they’ll find ways in which humans create
society that are more humane and offer
more opportunity for you and potential
the ultimate dream of the Martians will
be to terraform their planet to make
Mars as hospitable as Earth this may not
be as big a fantasy as it seems here we
are in earth a world that’s very
sophisticated and developed and complete
and anything we do is just a subtraction
because we live in such a biologically
rich planet when we go to Mars we have
an opportunity that we don’t have on
earth here’s a planet that’s died here’s
a world that’s not full of biology it
probably doesn’t have any at all well
there we can actually do something to
once there are large human settlements
on Mars that we have significant
industrial capability we could actually
start addressing ourselves to the
question of transforming the Martian
environment itself terraforming Mars
yes it’s called because Mars was once a
warm and wet planet and it could be made
so again through human engineering
efforts with daytime temperatures in the
Martian tropical zone averaging around
zero degrees centigrade and with an
atmosphere only 1% as thick as Earth’s
exposure to these elements by a human
without a space suit would be instantly
fatal the first step to terraforming
Mars and bringing it back to life will
be for the Martian colonists to warm up
their planet well we know how to warm up
planets we’re doing it on earth by
putting gases in the atmosphere on earth
it’s not a good idea to warm up the
planet the temperature was just fine
thank you we don’t need it any warmer
here but in principle if you could trap
the sunlight reaching Mars today every
single photon that’s hitting Mars large
would warm up in about ten years well
obviously you can’t trap every single
photon that’s hitting Mars but you can
trap about 10 percent of them with the
greenhouse effect so that would imply
that Mars could warm up in about 100
years 100 years is a long time but it’s
not astronomically long one idea is to
build small automated factories that
produce super greenhouse gases with no
ozone depleting side effects although
these gases would be unwelcome on earth
for the Martians there would be an
efficient way to trap heat then within a
few decades we would raise Mars by more
than 10 degrees centigrade and if you
did that that would cause massive
amounts of carbon dioxide that is
currently adsorbed into the Martian soil
to start to outguess carbon dioxide is
also a natural greenhouse gas as it
builds up in the atmosphere more and
more heat will be trapped which will in
turn cause more co2 to outgas
the process will become automatic and as
the atmosphere thickens Mars will
eventually reach a state of equilibrium
and stay warm naturally
the rise in air pressure would mean that
the human colonists could discard their
pressure suits and walk around the
surface of Mars carrying only a supply
of oxygen
and as the temperatures rise on Mars
water frozen into the soil will begin to
melt out and for the second time in its
history Mars would have liquid water on
its surface
drei Martian rivers will start to flow
Seas will rise
and there will be rain clouds in the
the return of Mars to its warm and wet
stage will make it a fertile environment
for life any indigenous Martian
organisms lying dormant will begin to
grow and Mars will be full of Martians
if no native life emerges or that life
is all dead
and humans could begin addressing the
idea of bringing life from Earth
at first it would be simple organisms
perhaps genetically engineered that
would thrive in the Martian environment
then more complex plants could be
introduced the plants would be right at
home in the carbon dioxide atmosphere
and with no competition and a whole
planet to cover they could transform
Mars into a green world
warming Mars so that it sustains life is
rapid but then the slow process of
making the atmosphere breathable for
humans and animals starts and that’s
done by plants although the process will
happen naturally if the colonists can’t
find a quicker way it will take tens of
thousands of years
this is a philosophical debate many
people think the universe has a big sign
on it that says do not touch leave it
was made this way that is not in our
purview as human beings to change
anything I can respect that view
although I disagree with it I think the
universe has a big sign on it that says
go forth and spread life because when I
look around the universe I think life is
the most amazing thing we see it is just
incredible and we human beings are
uniquely positioned to help spread life
from this little tiny planet which it
seems to have been started on beyond and
that’s our gift Earth’s gift to the
universe I think is the gift of life
this scheme for terraforming Mars is
based on 20th century notions of
engineering I don’t think it is how Mars
will actually be terraformed what you
have here is a 20th century mind trying
to address a 22nd century problem and so
I think Mars will be terraformed by the
23rd century not by the 33rd 23rd things
that would seem utterly fantastical to
us is how it will actually be done but
it’ll be done more in a crossroads today
we either muster the courage to go or we
risk the possibility of stagnation in
the case the exploration of the solar
system and expanding of life through the
rest of our solar system and some day
beyond is the kind of thing that will
keep our civilization going we’re
explorers by Nature
