“Let’s Go to Mars” Panel at Silicon Valley Comic Con

At Silicon Valley Comic Con, Adam hosts a panel discussing what it would take for a manned mission to Mars. Joining him are author Andy Weir and planetary scientist Chris McKay, who is actively involved in planning for NASA’s future Mars missions.

Shot and edited by Adam Isaak

Comments (18)

18 thoughts on ““Let’s Go to Mars” Panel at Silicon Valley Comic Con

  1. Is Chris in costume? He looks like a NASA scientist from the sixties with that shirt, tie, glasses, pen in the pocket…

  2. Is Chris in costume? He looks like a NASA scientist from the sixties with that shirt, tie, glasses, pen in the pocket…

    I think you’re right! He is cosplaying as a “steely-eyed missile man” … 🙂

  3. If you’re in the SF Bay Area, Chris McKay is giving a talk on the search for worlds with oceans on 5/14 at 830 PM (http://www.bayareascience.org/calendar/index.php?eID=17361). He’ll be expanding on the Enceladus and Europa missions.

    It’s part of an astronomy series on top of Mt. Tamalpais – you get a talk, followed by a star party with local amateur astronomers. One of the best science series I’ve ever attended.

  4. Well, you guys got Chris McKay. Nice.

    Chirality is actually very important and interesting. Complex systems that use complex organics (like life) have to “choose” a chirality. McKay said we think all life forms would have to do this and he is right. When you construct a complex organic molecule, switching chirality causes a termination. That’s why D chiral compounds can be toxic to Earth life.

    If we go to Mars and find say a big glob of exclusively D (right) chirality organics we know it is exorigenic life (or a product of it) – it sparked completely independent of us – then you have 0-1-infinity (sorta). There is life all over the place. The “sorta” comes because Mars is within our thermodynamic zone (which is why we look for life there). So, you have life all over the place in our thermodynamic range.

    But, if we find L (left) chirality, it’s much more complicated – and to me, much more interesting. Keep in mind when we say “life” in the context of other worlds we don’t have to mean little critters, but possibly just a complex protein – the product of biologic reactions. Did that protein come from the probe we sent? If it represents life, is it Earth life that was transported there? Or, was it our “progenitor” – an ancestor to Earth life that got transported here and started Earth life (Panspremia). Or, is it simply luck – after all, there is more L chirality in the universe than D. Or, is L required – maybe because not all organic structures can be made with one or the other and some required structures are L-only. In this case, without further data, you have the 0-1-2 scenario because it could just be a local (solar system wide) thing.

    Here is something else interesting. If you touch a D chiral life form could it kill you? Maybe. Not sure – but I am fairly sure if you ingest one of reasonable size it will. Don’t eat the D cow! However, you are far more likely to be susceptible to a pathogen from an L chiral life form. And here is why Planetary Protection exists in the first place. It was not the original product of trying to protect other planets – but instead – trying to protect our own. When we bring samples back we are very careful to isolate them.

    Anyways, I stop now. This is kinda my “thing” so I am sure I am rambling.

    Great post from tested!

  5. I’ve heard different reasons as to why there is more L then D in the universe. Most often that polarized uv radiation from stars (and other stuff) selectively destroys the D enantiomers more readily. Any truth to that?

  6. Weir actually cited the width of the cross section, not the area of the cross section. The correction was valid.

  7. I have heard that. A colleague I work with brought it up but I never ran accross the paper. I don’t know how accepted it is. That’s something that would be interesting to ask McKay’s opinion on.

  8. NASA’s “Planetary Protection” policy = the original Prime Directive?

    Anthropology has had a version of the prime directive for a while as it regards primitive cultures. Some countries with remote indigenous people have implemented it as law to some degrees where you can’t interfere with them.

  9. Great video – Chris McKay and Andy Weir are amazing. Adam is a great moderator/interviewer. I am so glad that NASA hires people like Chris McKay.

    The women who were signing also were amazing. Very different styles,

    I notice that the women initially decided that one should sign for Weir and McKay and the other should sign for Adam Savage. Some minutes into the talk, the woman on the right realized that she should sign for Weir and Savage. Check out the tape (and the woman signing) starting around 14:30 when Weir was talking about how the Apollo mission influenced the book and movie. I now know the ASL sign for Boo Ya.

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