is a science writer. This woman is the Latin America correspondent for Science, along with her work has additionally starred in Wired and Slate. She lives in Mexico City.
Aeon for Friends
It wasn’t the Martians’ fault their planet died. When they existed – once – Martians were likely microbes, residing in a world just like our very own, warmed by an environment and crisscrossed by waterways. But Mars started initially to lose that atmosphere, perhaps because its gravity wasn’t strong adequate to hold it was gradually blown away by solar winds onto it after an asteroid impact, or perhaps. The reason continues to be mysterious, but the ending is obvious: Mars’s liquid water dry out or froze into ice caps, leaving life without its most precious resource. Any Martians will have been victims of a planet-wide natural disaster they could neither foresee nor prevent.
A planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, the moral implications are clear: we should help our neighbours for Chris McKay. Earthlings might possibly not have had the opportunity to intervene when Martians were dying en masse (we were just microbes ourselves), but now, billions of years later, we’re able to make it up to them. We’ve already figured out an effective way to warm up a planet: pump greenhouse gases into its atmosphere. McKay imagines a future that is not-too-distant which we park machinery on Mars that converts carbon and fluorine in the Martian soil into insulating chlorofluorocarbons, and spews them to the planet’s puny atmosphere like a protein shake made to bulk it up. ‘On Earth, we would call it pollution. On Mars, it’s called medicine,’ McKay told me in an interview. On his calculation, Mars could be warm enough to support water and microbial life within 100 years. Continue reading “It won’t be a friendly encounter nor a conquest: it will be a gold rush when we meet aliens. Can we make sure it is ethical?”