eventually we will go to the Stars the
question is when will we start I think a
manned Mars mission could happen within
15 years
some days I’m very optimistic I think we
can do it in 10 maybe 15 years other
days I see the all the political things
that go into the space program I look
back on 230 years we’ve been bogged down
and I and I get more negative about and
I say it’s going to be another three
decades or four decades yeah we’d be
surprised if we got to Mars prior to
2025 or 2030 in May of 2018
understanding the various political
obstacles that exist in what we need to
fight through to get the program started
I believe that we will be on Mars by
you have to believe in hope you have to
believe in the future there are more and
more people coming around to the point
of view that a positive future for
Humanity requires human expansion to
space we will eventually break through
the forces of inertia that have been
holding this thing back
viewers of a NASA video feed from the
Space Shuttle Endeavor reported seeing a
disc-shaped object hovering above the
shuttles mechanical arm space-based UFO
sightings like this have purportedly
happened throughout the history of
manned spaceflight unspecified cosmic
phenomenon or could it suggest the
possibility that huge extraterrestrial
starships are cruising the Milky Way
galaxy space travel between the stars
it’s a staple of science fiction right
you see it every night on television you
see it in the movies all the time but
could we really do it or could any
species really do it well the distances
between the stars are enormous really
enormous interstellar travel doesn’t
violate physics it isn’t that you can
rule it out and say there’s absolutely
no way they can come here it’s just that
it’s very very hard
just traveling from the Earth to Alpha
Centauri our closest neighboring star
had nearly four and a half light-years
is beyond the reach of our most powerful
an advanced civilization were to visit
us from a distant star system we can
pretty much rule out that they would use
chemical rockets to get here despite the
impressive pillar of fire and smoke that
we see during Apollo Saturn 5 or shuttle
launch ISM chemical rockets don’t get
you very far in the solar system
to give you some context for that
distance our furthest known space probe
is Voyager 1 launched in 1977 it’s been
flying for 34 years at 38,000 miles per
hour and it’s only now starting to leave
our solar system if its destination were
Alpha Centauri it would take over 56,000
years to reach even the closest star
system to engage in interstellar
missions on timeframes of a human
lifetime around about 50 years we can
see that we need to increase the speed
that we can travel by at least a factor
of a thousand scientists have determined
that the speed of light is a
mind-blowing 186,000 miles per second a
spacecraft traveling the star systems
would have to reach a significant
percentage of that speed even to reach
the nearest star the biggest obstacle is
weight a chemical rocket exacts a huge
weight penalty because its entire fuel
supply must be carried on board we can
calculate that even to reach 6% of the
speed of light using chemical rocket
fuel you would need more rocket fuel
than exist mass in the universe so we
really know that it’s actually
impossible to reach another star system
using chemical rocket fuel if
extraterrestrial visitations are even
possible their spacecraft must solve
this problem
in 2011 nasa’s nanosail-d became the
first solar sail to orbit the earth the
ultra-thin 100 square-foot sale uses
sunlight or photon pressure as a source
of propulsion one of the immutable
limitations of rocket propulsion is the
fact that any rocket has to carry its
fuel with it a solar sail can take
advantage of the naturally occurring
resources namely photons emanating from
the Sun which can be used to propel that
solar sail similarly a hang glider can
fly without any fuel or an engine just
by taking an advantage of the natural
resources were surrounded by namely the
atmosphere and the laws of aerodynamics
to achieve sufficient speeds to tow a
spacecraft supporting life-forms the
sale would have to be huge up to
hundreds of miles in diameter
and because the photon pressure from a
star would decrease the firth of the
sail traveled some have envisioned a
concentrated laser beam directing energy
of the sail
eventually and sadly this hang glider
will hang glider’s at some point after
land but a song a sail riding a beam of
laser energy could conceivably travel to
the stars the max speed of a solar sail
about 10% the speed of light travel from
Earth to Alpha Centauri using laser
generated photons about 45 years
currently NASA and other space agencies
have plans for launching more solar
sails but there are other more powerful
sources of propulsion in the universe in
the 1960s a method of propulsion was
proposed where a spacecraft would
literally drop a series of explosive
charges out the back and the force of
the explosions would push the spacecraft
forward the prototype was called the
Orion drive and there were actually a
series of experiments done with
conventional charges to show that it
would work the arrived drive however was
proposed to use nuclear charges
in order to simulate an orion-style
propulsion system Paul and Jim here are
rigging up a demonstration where they’re
going to put a small chemical charge
inside this barrel or we’re gonna lift
this off the ground 50 60 feet in the
