Will We Survive Mars? – Glad You Asked S1 (E1)

Will We Survive Mars? – Glad You Asked S1 (E1)


( music playing )– Uh-oh.
– Ow, ow, ow, ow. The pain. Ready? Ah! We’re in the middle of an ancient lake basin, that scientists think is one of the most
Martian places on Earth. And we’re stuck.We’re stuck here
because I had a question.
NASA says the first humanswill set foot on Mars
in the mid-2030s.
It will be the most
dangerous mission
any human has ever taken.My question is,
what comes after that?
Mars!Not how do we get there,but how do we survive,
once we do?
( music playing )Okay, here we go. We’ve been dreaming about Mars
for hundreds of years. In the 1870s, Italian astronomer
Giovanni Schiaparelli mapped channels
he saw on Mars. In Italian, channels
are“canale.”The word was mistranslated
into English as “canals,” implying deliberate
construction and flowing water. Other scientists published
their own maps, feeding this obsession
with the idea that Mars could be
a lot like Earth. People were skeptical, but they
sort of wanted it to be true. It became a public obsession. The L.A. Times ran
this piece in 1907. And I just love this headline
in the New York Times. They’re just
reporting on this stuff as though there
are Martians. This article includes
a bit of reasoning. People just want to believe.The movies they made
in the early 1900s
depict a Mars that’s
not just habitable,
but inviting.1918–
this is a silent film.A couple of guys get to Mars
and, oh, surprise–
they find a ton
of beautiful women.
They don’t hate it.1930.
– So this is Mars! We got a spot
like this three miles
from my hometown.1952.Look at the canals.This isn’t so different
than sci-fi today.
But without any real
pictures of Mars,
there was still this
sense of possibility.
Maybe, just maybe, Mars would be
something like home. And then this happens. In 1965,
and then again in 1969, NASA sent spacecraft
to fly by Mars and send back
scientific measurements and close-up photographs. But the pictures of Mars showed a world
of total desolation. There were no canals, no cities, no areas
of cultivation. No possibility of life. I can’t imagine
how devastating that must have been. I’ve only ever
lived in a time when we had pictures of Mars. Those images
were concrete proof that Mars wasn’t going to be
the second home that some kind of
still hoped for. But we never stopped obsessing
about life on Mars. ♪ Is there life on Mars? ♪ That YouTube clip,
David Bowie’s music video
for “Life On Mars,” had its highest view-day when Mars was visible
in the night sky in January 2019. We’re still looking up
at the Red Planet and wondering
about life surviving there. So let me show you what we
actually now know about Mars.( music playing )We’re about to head out
into that desert, because we’re accompanying
astrobiologist Kennda Lynch as she does research
into extremophiles, which are microbial life
that live in, well, extreme environments
like this one. And we’re going to ride
those ATVs, and I’ve never
ridden one before. – Uh-oh.
– Yeah, we’re going to
have to stop. – Nah, he’s stuck. Yep.
– We’ll get out. Cleo:
Since we’re stuck,
I’m going to tell you a little bit
about where we are. This place is one of the
closest analogs that we have to the type of environment
that Mars used to have. Mars was once a wet planet. It had liquid water
on its surface. When all that water
went away, Mars still had
an abundance of groundwater
that stayed liquid, and we still think
it might be there in the deep subsurface today–
very, very deep. So this is a good model
for us to understand how life would’ve
survived in this kind
of environment on Mars. – Cleo:
It certainly looks Martian.
– Yeah. Hey, Camille,
you want to get
some gloves on? – We’re going to do some
science here.
– All right. So we’re just going to go ahead
and take a nice surface core so we can actually
do some really heavy
DNA extraction and look at who’s
living in these sediments
and what they’re eating. And what is it about
the microbes that are
living in these sediments and what they’re eating
that makes it useful for, potentially,
humans to survive
on a place like Mars? Well, if we can understand
how life survives on Mars, then we can understand
how better to survive ourself. We’re trying to study
these microbes called
perchlorate reducers. On this perchlorate,
it’s a chlorine molecule surrounded by
four oxygen molecules. It’s toxic to humans,
and Mars has a lot
of perchlorate. The number one thing
we want to use on Mars
is water on Mars, and perchlorate likes to go
wherever there’s water. So we’re going to
have to figure out how
to get the perchlorate out of the water
if we want to use that water. It would help us
to learn how microbes
can kind of mitigate things like perchlorate,
and maybe we can use that
knowledge to help us detox the resources
that we want to pull out and use
from the Mars environment. We want to live within
the environment of Mars. We want to utilize resources
on Mars to help us live, because we can’t take
everything we need with us.Okay, so Kennda’s
research will help us
use Martian materials
to survive on Mars.
