The Method Section: A Study of Space Colonization – Timestamps

00:00 – Intro

01:57 – What flag will Martians fly?

04:36 – Laws and governance on Mars

10:27 – Prospective conservation of planetary bodies

11:54 – What time is it on Mars?

13:14 – Mental health of pioneer colonists

18:51 – Takeaways and conclusions

19:30 – Outro

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Check out Pascal Lee’s Martian flag below. It is the most likely contender and has been used at the Hutton Research Institute and on American space shuttle missions.

This week on The Method Section, Tom looks at the processes of colonising another planetary body. Rather than the technology and what we would hope to achieve that we normally hear about, if colonists did settle on Mars what laws would they follow, what nationality would they belong to? Something to learn from history is the mental health problems associated with pioneer colonists, what problems can we expect Martian colonists or explorers to face and how do they plan to deal with it? Music by: Joakim Karud –

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Tom:                      Hello Ladies and gentlemen and welcome. I am your host, Tom Jenks and today we are going to be looking at what happens when we colonize other planets. What nationalities do they take, what laws and governances preside over them and what health effects do we expect to see? Stay tuned to The Method Section.

Tom:                      Yes, that’s right. Welcome to The Method Section and today we are doing something a little bit different to normal. Normally we look at experiments in the past and stuff that’s going on now, but I thought it’d be really interesting to look at stuff that’s going to be of kind of great importance in the near future. So, in 2030 colonists are expected to head out to Mars and that’s great and every time we kind of look at a, we always hear about the technology that is going to be used and what they’re going to be doing there. But what we don’t hear about is if they actually do decide to settle and make a colonist based there, what language will they take? What time will they use? What laws are going to be there and how will they enforce them? What flag would Mars even have? So we are going to focus on Mars today because that is in our lifetime probably the only planetary colonist excursion that we will witness. And hopefully we do. And as such that this is coming up and you know, is about 15 years away, something like that. This is something that is being studied and experimented with right now, but we just don’t hear anything about it. And I think it would be good to bring some light to that.

Tom:                      So, firstly then let’s take a look at it. Maybe the flag that they might use. I’m going to give great shout out to Vsauce here. They covered a few videos on this and they are an absolutely amazing youtube channel. Please check them out if you’re into science at all. Super interesting. A lot of the stuff on the main channel is paid to view recently, but go back and you’ll find some super, super interesting stuff there. So the flag now for a lot of people, maybe this is a nonfactor, why are we even considering this? But for some people flag means a lot. And I know that’s kind of the stereotype we have of Americans over here in the UK that you know, flag and patriotism means a lot to them and it helps give them a sense of identity. So, there have been many, many suggested flags for Mars, believe it or not, but at the moment the biggest contender is one design by Pascal Lee in 1998 and it has actually been flown at the Hutton Mars station. This is where they conduct research done on how humans may live on other planets. And it has even been flown into space on, I believe it was an American shuttle launch. It’s a very simple flag so I’ll be able to describe it for you. If you imagine the Italian flag, it has three vertical bars and from left to right or flag pole to outwards, it is red, green, and blue. Now I’ll admit it’s not the most inspirational flag to look at and I’ll put a picture of it on the site as well actually so you guys can take a look. But it drew inspiration from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Sci-fi trilogy about Mars, which in order were titled Red Mars, Green, Mars, Blue Mars, and it depicts and resembles our hopeful ability to terraform Mars from a red planet to a green one with lots of plants and trees to a blue earth like one. Now that will obviously never happened in our lifetime, but it does inspire some hope for the future. There are many other contenders which I will also link to on our page site, so if you have time, check them out. There’s some really cool ideas titled under cosmic era., ourth rock from the sun, orbiting moons and they just depict Mars and our solar system in different ways. But it’ll be interesting to see in the future kind of if, if colonists go, there’ll obviously be one colony, then if it spreads out across the planet, do they then divide up into countries and then do they, you know, do they have their own flags? Do they still have that one universal Martian flag? Which we don’t have here on earth? But that’d be interesting. I guess it would be something similar to like our UN flag, but yeah, check that out. Some really cool stuff there just to, you know, it’s food for thought and just something that, as I said just a minute ago, we don’t consider these things.