air we’re going to actually calculate
the energy release in this explosion and
compare it to a nuclear charge you might
find an actual Orion spacecraft system
our Orion spacecraft simulator is rigged
and ready to go
we’re going to light off the charges
inside blow the can up into the air and
compare that with the energy release
from a typical nuclear explosion that
would be used an orion-style drive
the Orion spacecraft studied at Los
Alamos in the late 1950s proposed
nuclear fission as its propulsion source
fission energy is produced when the
nucleus of an atom splits into smaller
parts producing free neutrons and
protons that release tremendous
gamma-ray energy
the explosive charge in this 35 pound
barrel lofted about 60 feet in the air
a small nuclear charge in the Hiroshima
range would liberate about 27 million
times more energy clearly that’s a
practical propulsion drive for
interplanetary or even interstellar
travel because of the huge explosions
that Orion drive would require on the
back no spacecraft you would have a huge
thick metal plate that would absorb the
thrust of the explosion and a series of
shock absorbers to keep the crew from
getting jolted each time the the
Chargers went off the max speed of a
nuclear powered fission spacecraft about
five percent the speed of light travel
time from Earth to Alpha Centauri about
90 years despite its powerful fuel
source the fission craft is actually
slower than a solar sail boosting speed
would mean turning to another more
intense nuclear reaction efficient
technology is well known and understood
and we’ve been using it to generate
power here on earth for decades but
there’s another kind of nuclear
technology and that’s nuclear fusion
fusion is the power source of the Sun in
the core of our Sun the temperatures are
so high atoms are moving so fast that
they slamming into each other creating
new elements and liberating energy the
opposite of fission fusion energy is
produced when two atomic nuclei fuse
together to form a single heavier
nucleus the result is a huge liberation
of energy
a fusion-powered spacecraft was proposed
in a 1970 study called project Daedalus
its mission called for a trip to Barnard
star some 5.9 light-years distant
instead of nuclear bombs the fusion
powered craft creates the propulsion on
board in a reaction chamber the fuel
pellets for the Daedalus class starship
consisted of pellets composed of a
deuterium helium-3 mix these would have
been ignited by what we call
relativistic electrons these are
extremely high-energy electrons that
would have hit the deuterium helium-3
pellets caused them to fuse and a huge
amount of energy would be released the
Daedalus design called for 250 of these
pellets to be released every second for
over two years
the spacecraft would have weighed 55,000
tons most of which would have been
fueled the weight penalty for such a
spacecraft would be high but an advanced
civilization could eliminate the problem
by mining the hydrogen fuel during its
interstellar journey deuterium or heavy
hydrogen exists in abundance on earth
notably in seawater but helium-3 is a
much rarer isotope in our solar system
it can be found on the moon and in vast
quantities on Jupiter and Saturn
scientists are proposed using huge
hydrogen scoops to mine the helium-3
needed to cross the void of space so
it’s conceivable that if you had a craft
that was powered by nuclear fusion you
could go to another star system and then
use the hydrogen available from That
star to refuel the self-contained
fusion-powered spacecraft could avoid a
huge weight penalty and reach speeds
that could allow near star exploration
in a reasonable timeframe the back speed
of a nuclear powered fusion spacecraft
up to 15% the speed of light travel time
from Earth to Alpha Centauri about 35
years the immense costs the logistics
and even the politics of nuclear-powered
spaceflight long ago caused humanity to
scrap and he and all plans
but a sufficiently advanced society
could trade nuclear propulsion for what
seems like an impossible paradox
traveling at light speed without moving
at all can UFOs actually achieve the
immense speeds required for interstellar
travel one potential answer may be
buried 30 feet beneath the ground in
America’s heartland the Fermilab
Tevatron Collider outside Chicago
Illinois racing just below the speed of
light particles of protons and
antiprotons are launched in opposing
directions they meet in a high energy
the impact produces gamma rays the
highest energy source known in the
universe and potentially the key to
interstellar travel the best way of
making antimatter here on earth is to
employ probably the most famous equation
that Einstein taught us which is equals
MC squared which tells us that for a
certain amount of matter we can get
energy it’s a great idea because it’s
incredibly efficient you essentially
take all of the mass in those particles
and convert it into energy but how can
antimatter exist in the universe if it
must be artificially manufactured that’s
the question that Stefan H from
Philadelphia texted the universe Stefan
antimatter definitely exists and when it
meets up with normal matter it explodes
in a burst of electromagnetic radiation
now we can make small bits of antimatter
in laboratories but we can also collect
antimatter from space some cosmic rays
which are charged very energetic
particles coming from space actually
consist of antimatter
currently the supercollider is the only