But the soil
isn’t the first thing
that would kill us
when we get there.
Hey. Ooh. This is Mars today. It’s about half
the size of Earth. But it has all of the basics that we think are necessary
to support life. It has an energy source
from sunlight, water, it has ice on the poles. And it has a few
key elements– carbon, nitrogen,
hydrogen, oxygen. But for us, there’s
a slightly crucial piece
that’s missing. Mars’ atmosphere
is about one percent
as dense as Earth’s, meaning that if you stood
on the surface of Mars, the pressure exerted
on you by the atmosphere
would be very low. Now, that might
not sound so bad,
but it’s a big problem. This is the boiling
point of water as a function of
atmospheric pressure. Okay, so the more pressure, – the higher the boiling point.
– Exactly. Earth is here. – Joss: Water boils at
212 degrees Fahrenheit.
– Correct. – And that’s at sea level.
– At sea level. That works out great for us because our resting
body temperature is about 98.6 degrees – Joss: I know that from
a gum commercial.
– ( Cleo laughs ) This gap keeps us alive. – Mars is here.
– Whoa! What this is telling us
is that because
the temperature at which water boils on Mars is significantly lower than
our average body temperature, if you stood on Mars,
the water inside of your body would just start to
spontaneously boil
inside of you. – Oh, no!
– Which sounds like a really
painful way to die. That’s why you need
a suit, right? That’s why you need a suit. The next thing
that’s going to kill you
is the air itself, because there’s not enough
oxygen for you to breathe. And if you didn’t suffocate,
you’d freeze. Mars is really cold. The average temperature on Mars is -81 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, jeez. So you’re freezing,
but your blood’s boiling and you can’t breathe. – Yes. Exactly.
– Cool. – Cool.
– Let’s do it. Short-term survival
in these conditions is a tough
engineering problem, but NASA’s pretty convinced
that we can do it. Basically, they say that
we can protect ourselves as long as we live
in enclosed environments and only go outside
in space suits, kind of like in
the movie “The Martian.” You gotta science
the ( bleep ) out of it. There’s a lot of
radiation on Mars, and one of the theories is
that we could protect ourselves – by living underground.
– Does radiation go
through the domes? – Ideally, not.
– Okay.I asked NASA scientist
Chris McKay
about our chances
for short-term survival.
Really nice to meet you.
Thanks for taking the time. – I’ll just dive right in.
– Yeah, please. How do we know that
we can do the short-term
survival on Mars? We’ve done experiments
on space station where we’ve put astronauts
in space for a year, which is roughly the time
it takes to get to Mars. So, we’re not at
the hundred percent
confidence level, but we’re pretty sure that
we could tough it out, send a crew to Mars. They could survive
the long trip. They’d be functional
on the surface for
some period of time. It wouldn’t
necessarily be easy,
but it would be doable. We think all the pieces
as we understand are in place. It turns out
the thornier question
isn’t what happens after we land
and plant the flag, but how we as humans
would consider long-term survival
on a planet like Mars.And a few scientists
have a pretty out-there idea
about how to do that.There’s too little oxygen,
no liquid water, and too much
ultraviolet light. But all that could be solved if we could make more air. Transforming the Martian
environment itself, terraforming Mars. Eventually,
you could transform Mars. into an Earth-like planet. – Just warm it up.
– With a blanket or with what? There’s the fast way
and the slow way.Carl Sagan, Robert Zubrin,
and Elon Musk
are the three
most prominent figures
who think we can survive
on a barren planet like Mars
by changing it into
something more like Earth–
terraforming it.