Tom:                      So, then I think the next thing to look at would be the laws on Mars, the governments and how would they be enforced. Now, one thing to think about is at best it takes months to travel there. That’s when Mars and Earth have lined up in there. You know that if the closest they will be in the solar system, which happens every 24 months I believe, and communicating between Earth and Mars takes anywhere between four and 24 minutes. Again, depending on how the two planets are aligned and that’s to send and receive messages. So if something happened on Mars and we didn’t agree with it here on Earth maybe, how could we pressure them otherwise to do otherwise? How could we pressure them to deter criminal behavior? And I think really the answer is that we couldn’t. So we would kind of have to establish a governance there and let them deal with it themselves. The first place that people go when they’re looking at this is article one of the United Nations outer space treaty. Now this is seen as the most important body of space law and I’ve got a couple of quotes here from that it says outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies shall be free for exploration and use by all states without discrimination of any kind on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law. And there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies. A little bit further on it says outer space including the Moon and other celestial bodies is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation or by any other means. So this basically says that no governmental state or country can lay claim to a celestial body like the Moon or Mars. But it says absolutely nothing about individuals or private companies going there and establishing their own kind of bases. It essentially acts under international maritime law it’s something similar to that if anyone knows about that. But this made me think, what if when we get there obviously and people do want to settle this will probably have to change because you’re basically saying people who are going there are unable to claim their new home and I just don’t think that will hold up. I don’t think it will change in our lifetime maybe, but maybe we’ll see the beginning of that. So when people get there, a legal system will have to be made. But you know, I read a paper in 2008 that was published by the British interplanetary society and it said the hardest thing to establishing a colony on another planet would not be the resources or the technology because I mean we are pretty much there already actually we could do it now is just getting everything prepped and getting people willing to go. So a legal system would have to be made and this paper said that if a big enough group size got together, they could easily seize the oxygen and water supply and it would be pretty easy for them to kind of hold the colony at ransom to, they’re kind of every wish. So if that’s the case, my thought was, is an armed presence going to be needed? And if so, who would the armed presence be loyal to? You’d like have a almost a military style presence constantly within the parameters of the colony. It also said that the lethal environments around the colony, because obviously you’re on a different planet, you cannot survive out there. It will force the need for extra regulations that are not seen on Earth for health and safety wise. There’s going to be interdependency and legislative mechanisms and I quote, “will nurture and allow for the most appalling tyrannies that human society can contrive”. It basically is saying that whatever governance is set up will end up being somewhat tyrannical because of the kind of pressures that are going to be on there, not allowing people to rise up and not allowing people to obviously go out whenever they want and the freedom of people is going to be somewhat restricted, but at the same time, how do you balance to make that fair to everyone that’s there and he said this is going to be the worst issue is getting something balanced correctly. The main plan though when you look at this is for setting up a governmental agency or law system on another planet is what’s called extra terrestrial liberty. Now this is the idea that when people go up to another planet to colonize, we give up control of them. We do not bind them to their nationalities. So say you know, a group of Americans and Chinese and Russians went up, they would not be bound by the laws of their country that these Mars bound travelers are unbound by Earth-based laws that their own nationalities will hold them too. It would allow them to become Martian citizens, allowing them to make their own laws to elect who they want in power and to die how they choose. This frees them from any state that we have here on Earth and this is actually, you know, this is something that I thought, okay, people are thinking about it, great, but they are doing much more than that. This is an active process being thought about and simulated by the British Interplanetary Society every couple of years or so, they hold meetings and simulate what would need to happen to draw up a reasonable law system on another planet. They did this, they, they set up meetings and they pretend they’re on the Moon and they discuss what they would want to set up whilst they’re there. They cover governance, freedom of speech and press, because obviously that’s going to be a thing, political and economic systems to maximize liberty, constitutions, legal and policing systems as well as prisons and law.