practical way to produce antimatter and
right now it’s created in very small
quantities if we can figure out a way to
both create and store enough antimatter
we would have a storable fuel which when
mixed with ordinary matter would
liberate a huge amount of energy at a
rate way beyond what either fission or
fusion can do because we know antimatter
exists and we know antimatter can be
created and stored it is conceivable
that an advanced civilization could
create and harness the power of
antimatter in sufficient quantities to
create an antimatter rocket
an antimatter ship could achieve
unbelievable velocities cruising just
below Lightspeed nearly matching the
speed of a star beam streaking across
the galaxy travel time from Earth to
Alpha Centauri four and a half
light-years distant about five years in
human terms the cost of creating enough
antimatter particles to power such a
starship would be astronomical it might
be affordable in alien currency but an
antimatter spacecraft like this comes at
a high price the gamma rays from
antimatter propulsion are so dangerous
they could destroy the cell structure of
any living beings aboard ship this
starship would have to include an
advanced shielding mechanism to keep the
crew alive
and at such high rates of speed there
are equally destructive threats in the
universe space is pretty empty but if
you were moving close to the speed of
light you’d in an extremely effective
shielding system that would allow you to
be protected from interstellar dust
particles that that would have all that
annihilate a spacecraft traveling that
fast but if space debris is so dangerous
why not avoid it completely the solution
might be one familiar to Star Trek fans
namely a starship that could achieve
light speed without even moving
in effect one would create what is
called a warp bubble the name taken
straight out of science fiction and that
would involve compressing a region of
space-time in front of a spacecraft and
expanding a region of space-time behind
a space prop while the spacecraft itself
sat stationary inside this flat bubble
and one would effectively be riding a
wave of space-time a warp drive may seem
like pure sci-fi fantasy but in 1994 a
well-respected young physicist named
Miguel Alcubierre II published a serious
proposal outlining how to travel in a
controllable space warp
there are huge obstacles to a kewpie
Aries warp-drive solution the biggest is
called dark energy a cosmic phenomena
unrecognized in 2011 when three
scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize
for proving its existence the simplest
explanation that’s been proposed for the
phenomenon of dark energy is that
there’s an intrinsic property of space
itself that makes it want to expand you
can actually see it by looking at
receding parts of the universe and
seeing that there’s this extra
acceleration component but it isn’t a
stored energy source like solar energy
or other kinds of energy and so it’s not
inconceivable it’s not beyond the realms
of possibility that some advanced
civilization existing somewhere in the
universe has learnt how to harness dark
energy to create an exotic form of
propulsion but there’s another obstacle
to a workable warp drive the only known
way to pull a spacecraft forward within
a warp requires harnessing the intense
energy of a black hole
this sort of simple notion that somehow
to make a very concentrated bit of
matter extremely concentrated on the
level which would cause a black hole if
you could generate a black hole on a
small scale so to speak you could dangle
it in front of the ship and use its
space distortion to sort of drag the
ship along and exactly how fast could a
warp drive tow an extraterrestrial
spacecraft the clear implication of lqb
areas work was that it should be
possible if you can make this design of
a warp drive to achieve speeds almost
any multiple of the speed of light
travel time from Earth to Alpha Centauri
aboard a Lightspeed craft powered by a
space warp about four and a half years
or less as long as everyone on board
doesn’t incinerate
one problem with the Alcubierre drive is
within that warp bubble temperatures
would rise to far hotter than the core
of our Sun that’s hot
just one more small problem to solve for
the chance to reach planet Earth
but what if such an alien spacecraft
were to arrive in Earth’s atmosphere
riding in a warp bubble towed by a black
hole it might not be the first mass
witness UFO sighting but it would
certainly be the last
March 13th 1997 thousands of people
witness an optical phenomenon and
drifting across the Arizona skies
reports of a series of bright lights and
geometric patterns are widespread
including multiple sightings over
Phoenix of a craft up to a mile wide
with lights winking on and off in
sequence reconstructing the events of
that evening the lights of the Phoenix
lights were almost certainly flares
dropped by an Air Force a10 aircraft in
conjunction with the human tendency to
envision a solid shape connecting them
that’s the best explanation for the
Phoenix lights for many the Phoenix
lights incident was direct proof that a
huge extraterrestrial craft had arrived
some even called it a mothership
the purpose of an extraterrestrial
mothership is fundamental to the
theories of alien visitation it’s the
only way to bridge the vast distances of
interstellar space
the term mothership I think came into
being around the same time that flying
saucers as a term came into being and I
