Bioforming and terraforming: A balance of methods for feasible space colonization

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This paper is a summary of results achieved in a report concerning the subject of Terraforming entitled "Visysphere Mars - Terraforming meets engineered life adaptation", developed by 22 students from the International Space University (ISU). The report totaled 163 pages and defined a new concept of integrating the systems needed to support a human society on Mars. The potential applications of nontraditional and oftentimes controversial methods were examined to support the settlement of Mars. Specifically, the authors focused on the integration and application of advanced technologies in fields like genetic engineering, biotechnology, robotics, and terraforming, before the end of the current century. Shortterm, economically feasible terraforming methods to change Mars into a more 'Earthlike' environment were described. Following this, current methods of actively adapting life to fit these new Earthlike conditions were developed into original and innovative solutions for living on Mars. The purpose of the project was to look at ways of reducing the time spans and complexity involved in a complete terraforming of Mars, and to ultimately define a way of creating a techno-ecosphere on Mars while the planet is only partially terraformed. One important aspect of this study was to examine the religious, ethical, political, and legal questions that arise from this 'blurring of lines' between life and technology. In this way, not only 'how' these technologies can aid in the future of space exploration is addressed, but also the ways in which these technologies can be implemented based on societal considerations.

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The unprecedented challenges of creating Biosphere 2, the world's first laboratory for biospherics, the study of global ecology and long-term closed ecological system dynamics, led to breakthrough developments in many fields, and a deeper understanding of the opportunities and difficulties of material closure. This paper will review accomplishments and challenges, citing some of the key research findings and publications that have resulted from the experiments in Biosphere 2. Engineering accomplishments included development of a technique for variable volume to deal with pressure differences between the facility and outside environment, developing methods of atmospheric leak detection and sealing, while achieving new standards of closure, with an annual atmospheric leakrate of less than 10%, or less than 300 ppm per day. This degree of closure permitted detailed tracking of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and trace gases such as nitrous oxide and ethylene over the seasonal variability of two years. Full closure also necessitated developing new approaches and technologies for complete air, water, and wastewater recycle and reuse within the facility. The development of a soil-based highly productive agricultural system was a first in closed ecological systems, and much was learned about managing a wide variety of crops using non-chemical means of pest and disease control. Closed ecological systems have different temporal biogeochemical cycling and ranges of atmospheric components because of their smaller reservoirs of air, water and soil, and higher concentration of biomass, and Biosphere 2 provided detailed examination and modeling of these accelerated cycles over a period of closure which measured in years. Medical research inside Biosphere 2 included the effects on humans of lowered oxygen: the discovery that human productivity can be maintained with good health with lowered atmospheric oxygen levels could lead to major economies on the design of space stations and planetary/lunar settlements. The improved health resulting from the calorie-restricted but nutrient dense Biosphere 2 diet was the first such scientifically controlled experiment with humans. The success of Biosphere 2 in creating a diversity of terrestrial and marine environments, from rainforest to coral reef, allowed detailed studies with comprehensive measurements such that the dynamics of these complex biomic systems are now better understood. The coral reef ecosystem, the largest artificial reef ever built, catalyzed methods of study now being applied to planetary coral reef systems. Restoration ecology advanced through the creation and study of the dynamics of adaptation and self-organization of the biomes in Biosphere 2. The international interest that Biosphere 2 generated has given new impetus to the public recognition of the sciences of biospheres (biospherics), biomes and closed ecological life systems. The facility, although no longer a materially-closed ecological system, is being used as an educational facility by Columbia University as an introduction to the study of the biosphere and complex system ecology and for carbon dioxide impacts utilizing the complex ecosystems created in Biosphere '. The many lessons learned from Biosphere 2 are being used by its key team of creators in their design and operation of a laboratory-sized closed ecological system, the Laboratory Biosphere, in operation as of March 2002, and for the design of a Mars on Earth(TM) prototype life support system for manned missions to Mars and Mars surface habitats. Biosphere 2 is an important foundation for future advances in biospherics and closed ecological system research.
Artificial greenhouse gases could be used to warm Mars in order to make it habitable. Here we present new laboratory measurements of the thermal infrared absorption spectra of seven artificial greenhouse gases (CF4, C2F6, C3F8, SF6, CF3Cl, CF3Br, CF2Cl2) at concentrations from 10−7 up to unity. We used a radiative-convective multilayer model to compute the warming caused by a mixture of the four fluorine-based greenhouse gases. The results show that for current Mars, C3F8 produces the largest warming: 0.56 K and 33.5 K for partial pressures of 10−3 Pa and 1 Pa, respectively. Averaged over partial pressures from 0.01 to 1 Pa, the range of most interest for planetary ecosynthesis, CF4, C2F6, and SF6 were 17%, 49%, and 48% as effective as C3F8, respectively. The optimal mixture of the four fluorine-based greenhouse gases, taking into account the overlapping of their absorption bands, was 16% more effective than pure C3F8, averaged over the range 0.01 Pa to 1 Pa. Energy balance calculations suggest that the addition of ∼0.2 Pa of the best greenhouse gases mixture or ∼0.4 Pa of C3F8 would shift the equilibrium to the extent that CO2 would no longer be stable at the Martian poles and a runaway greenhouse effect would result.
Francis Crick reviews the papers published 21 years ago on the structure of DNA and the reaction to them.
The origin of life appears to be closely tied to the formation and early evolution of the solar system. Key questions deal with the source of abiotic organic material on the early Earth, the nature of interstellar organic material and its relationship to the observed organic compounds in the outer solar system, and the possible origin of life on Mars early in its history. From the perspective of planetary environments, liquid water is the essential requirement for life and serves as a surrogate indicator for life. New models and analyses in conjunction with data returned from upcoming missions promise to significantly advance our knowledge of how life originated in our solar system.
In 1962, James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA. Notably absent from the podium was Rosalind Franklin, whose X-ray photographs of DNA contributed directly to the discovery of the double helix. Franklin's premature death, combined with misogynist treatment by the male scientific establishment, cast her as a feminist icon. This myth overshadowed her intellectual strength and independence both as a scientist and as an individual.