Proponents of this idea
say it’s a three-step process. Step one,
create the magnetosphere. Every day, we should all
thank the huge magnetic fields
that surround Earth. They make up
the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is what stops deadly
particle blasts from the sun, innocuously called
solar winds, from ripping away
our atmosphere. Mars doesn’t
have a magnetosphere, which is one reason why
its atmosphere is so thin. But scientists at NASA think there might be a way
to create one. You could put a satellite
that produces a very strong magnetic field
between Mars and the sun so it protects the Martian
atmosphere behind it. Step two,
build the atmosphere. By adding carbon dioxide
into the atmosphere, you could warm up the planet
by trapping infrared light, just like carbon dioxide
is doing in our atmosphere
here on Earth. The question is where
those extra greenhouse gases
would come from. Well, there’s
some carbon dioxide trapped in the ground
and the polar ice caps on Mars. What Elon Musk means
by “the fast way” is to drop nuclear weapons
just above the pole on Mars. But other experts
don’t believe there’s enough carbon dioxide trapped there
for that to work. So, “the slow way,” proposed by
people like Robert Zubrin, is to build factories
that release artificial
greenhouse gases to cause the same
warming effect. Step three,
release the bacteria. Once we have magnetic fields
and C02 in the atmosphere, we could release bacteria
that absorb some of the nutrients
that are on Mars and release oxygen
into the atmosphere. We already know
this step would work. This is how
large amounts of oxygen got into Earth’s atmosphere
billions of years ago. Then we wait somewhere between a few hundred
and a few thousand years. I’ve been studying
terraforming for
quite some time. I think it’s a very
interesting idea. We know how
to warm up planets. We’re doing it on Earth. The physics
turns out to be easy. That’s a surprise
to most people, and it was a surprise to me
when I first worked it out. “Wow, we actually
can warm up Mars.” That’s the good news. The bad news
is we’re not sure that there’s enough stuff
on Mars to make a plan. We have to go to Mars
and find out. Is there enough C02?
Is there enough water? Is there enough nitrogen
to create a biosphere? How do you feel about
the idea of terraforming? Um… ( chuckles ) It’s an interesting
idea in theory, but in reality,
I think we’re several, several, several
generations away from dynamically changing
an entire planet.Just because life surviving
on Mars is possible,
doesn’t mean
it’s going to be easy.
Because especially
with humans
things can always go wrong.( all shouting )( music playing )– What’s up, Cleo?
– Hello. – Where are you?
– Can you see it? Christophe: Oh, wow!
That’s incredible! – That’s the Biosphere?
– That’s the Biosphere. – Now I gotta go inside.
– Okay, you gotta– Bye, Christophe!I’ve enlisted Christophe
to explain why we’re here.
From 1984 to 1991,
this billionaire, Ed Bass,spent about $150 million
on creating this facility
that would kind of act
as a proof of concept
for a self-sustaining
habitat on Mars.
Margaret Augustine:
If you’re going to consider
a colony on Mars,
you need to have
a total life-system,and that’s what the Biosphere 2
project is all about.
( wind blowing ) This is how they circulate and condition the air
in the facility. Christophe:
They called it Biosphere 2.
Biosphere 1 is Earth. Newscaster:
Four men and four women,
so-called “biospherians,”to be sealed inside
for the next two years.
Bon voyage!
Fly your spaceship well. Once they were inside,
it seems like a million
things went wrong.They ran out of food.
They ran out of oxygen.
The press was calling
this a disaster.
One of the women,
Jane Poynter, actually had to leave
and then come backbecause she cut off
the top of her finger.
Cleo’s about to go
talk to her.
The thing that I think
is most important
about Biosphere, is not the technology
that they came up with. It’s not, um, you know,
exactly what they ate. It’s the things that
the biospherians needed that weren’t food and air and the stuff that we already
assume that we need. So we’re going
to go talk to them about what their experience
was like at Biosphere and why they’ve kept
this mission their whole lives. Let’s air ourselves out. Every time
we record on camera, we have to turn
the air-conditioning off, and it’s so hot. Jesus! “Please enter.” – Hello! Nice to meet you.
– Hi, how are you? I’m Jane. – How are you? I’m Cleo.
– Hi. Cleo:Jane Poynter
and Taber MacCallum
are two of the original
eight biospherians.
And after they left Biosphere,
they kept this mission
to help people get to
and survive on Mars.
We made thousands
of thousands of small
Biospheres about this big. Taber: When we figured out
how to make these little
ecosystems stable, which was a lot of what
we learned from Biosphere 2, we sent little systems
to the Mir Space Station and we bred
the first animals, those little aquatic animals, through a complete
life-cycle in space. When I went into the Biosphere,
I was very naive. And I thought– my experience
to that point had shown me that when you
put a small group
of people together, in a fairly difficult
environment, they pull together, and I thought that’s what
we were going to do. No, not so much. Taber:
There we are… – There we are,
except not quite.
– …in our world. Jane: These aren’t
the fancy suits, though. – Oh, they aren’t
the fancy suits?
– No, no, no. These are
the pre-fancy suits. Oh, these are the jumpsuits. Jane:It turns out
that there’s a whole branch
of psychology that NASA
has done a lot of work in
called isolated and confined
environment psychology.
And we were a textbook case
of what not to do.One of the worst things
you can do
is have a team of eight.The reason is because
it breaks down
into factions
of four and four
which are extremely stable.And that’s exactly
what we did.