think the universal notion was you
couldn’t make an interstellar trip in a
person sized craft you have to have
something really large an earth the
analogy of a mothership
is that of an aircraft carrier an
aircraft carrier travels the vast
distances across the oceans but its
purpose is to transport smaller aircraft
which can then go on engage in whatever
their missions may be if the journey to
earth is long on the order of centuries
or even millennia the mothership would
be much more than just an aircraft
there’s a generational or arc ship which
is a very large spacecraft that is
essentially an enclosed ecosystem in
which generations of inhabitants expect
to be born grow old and die over the
long period it takes the spacecraft to
reach its ultimate destination
perhaps with technology such as
suspended animation biological alien
passengers could be put to sleep and
revived after the vast journey surviving
such a journey would also mean surviving
the destructive energy powering the
spacecraft itself one logical design
solution a cigar-shaped mothership is
precisely what many UFO witnesses
claimed to have seen
for any advanced propulsion system you
would want to situate the crew as far
away as possible from the engine source
so one possible design would be a very
long thin design with the engine located
at one end of the spacecraft and then
some kind of truss connecting the crew
section as far away as possible so as to
avoid damage from high-energy neutrons
x-rays or gamma rays from the advanced
propulsion system if such arc ships have
in fact visited planet Earth the
evidence would be overwhelming and
undeniable something all these exotic
and advanced propulsion technologies
have in common is that they all radiate
prodigious amounts of energy and so we’d
be able to see them like beacons on a
lighthouse from sometimes light-years
away from the concentrated emission of
x-rays gamma rays or subatomic particles
would be suspicious because we don’t see
that in our environment locally under
any normal circumstances beyond the
obvious visual evidence the physical
effect of a mothership approaching so
close to the Earth’s surface could be a
terrifying form of Apocalypse
if for whatever reason this
extraterrestrial technology or
civilization chosen not to turn off
their engines could be catastrophic for
life on Earth as we would be bathed in
high-energy neutrons x-rays and gamma
rays if it’s something which is a
version of a warp drive then you’re
talking about space distortion and you
wouldn’t want to be too close to any
major mass including the planet such
catastrophic visitations assume that
aliens are willing to risk their own
lives in interstellar space but there
might be a better way
they could stay at home and explore the
Kosmos using a race of thinking machines
for many ardent believers in the UFO
phenomenon the Roswell New Mexico event
in the summer of 1947 is the defining
alien encounter in human history in
popular culture the most lasting detail
from the purported crash came from the
descriptions of extraterrestrial bodies
found at the scene in the ensuing
decades this vision of alien beings
known as the greys became the accepted
standard in science fiction and
recurring alien encounter reports the
oversized heads may explain an expected
feature in Alien biology greater
intelligence the larger skulls would
contain larger more advanced brains
compared to ours mastering the profound
challenges of interstellar travel would
certainly require great intelligence but
might it require something that is
beyond organic biology
one area of science fiction where we
might be making kind of a big mistake is
to assume that the aliens are biological
that they’re living things I think that
the possibilities for the kinds of
organisms which might travel between the
stars are really wide open and one
possibility that has appeared in
occasion in science fiction is machine
according to a recent earthly equation
known as Moore’s law the number of
transistors on a single computer chip
doubles every 18 months meaning computer
processing speed doubles this trend has
continued for more than half a century
and is expected to continue through 2020
or later
the exponential explosion of processing
speed is opening the door on a staple of
science fiction called artificial
intelligence so if you invent a thinking
machine a hundred years later that
machine is not only smarter than you are
it’s smarter than all humans that have
ever lived and that’s the difference
between artificial intelligence and real
intelligence artificial intelligence can
involve enormous ly faster but I think
the form of AI that we find most both
menacing and promising is the kind of AI
that could in fact do what our brains
can do and think the way we can think at
Stanford University’s artificial
intelligence laboratory the future of
truly intelligent machines is rapidly
approaching there are few things that
make an AI difficult one is we don’t
really know yet how to make computers
learn as effectively as humans can it
seems that our computers today just
aren’t as fast as we would like them to
yet to simulate the learning processes
that take place in the human brain
to demonstrate early stage artificial
intelligence Stanford students designed
a fighting robot one that attempts to
learn as it fights ok so what it’s doing
now it’s I’m trying to defend itself so
it’s reacting to your motion so
depending on how you move your sword the
