Click for full image.
Cool image time! The recent discovery that there might be a near surface reservoir of ice on the floor the canyon Valles Marineris, near the Martian equator, immediately brought this location to the forefront as a possible site for establishing colonies. The weather will be less harsh than higher latitudes, the low elevation means a thicker atmosphere, and the terrain will be more appealing than the boring flat northern lowlands.
The picture to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, illustrates however the likely difficulties of landing and living on the floor of Valles Marineris. Taken on July 26, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the photo shows just one small area of the floor of Ius Chasm, the western part of Valles Marineris and about 300 miles to the east of that water reserve.
In this one picture we can see trapped sand dunes in hollows, eroded depressions, mottled terrain resembling stucco, and innumerable cliffs and sinks and plateaus. For the first manned spacecraft to land on Mars, this is not a good first choice. Even later, when the first bases have been built, this terrain would still be forbidding for the early colonists to land in and traverse.
The overview map below shows exactly where this picture is relative to the rest of the Valles Marineris.
The small black dot in the southern canyon of Ius Chasm marks the location of this picture. The suspected underground ice reservoir is thought to be in the center of the north-south chasm running from Melas to Ophir. While this spot is 300 miles from that reservoir, and the floor of Valles Marineris is quite vast with much variety of terrain, this picture is somewhat typical of the many images taken by MRO of that canyon.
This is not to say that there aren’t sufficiently large smooth areas in Valles Marineris. Melas Chasm, just a few miles to the south of the highest concentration of suspect ice, is quite large and has a lot of places on its floor that might be workable.
Nonetheless, landing in Valles Marineris will have challenges that must be weighed against its advantages. And of all these factors, the most important will be whether that ice reservoir even exists, and if it does whether it is easily accessible or not.
Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!
From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space
, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.
does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.
“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.
All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.
Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.