Tom:                      One other thing then to consider along with laws and stuff is conservation and I know it’s not something people think about when we think about colonizing other planets and things, but there is actually massive debate about life on Mars and what it would mean if we found it there. There are actually fully fledged organizations against bringing samples back from Mars for fear of mass virus outbreaks and it being the end of humanity, believe it or not, and actually us going there and contaminating it first. We don’t know if that, I mean we try our best to sterilize all of our machines and everything that we take to or send to other planets, but what if we’ve already taken a virus there and wiped out life on Mars already? We don’t know. Maybe with curiosity, we sent a load of tardigrades and they are still living there now and we go there and take some samples and we’re going to find it’s tardigrade heaven. But we won’t know if we took them there or they were there already. Some people say that we just shouldn’t go because what if we ruin things on Mars? It would be better left alone. Others say that if we terraform it, we should allow for species that we find their to thrive in a more hospitable environment, but we’d also be enacting evolutionary pressures on them and so there’s debate there too. Iron, there’s actually lots of talk about setting up, I guess national parks like protected parks to preserve the way that it was. So if we do go there and we do manage to settle there for many generations, that future generations can see how Mars looked as it was when we first got there.

Tom:                      The next thing to consider then is actually time and time is obviously such an integral part to everyday life here on earth. Crucial in fact to kind of everything that we do. But imagine we went to Mars. Earth time would be pretty useless. So on Mars a day or a sol as they call it, is 2.7% longer. So if you’re using the same 24 hour clock that we use here on Earth over large periods of time, this would drift a lot. That also then brings into question the seasons on Mars. Obviously Mars being the next planet out from us has a much further distance to go around the sun and it takes a lot longer for Mars to complete a Martian year. So on earth it’s obviously 365 days, but one Martian year is 687 days or 1.88 times an Earth year. So if they were following the same calendar that we followed here on Earth, eventually it just wouldn’t line up at all. And the sense of a calendar would be very arbitrary. As you can imagine. The seasons are also extended. So I think there’s been one calendar proposed for Martian colonists called the Darian Calendar. And this is a weekly, a monthly based calendar, much like ours. But it has 24 months in it. Instead of 12 all the months have 28 days apart from the sixth month, the 12th month and the 18th month, and I’m going to try and pronounce these, but probably going to come out her endlessly Khumbha, Rishabha and Simha in those orders and they have 27 days and whereas each season here lasts roughly three months on Mars, they last six months. So imagine having six months of summer and also six months of winter if you’re not a winter person, that would suck for you.