robot will adapt to your motion to your
behavior how important is step on the
road to true artificial intelligence our
robots like is sources so here we are
using artificial intelligence methods
like learning methods to adapt to the
environment of the robot but we are
still not at the stage where the robot
is really thinking to these computers
are still far less intelligent than
almost any human but in the future I
think computers could eventually reach
and maybe even surpass human
intelligence and if that’s the case
imagine that each of us had a computer
in our wallet for the cellphone and
wallet that was as smart as Einstein or
even smarter how the civilization change
and one of the amazing things we could
do then
advanced as it is on earth the fencing
robot is but a crude analogy for the
type of machine intelligence that could
pilot an interstellar spacecraft
the immense obstacles of space travel
including the sheer timescale and cosmic
hazards build a strong case that a race
of intelligent machines will make first
contact but honestly if interstellar
travel really takes place it seems sort
of reasonable to not send the biological
beings I mean they’re fragile they have
finite lifetimes just as NASA sends
robotic probes to explore the solar
system in advance of human explorers our
first contact with an alien civilization
may be with its robotic probes biologic
beam or AI super being our vision of an
extraterrestrial will remain near
speculation until first contact is made
but how long will we wait and despite a
lack of hard evidence just how likely is
the existence of another intelligent
some believe that is highly likely that
the universe teems with life
the galaxy has been around for a long
solar system has been around for quite a
long time at the galaxy much longer and
the stars in many of them are much older
than the Sun and our solar system so the
chances our civilizations are out there
they’ve been around for longer than we
have if they exist say for a hundred
thousand years then the chances are
pretty good I think they will have
learned to either communicate across
interstellar space or possibly travel
until first contact occurs humanity will
continue to scan the skies for UFOs none
have been proven to be extraterrestrial
crafts so far but that does not rule out
the possibility that humanity may one
day discover evidence of an intelligent
civilization either in the far-flung
heavens or much closer to home
in space no one can hear you scream
as the promo line for Ridley Scott’s
science fiction film alien it was
designed to send chills down your spine
it’s based on the unsettling idea that
space is a vacuum and sounds whether
screams shouts or songs can’t travel in
a vacuum but is that really true well
it’s kind of narrow to think that in
space you can’t hear anyone scream
because in fact here on earth there are
lots of sounds we can’t hear they’re
either too high a pitch or too low a
moreover space isn’t completely empty
and then finally you know what’s the
definition of space if I’m an astronaut
on the surface of Mars and I have a
spacesuit on am i in space or am I not
well I would think I am okay back on
earth Bruce Betts of the Planetary
Society in Pasadena California has given
a lot of thought to Mars and the subject
of sound
he’s programmed his computer with what
he calls the Mars inator to demonstrate
what his voice would sound like in the
cold carbon dioxide atmosphere of Mars
without those space suits
the atmosphere of Mars would actually
change your voice so it sounded deeper
so let’s go ahead and simulate that
using the Mars inator and I will record
my voice and then we will shift it to
what it would sound like on Mars this is
what I’d sound like on Mars although I’d
be wishing I had some oxygen to breathe
then I go ahead and process it put it
through the Mars inator and then we play
it back and see what it sounds like this
is how it cerebral Mars avoid be wishing
our have some oxygen please of course if
humans ever do make it to Mars we will
not hear their voices through the
atmosphere instead we’ll get them via
radio waves the way many of our most
important sounds already reach us we’re
familiar with thinking of sound as
something that comes through the air to
us just like we hear each other when
we’re talking but in fact a lot of the
sounds that we hear are transmitted
through electromagnetic signals for
example your television actually
transmits a television signal into sound
that you can hear who’s our first
contestant tonight
sound in the Kosmos will never reach us
directly across empty space so radio
light or other electromagnetic waves are
the inevitable carriers bringing us a
universe we can hear in all its variety
space is actually kind of a noisy place
it has many many sources of noise that
we are able to detect with special radio
telescopes for example these alien
sounds make up an incredible collection
the ultimate playlist we’ve pulled our
expert panel of scientists astronomers
and physicists to rank the top 10 the
greatest sounds from the expanse of
space ending with a number 1 that will
surprise us all and now the countdown
starts coming in at number 10 ringing
out from a distance of 13 billion light
years the birth cry of the universe in a
hit called the audio afterglow of the
Big Bang
it’s remarkable that the young universe
actually made a sound and the reason we
know that is that we can actually
witness the glowing gases that were
