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TheWeinersmiths65 karma

We got a really nice question on Mastodon that might not get asked here, so: from Rodbotic,

I have read that sending women to mars makes sense since they use less oxygen.
Does your book cover sending short people? the habitats wouldn't need to be as tall? and lower body mass/ caloric needs. They could be the dwarfs of mars.


So, in an earlier version of this book we really dug into this, but ultimately decided it was more relevant to a short term mission, not settlement. That said, we know from studies, and in one case from a closed-loop system called Lunar PALACE, that women consume less. Some people have proposed a no-boys-allowed Mars voyage for this reason.

I'll say in some sense it's plausible. If a small woman consumes 15% less than an average astronaut, for the consumable price of 6 people you can have 7. That said, there are some objections:

1) Why not just send, like, jockeys? Just send small people, as you say.

2) A lot of what you'd want in a Mars mission is data. Leaving out male bodies and bodily diversity generally might at least correct for the historical dearth of female bodies in the data, but all things considered you'd want the most data. That suggests not limiting yourself to one biological sex.

3) Repeat after me: human spacefaring is always a political act. It's something generally undertaken by governments to show might/wherewithal. That may change, but as long as human missions to space are political, you can expect they will try to be politically correct. If that's a US mission, I would expect diversity on as many axes as possible that are relevant to the US. Ditto Europe. I'm less certain about the culture for other countries, not from doubt but from lack of knowledge.

TheWeinersmiths46 karma


I would notify NASA about your ex then, but the overall data is pretty robust here. [Zach]

TheWeinersmiths41 karma


Yes, we both descend from Knobbediah Cockwright, who came to America in 1869.

TheWeinersmiths33 karma

We were reluctant too, and a bit disappointed of course, but so it goes. As for solving those problems, I would want to add the challenge of human reproduction. I can't predict the future, but I do think there's a least a plausible route there via tourism. Something like:

1) Demand for tourism means more money in the business.

2) Given the nature of that business, you would expect more spending on reliability, life support system, possibly larger nicer spacecraft, resulting in us just getting better at this sort of thing.

3) Given that it's probably cheaper to grow food than to ship it out of a gravity well, we could start on closed loop ecology.

4) Eventually you get to a world where perhaps on the Moon or in a lagrange point you get something like cruise ship employees who work on site for a long time, and in the process we figure out better ways to manage the variety of health issues in space that derive from microgravity, radiation, etc.

Or maybe not! Hard to say, of course, and whether any of this gives us the tricky answer on reproduction is harder - there's not an obvious economic case for low-g obstetrics! Maybe (here's a bad sci fi short story idea) we get it from people trying to have animals in space for food, which gives us data that is hopefully applicable to humans.

There are also deeper issues we elaborate, such as the weird legal regime of space, the limited quantity of good places on the Moon, concerns over building a company town with little to no labor mobility, and the general danger of a solar system where private actors can own fast million+ ton spacecraft while most of humanity lives down a gravity well.

TheWeinersmiths31 karma

Oh what a fun question! This person must be someone who knows I'm a parasitologist. :)

Well - honestly I can't think of any parasite that I would choose to bring from the start. That said, I bet pests will end up in a space settlement by accident. For example, Biosphere-2 tried very hard to determine what ended up in their ecosystem, but they still ended up with bark scorpions (In case you don’t have a sense of what bark scorpions are like, the Arizona‐Sonora Desert Museum sup‐ plies what they call “Extra Fun‐facts,” including “This is the only species of scorpion in Arizona that is truly considered as life threatening.”). So I bet some kind of pest, possibly a insect, will end up joining us in space. When that happens, we may return to thinks like parasitoids for biocontrol. [Kelly]