Tom:                      One of the last things to consider that I think is very important is the mental health, and it’s a massive thing in today’s culture and rightfully so. There have been huge amount of studies to suggest what the first colonizers or even scientists who went there just for maybe a couple of years. Normally these missions are planned to be three years or two and a half years because that’s when the orbit of earth and Mars line up again. But being so far away from home and isolated, since it takes such a long time to communicate, the mental health strains could be very, very real. There is a reason why in prisons, the worst thing you can do to the worst of the worst people who are in there: rapists, serial killers, murderers, those people, the worst punishment that they can face is solitary confinement and the reason is because humans are social beings. We need social contact, whether it’s with other people who are the worst of the worst. Because I looked at a study and it was ment to last six weeks it was done in the 1960s and you not be able to do it now. It would be horribly unethical to do it now. Maybe it’s something we can cover in the future on The Method Section and they got the subjects, the volunteers put them into some cells for six weeks and after one week they had to abandon it because these people literally could not think after one week of solitary confinement with nothing but a bed in their room. They could not hold a conversation because they just couldn’t think about anything for any length of time. Also, if you look back in history, we can see that colonizers of countries and new regions of the world experience kind of similar things. In the early days of colonizing America, prairie madness was a real problem. This was a condition obviously in the prairies where you know, farmers and other colonists were fairly isolated from the rest of their people. And this was a condition experienced by the pioneers in America where isolation and harsh winters, which meant no food created increased violence, depression and total mental breakdown. There are lots of records of normal people becoming increasingly violent and well mentally not there anymore. They just could not continue. Another example of this is during the tropics when sailors were first exploring, well Western sailors, I’ll say they experienced a feverish delirium called calenture. Ah, this manifested in sailors in the tropics, as I said, and they would hallucinate because of the isolation that they were going through and probably malnutrition and everything that they were experiencing. They would hallucinate that the sea was a lush green meadow and they would throw themselves overboard and drown. So this is something that scientists and doctors and psychologists are really working on now so that when it comes to colonizing other planets, we are prepared hopefully. And a 12 month study was done with a group of six scientists in Hawaii and they were simulating what it might be like to live on Mars and the simulation was as real as it could get apart from obviously the gravity and stuff like that. They were taken to Hawaii. They were completely cut off from everyone apart from the other people there when they were trying to communicate with, you know, like the fake NASA or their families, there would be an input eight minute delay. So it would take eight minutes for their message to get there and eight minutes for them to receive it. There would be a, as I said, the delay in communication, the living conditions were the same. They were unable to leave the the HAB (Martian habitat) without a suit and they would have to practice going out and conducting experiments. And they found that the only thing that kind of helped these guys and kept them sane, stop them from going into prairie madness or having calenture or anything like this was firstly there was six of them. You need to have a big enough group for them to be together. And the thing that kept them going was having board games to keep them mentally engaged. Musical instruments that kept them culturally assimilated. One of them had a guitar, so they were able to sing songs and you knowm kind of practice, their cultural aspects of their life. And one of the most important things that they had helped a lot actually was having stuffed animals because this is something that they could, you know, pretend that they had pets and it really kept them mentally grounded. And this is actually a widely recognized phenomenon. If anyone’s seen Castaway with Tom Hanks where he gets lost on an island and he makes a Wilson the ball, you know he has a bloodied hand, he creates a face out of it and he starts talking to it. There has been lots of studies to suggest that if you are secluded having something that you anthropomorphize, something that you can talk to, you can pretend to keep yourself talking, keep yourself thinking in a bonded socially bonded manner. It will keep you sane. So if ever anyone gets stuck in the wilderness somewhere, create a little friend and a, it might make it a bit easier for you.

Tom:                      However, as you guys know, I try and keep this series a bit shorter, so the takeaways and conclusions then. A lot of people think this maybe isn’t even worth talking about. You know, we’re so far away, but at the same point I think to me that it doesn’t really matter. I find it very interesting and well, yes, you’re right. Maybe there are some other important things that people can be talking about but they are, those things are also being talked about and looked into, but there’ll be a time in 15 years or so when these colonists do set out to Mars and these things do become very necessary and the fact that there is some groundwork and a lot of groundwork and a lot of study being done to make sure that these things go well, it’s going to be absolutely crucial. It means we’re not thinking about it at the last second.

Tom:                      But yeah, that is all I have time for this week guys. Thank you very much for listening. If you want to check out all the latest goings on, you can head to you can find us on Facebook and Twitter by searching @conductscience. If you’d like to get in touch, use the #ConductScience, ask a question, suggest a guest, whatever it is. If yeah, just have a chat. That is what this show is all about. This is going to be the last show before our mid season break. However, we are taking our one or two week break just depending on how things go. Both me and Mitch are moving, got a lot going back into our lives. We’re heading up to uni for a year or so. So before we get sorted we’re just going to take a break for a bit. But yeah, there are a lot of episodes for you guys to catch up on. Remember, get in touch. We will be looking at the #ConductScience all the way through this break on Thursday, yesterday, we released the variety show for the Conduct Science Podcast. The last main show before the break we looked at the history of space waste. Mitch took us into his cybersecurity corner. I then also discussed how far humans could actually hope to explore the universe. It’s a lot more depressing than you might think and what’s the possibility that the tyrannosaurus rex was aquatic? But yeah. Thank you guys very much for listening. Hope to see you in a couple of weeks and I’ll see you guyyyssss …. A next tiiiiiiime.