present at that time
the glow from these gases is known as
the cosmic microwave background
radiation or cmbr it is a faint trace of
microwaves that stretches across every
point in the sky
discovered by scientists in the
mid-1960s the radiation is the afterglow
of the Big Bang the famous blotchy
satellite map of the CMB our represents
the cosmos in its infancy when it was
only 380,000 years old
when we look at the CMB our map we’re
essentially looking at a voice print of
the early universe because those tiny
variations in color correspond to
variations in temperature and those
correspond to variations in density and
well pressure waves are just sound waves
so we’re seeing little variations in
pressure little sound waves in the early
universe to understand the audio
afterglow of the Big Bang we need to
know how the early universe varied its
pressures to generate sound waves to
find out astronomer Marc Whittle an
organ builder Manuel Rosales visit the
Magnificent pipe organ at Clermont
United Church of Christ in California
in a way the 4,000 pipes in this organ
are comparable to the voice of the early
manuela the amazing thing about the
early universe is that all its pipes
were sounding together and it’d be
lovely if we could has to try that with
this organ so do you think we could do
that now played all the notes at once
let’s pull out all the stops to try it
that’s where that phrase comes from okay
very powerful but but really kisi white
noise kind of sound but an even more
remarkable thing about the primordial
sound is that in fact a few particular
tones were present and were stronger at
any given time
this is the opening note of hit number
10 the audio afterglow of the Big Bang a
computer sound analyzer reveals its
strong tones as distinct columns on a
color-coded graph as hissy as the early
cosmic sound is it differs from pure
white noise which has no organized
features at all on the analyzer the
sound of the audio afterglow on the
other hand comes through with a vaguely
musical quality
the pipes of this or any organ are made
of wood and metal but the pipes of the
early universe were pits of dark matter
the mysterious substance whose existence
is known only from its gravity what
drives the sound waves is is gravity so
for example if there’s a region of
slightly higher density of dark matter
there’s a gravitational force pulling in
gas that’s surrounding this region feels
that pull and it falls in but it’s gas
so it also as it falls in it compresses
that compression acts like a spring and
so it pushes the gas back out but then
it overshoots until it falls back in
again and this is how the motion of the
gas falls in bounces out falls in
bounces out so we have an oscillating
pressure wave a sound wave
the cosmic background radiation as
important as it is is just a still
picture its imprint of sound has the
effect of no more than one noisy barely
musical note and even hearing that is a
struggle the pipe organ helps show us
the sounds of the universe are way too
low for us to hear in fact what’s the
lowest note that this this organ play is
it is a pipe 32 feet long and it can
only be played with one’s foot that’s
pretty deep 32 feet were were nothing
compared to the cosmic organ pipes they
were between 20,000 and 400,000
lightyears across sorry we don’t have
any pipes quite that long
the deep sound of the early universe is
so low we can hear it only after a
massive shift upward
the background radiation of the universe
dates from 380,000 years after its
creation but what happened before that
is it possible to uncover the whole song
of the universe from the very instant of
the Big Bang
the cosmos is filled with a symphony of
alien sounds and we’re counting down the
top ten of the universe’s greatest hits
number 10 on the playlist sings out with
the earliest tones of the universe from
the audio afterglow of the Big Bang
but our download of the universe’s birth
song has some problems with the cosmic
organ playing all its pipes at once what
reaches our ears sounds like only one
complex noisy note it’s only one note
because it comes from the pressure waves
we read from the map of the cosmic
background radiation which is just a
still picture of the sound in the early
universe taken 380,000 years after its
birth how then do we run the clock
backwards and hear the rest of the song
modern cosmology is sufficiently
advanced that it’s possible to create a
computer replication a simulation of the
young universe it’s possible to recreate
within a computer what’s going on and
how the sound developed right from the
very very beginning through those first
four hundred thousand years they are the
same kind of supercomputer simulations
that have given us pictures showing how
the early universe evolved the dark
matter pipes of the early universe acted
like those in the church organ as bigger
pipes were played deeper notes were
as the universe expanded there was more
space and more time more space meant
bigger pipes so the notes in the song
got lower and lower as the song played
out put it all together and the first
400,000 years of the universe can be
condensed down to just 10 seconds a
haunting primal scream
the gas that’s falling in and out of
these Dark Matter regions is ultimately
going to become the first stars the
first galaxies and ultimately it’ll be
corralled into the thousands of galaxies
that we see around us today
so while it’s been amusing really and
playful to reproduce these sounds for us