You know, it’s really–it’s really hard
to describe to somebody what is that experience of living in
an isolated environment. So, part of the training is simply to deal
with your personal baggage so it doesn’t become
how you interact with your other
crew members, right? So that was what you
start to see happening, was you start projecting,
you know, that’s my sister,
my brother, whatever,
onto all these– and the interactions go crazy because you’re carrying
this stuff in your head. Cleo:Biosphere 2 wasn’t
the only experiment
that locked people in and
taught us about human behavior.
There was one in Hawaii
called High Seas,
one in Utah called The Mars
Desert Research Station,
one in Russia called Mars 500.But those experiments
were much smaller
and people stayed there for
much shorter periods of time.
– I interviewed
Chris McKay at NASA.
– Oh, yeah, for sure. And he told me Biosphere 2
is one of the most ambitious
projects of its kind. – Yeah.
– And he said there hasn’t been anything done
like it since. – It’s true.
– Why do you think that is? You have to think
really long-termbefore you need a biosphere.Taber:
Yeah, we didn’t really
have problems for six months.But after about six months
you’re like,
“I’m only a quarter
of the way through this?”
That’s just going
to Mars and back fast
in two years, right?So, I’m afraid
we’re lulling ourselves
into thinking that
this isn’t such a big deal
when the human psychology of it
and getting that right and getting that team
to work right is really,
really important. Cleo:Surviving on Mars is going
to have to mean figuring out
how to meet all
of those human needs.
After all, it’s the hardest,
longest, most ambitious trip our species has ever taken. And it turns out that NASA
is actually paying attention
to our psychological needs just like
they’re paying attention
to our physical needs, and that’s because
they have to. They’ve noticed the same
psychological problems in some astronauts
that the biospherians noticed when they were inside
their airtight facility. So I’m going to
play you this clip. This is astronaut
Henry Hartsfield describing
an experience in space in a 2001 interview. So, did you–
did you hear what he said? He was going to
open the hatch. Well, he was just
obsessed with the fact – that one could
open the hatch, right?
– Yeah. It’s kind of like the feeling if you’re standing
on a subway platform and you’re like,
“I could push this person.” – Yeah.
– I never have that feeling. Oh, I think about that
all the time. Or being the person pushed.
I think about that. In 2001,
which is the same year
as that interview, NASA and Russian NASA,
which is called Roscosmos, came up with this enormous
medical checklist for what to do
in various crises in space. And it turns out–
actually, do you have
the highlighter? – Yes.
– It turns out that psychosis is the second one
on the list. Oh, wow. Behavioral acute
psychosis emergency. This is page one of three. “Restrain patient using
gray tape around wrists, – ankles, and using a bungee
around the torso.”
– Whoa! – Yeah. Yeah.
– That’s intense. That’s full, like,
kidnapping protocol. Full kidnapping. “Administer 10 mg
of Haldol orally.” So, Haldol is
a potent tranquilizer. And the thing that I find
so interesting about this isn’t exactly what you do, but the fact that they
find this so important in the first place. And that really surprised me. I went to Utah and I learned about how toxins
in the soil are something we’re going to need
to figure out if we want
to survive on Mars. I talked to Joss
and we talked about how your blood
is going to boil if you stand
on the surface of Mars. And now I find out
that actually the thing that might be
most dangerous to us is just ourselves
on a mission like this. But at the same time,
even though I learned
all of that, I also learned that
there are possible solutions to every single one, and I think that’s
a pretty good reason to try. Chris:
Humans will go to Mars.
Humans will explore Mars.
That much we already know.Whether we will stay there
on the long-term
is a question that
we have to answer by trying.
Cleo:And by trying
to go to Mars,
we could have a role to play
in a mission for survival
that’s much, much bigger
than just us. Chris:
If you look at the universe,
the thing that looks likeit could be basis of valueand goodness
in the universe is life.
It’s the most amazing
phenomenon we know.
We’re the only species
within that domain of life
that can comprehend the concept
of planets in space, so maybe we have
a role to play. Kennda:
We all eventually do want
humans to get to Mars.
I see everything that
we’re doing now as preparing
for humans to get there. That’s almost the essence
of life, is to spread
to new habitats. So, it seems like
we’re just doing what
we’re supposed to do. Cleo:
And when it comes to Mars,
at least as far as we know, we’re the only
species that can.( music playing )Here we go. – Man: You getting hot?
– Yeah. – Oh, no!
– Oh, let’s go! Go, go, go, go, go. – Okay.
– All right. – Let’s get–
– Yeah! We’re going to probably– We were not meant
to survive out here, but we did. We did it.

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