While this entire series so far might have been about sex (on Mars, and space in general), I am somewhat conflicted with how to present the arguments towards the opposing views discussed by the likely scenarios of procreating on Mars. On the one hand, we have discussed the theories behind what happens when babies are raised in a lower gravity environment than what they’re accustomed to on Earth. The hypothesis I was interested in is the height difference between the two different different species that can result as a factor of lower gravity.
But my issue stems up from the other viewpoint I want to introduce into this debate, with the idea that lower gravity can actually affect fetal development and might result in babies not making it past the birth stage on Mars.
In The Finches of Mars, a novel by sci-fi author Brian Aldiss, we arrive at exactly this situation, stillborn babies on the Red Planet. The novel is somewhat odd in that it has no center due to the lack of a main character, as it hyperloops between characters and their dealings with the red planet. Mars has six ivory towers, each tower representing “linguistic rather than political bases”, which are all stereotyped unevenly in the novel, though that isn’t my main focus here.
You have the following towers and their personality as polled by the inhabitants of Mars:
- Chinese: Most Elaborate
- West: Most Learned
- Russ-East: Most Artistic
- Singa-Thai: Most Exclusive
- Scand: Most Spartan
- Sud-Am: Most Exotic
With the colonies established, the Martian base began accepting immigrants from Earth, as long as they were atheists and brought no religion nor pets with them. Someone managed to smuggle finches to Mars, hence the novel’s name. This seems like a nod at Darwin’s Origin of Species. While remaining anti-religion and pro-science in the entire base, they stick to immigrant backgrounds in academia, literature, science and philosophy, which does show a centralization of brain power. An interesting quote from the book that I liked:
The woman to whom a terrestrial computer had allotted the name Shea said,"Are we the elite or the rejects, Noel?"
Noel raised a delicate eyebrow. "I prefer to think of us as the elite."
"Here we are on Tharsis Shield, parked in six towers-we were so proud of being chosen for this extraordinary exile-is this indeed the honor we imagine it to be? Or do you think we have been dumped here so as not to interfere with the villainies brewing on Earth?"
This shows the dilemma of being a smart scientist. You might consider yourself the elite of Mars, but really, do you have any power over the strength of Earth? The crisis of stillborn babies on Mars does show an interesting narrative, however, because in the situation of the colonists, it means their project of funding the Mars base is running into more brickwalls. The main goal of the entire project in Finches of Mars was to raise second generation Martian offsprings (SGMOs) so that they can grow up on the Red Planet and form the next steps in humanity’s space colonization efforts.
After all, from the perspective of the dreamers of Mars, if we can’t even colonize the Red Planet, then this whole experiment is jeopardized. If humans can’t inhabit the cosmos, then we are literally stuck to Earth and its problems and warfare. Why would the billionaires on Earth continue funding a colony that can’t generate its own biopower? A community needs new members, and immigrants alone won’t suffice if their offsprings can’t survive the conditions of the new world. Mars needs its childrens, its very own Martians, in order for a proper line of descent to spread its wings across the galaxy.
This cause for stress among the colonists is a major issue, as they keep wondering how long will supplies last? Is their entire life purpose a failure, because they cannot figure out why children die on Mars?
This novel, while an odd duck in its structure and writing style, does highlight the issues I try to bring along in the entire Martian Sex Journal series, which is, can we be born on a planet with different gravitational force than ours? How does low gravity affect our vestibular system? The vestibular system is like our sixth sense, using sensory inputs to manage our equilibrium and giving us a sense of balance.
There are NASA studies that have shown rat offsprings of space-impregnated mothers (born in space) were weaker back on Earth than rats of Earth-impregnated mothers who were also born in space.
This is why I think that more research needs to be done on low-gravity procreation. If the whole thing doesn’t work out, then what can we do about our space-colonization efforts?
One proposal I have is having “pregnancy centers” in orbit around Mars that can simulate Earth’s gravity as a backup plan. Mothers can stay there during their pregnancies to ensure a higher probability of delivering healthy babies (if in fact the cause of stillborn babies is gravity). One of the reddit users (paul_wi11iams) commenting on my previous post mentioned having universities in orbit around Earth so children from Mars and Luna and Earth can attend them for some semesters and interact with one another without the threat of gravity affecting them.
This is actually an amazing idea and brings up other projects like Asgardia, an endeavour to have a space-nation orbiting Earth. Whether anything would come to fruition of such a project is outside the scope of this post. But the main idea of having space stations orbiting Mars and Earth can solve many issues, including any complications in pregnancy. You can have one space station dedicated to just operating on Terran gravity, while another one as an in-between gravity that would accommodate humans from other planets.
Space elevators, like the ones discussed in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, would allow for transit to and from the space stations with ease. To a Martian first generation couple, spending nine months in a space station would seem like a small price to pay in order to ensure safe fetus delivery. The space stations would also have many missions and volunteer positions that couples can take up, and would operate as a smaller base to the society that exists on the Red Planet below.
But for such investments to happen and for us to prepare for alternatives to complexities arising from giving birth on Mars, we need to start with tests and data. We need to build bases and train people. The United Arab Emirates Mars City 2117 (which I hope to cover in great detail in a future post) is a step in the right direction because that makes the goal of a colony on Mars very clear. What’s even more amazing about the whole project is that the UAE is working on a Mars domed city here on Earth as a preparation for the journey. That’s how you get the data needed. Furthermore, we need to build bigger space stations. NASA’s whole endeavour to the cislunar colonization is a step in the right track. A combination of those efforts will ensure that any adversity we face in our rise into the stars and spreading humanity elsewhere will be taken care of ahead of time and that we are prepared. Mars, we are coming for you.
The Expanse follows the crew of the Rocinante and Captain James Holden as they navigate our local solar system. In this palantir into what our future holds, Mars has become an independent military power just like its namesake while the Asteroid Belt has become colonized by miners.
If say, Martian miners on Valles Marineris want to mine bitcoin, which has the majority of miners on Earth, the delay in communication due to the speed of light will eventually result in a chain split.
Part IV of The Martian Sex Journal
This is where the irony of living on Mars with the dreams of terraforming it lies in the eyes of this tourist Martian visiting and experiencing Earth for the first time. The Martian’s forefathers left this very planet to settle and colonize Mars and terraform it be like Earth, even though they left Earth because they didn’t want to live there to begin with.
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