to listen to in the big picture they
play an enormously important role in
crafting the structure of the universe
that’s going to unfold in the universe
that we find ourselves in today
from the big van sound of the Big Bang
our countdown takes a step down in size
to the modest 15 million light-years
span of a galaxy cluster coming in at
number 9 on our list of the universe’s
top 10 hits is the deep tone of Perseus
this is low sound to the extreme
emanating from the Perseus cluster of
grouping of roughly a thousand galaxies
250 million light-years from Earth the
central galaxies in this cluster of
galaxies has a huge supermassive black
hole at its centre the clusters central
galaxy is called Perseus a and it’s
supermassive black hole
gives it what’s called an active
galactic nucleus which shoots out energy
in the form of gigantic Jets tearing
into the surrounding space the reasons
which we don’t fully understand it seems
to be coming out the energies being
produced episodically about every 10
million years or so
those energy pulses are actually waves
of pressure and that’s exactly what
sound waves are pressure waves the wave
as demonstrated by sports fans has an up
and down motion that’s very familiar to
us but these UC Berkeley students will
switch gears and show us how a sound
wave is different okay everyone lose the
pom-poms since sound waves are pressure
waves we’re gonna build a pressure wave
out of all these students okay everybody
let’s nine up you go over here and then
shoulder to shoulder just like this
stretch out over there a little bit no
gaps you’re gonna be students colliding
with each other like molecules colliding
in a sound wave that’s looking a lot
better do you feel like a bunch of
molecules okay okay this is looking good
we have a bass drum at each end of the
line you’ll see why in a minute we’ll
get things going with this drummer over
here he’s gonna hit the drum and watch
what happens in this case the pressure
is a good healthy shove and it moves
from student to student all the way down
the line at the end the last student
applies his pressure to the second drum
by banging on it the second drum is like
our ear drum when pressure from a sound
wave in the air hits our eardrums we
hear the sound this is just how sound
travels through the air except instead
of having students shoving each other
their air molecules shoving each other a
sound needs a medium to travel through
they can’t travel through a vacuum so in
fact to get from point A to point B you
need air molecules hitting each other
that’s how it works
so how do those pressure waves from
number 9s deep tones of Perseus travel
through what’s essentially the vacuum of
intergalactic space
astrophysicist Richard pogey of Ohio
State University gives us a sense of the
emptiness in deep space at his school’s
football stadium well it’s true the
sound waves can’t travel through the
vacuum of space space is not a complete
vacuum we here at Ohio Stadium home of
the Buckeyes it’s very empty today I’m
the only one here and can’t think of a
better place to illustrate the vacuum of
space the empty stadium can be a
stand-in for the vacuum of space if we
compare it with what it looks like on
game day
with more than a hundred and two
thousand people in its cease Ohio
Stadium would be like the atmosphere on
earth jam-packed with air molecules so
how much do we have to clear out this
stadium to equal the vacuum of space
believe it or not you have to clear out
everybody including me and then even I’m
too much no more than a single cell from
pogies body could remain an Ohio Stadium
to come close to the vacuum of deep
space with what seems like almost
nothing in the expanse between galaxies
of the Perseus cluster the existence of
sound waves seems all the more
incredible how do you propagate a sound
wave through empty space when it’s
mostly empty well it’s just the example
of me running down the field I have to
run a long ways before I encounter
somebody but I still encounter somebody
and I could pass energy along to them
the same is true of atoms in
interstellar space it has to travel a
long ways maybe 300 light years before
it encounters another particle but when
it encounters it passes the energy and
the wave moves along
the colliding particles in the Perseus
cluster also emit faint x-rays whose
traces imaged by the Chandra Space
Telescope tell us the waves are there
but these waves are huge and the notes
they produce are lower than anything any
human has ever experienced
the pitch is about 57 octaves below
power hearing below the middle of a
piano range and that actually qualifies
this for the Guinness Book of Records as
the deepest pitch known to man the
extreme deep note emanating for Perseus
is so far below our hearing range that
it can only be approximated it’s been
said that galaxy cluster is playing an
awesomely low b-flat and scientists
calculate it will be playing constantly
for two and a half billion years number
9s deep tone of Perseus drones on as the
countdown advances a secret number one
waits at the end of the line but first
a strange high-pitched squeal insect
what comes in at number eight sounds
from space and they’re linked to signals
from extraterrestrials starting with the
Big Bang we’ve been tracking the top ten
of the universe’s greatest hits the best
of the alien sounds from space jumping
to number eight on the countdown

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