Geo016 - Exploration of Mars

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Geo016 / Exploration of Mars / (M) 3:00-5:20 / Lincoln Field 105 / Prof. James Head

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Reading and Assignments

There's an op-ed piece by Olivia Judson in the New York Times that discusses the potential of returning dangerous microbial life in samples from Mars.


Science Magazine has a short piece that outlines the uncertainties involved in estimating the Moon's accessible resources.


Space.com has an article by Leonard David that discusses the implications of the MER discoveries on future exploration of Mars.


For more reading on the geology and evolution of Mars, see the following books and articles:

1. Boyce, Joseph M. The Smithsonian Book of Mars.  Washington: Smithsonian Inst. Press, 2002. 321 pp, ISBN 1560988479.

2. Hartmann, William.  A Traveler's Guide to Mars: The Mysterious Landscapes of the Red Planet, Workman Publishing, 2003, 468 pp, ISBN 0761126066 .

3. Nature Insight special issue on Mars, vol. 412, 6843, pp 207-253, 12 July 2001.

4. Head, James W. et al, "Recent Ice Ages on Mars", Nature 426, pp. 797-802, 18/25 December 2003.

Copies of all of these are in/near the box in LF 105.


The Houston Chronicle has a piece by Mark Carreau about the relationship between NASA and the U.S. military as it pertains to the space initiative proposed by President Bush in January.


Yesterday we discussed "Modern Exploration: Mars at the End of the 20th Century". I gave an overview of the planet Mars in terms of its place in the Solar System, the geological processes operating there, and its geological history. In your paper this week (due the usual time at the end of the day Wednesday), reflect on your readings and think about some of the main thoughts that occurred to you and the outstanding questions that you have. Some of the questions that you should keep in mind are:

-How does Mars differ from the Earth? The Moon?
-What is the atmosphere of Mars like and has it ever been any different?
-Where is water currently residing on the surface of Mars?
-Where did it reside in the past?
-Why are the volcanoes so big?
-Is Mars currently 'geologically active'?
-Were there ever oceans and lakes on Mars?
-What is so special about the ALH 84001 meteorite and what does this mean?
-Why are the recent findings from the Spirit and Opportunity rovers soimportant?
-Where and why should we send more robotic spacecraft to Mars?
-Where and why should we send humans to Mars?

I would also appreciate an extra couple of paragraphs about any further discussions that you had with our Russian guests or your classmates at "Bliny Night".

Finally, later this week we will be posting a schedule for next week for the Mars CAVE immersive virtual reality 'field trip'. I will be in Houston all of next week at the 35th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. I look forward to returning with new insight about Mars from the professional papers presented there and sharing it with you in upcoming classes.


Here are two additional articles for background reading on Mars science, particularly summarizing the importance of water and the most recent synthesis of results:

"The Unearthly Landscapes of Mars: The Red Planet is No Dead Planet" by Arden Albee, Scientific American, June 2003, p. 45-53.

"The Iceball Next Door", by Stephen Clifford, Sky and Telescope, August, 2003, p. 30-36.

Week 5 (Summary due 03/03/04; Readings are for 03/08/04) (Readings may be downloaded here or picked up in Lincoln Field 105)

Chapter 3 of "Why People Believe Weird Things," by Michael Shermer.

Please complete a write-up assessing the class seminar discussions we had during class yesterday, Monday, March 1st, 2004.  Please outline what you thought were the most important points and themes and document your initial thoughts, and how these changed due to the class discussions and your further thinking. What was it like to talk with people like Drs. Khrushchev and Basilevsky who had experienced these things first-hand?  Also share with me and the rest of the class any outside discussions that you had. Finally, point out any topics or themes that you think might be in need of further discussion. Here are some of the questions that we asked beforehand and that helped focus our attention for the three readings we did prior to class.

 

SOVIET UNION LUNAR EXPLORATION PROGRAM

 

-Why did the Soviets decide to send humans into Earth orbit? 

-What were the motivating factors?

-Why did they decide to send them to the Moon? 

-Were the Soviet decisions made in terms of establishing leadership or just responding to what the Americans were doing? 

-How strongly were these decisions supported in the Soviet system? 

-What were some of the issues that were discussed? 

-Was there a debate about the relative importance of human versus automated exploration?  If so, what were some of the points that were made?

-Why did the Soviet human lunar exploration program fail and the American one succeed?

-Why did the Soviet Automated Lunar Exploration Program succeed while the Human Lunar Exploration failed? 

-What was it like to participate in the Human Program (Sergei Khrushchev) and the Automated Program (Sasha Basilevsky)? 

-What forces or combination of circumstances are necessary to justify sending humans to the Moon and Mars?

-What are the lessons that we can learn from the Soviet experience relative to President Bush's Moon and Mars Initiative?

Remember that these write-ups are not just reports on what happened, but should be reflecting your inner thoughts and feelings on these important issues, and how your thinking has been modified by ideas and input from others. 

These are due this Wednesday March 3, by 5 PM. Please e-mail this to me as an attachment and they will be posted on the web site.  These do not need to be limited to one page. 

Next time (Monday, March 8th) we will focus on "The Modern Exploration of Mars: What do we know?" so be sure to read the papers online by Mike Carr (about the geology of Mars) and by Gerald Soffen (about life in the solar system).  I will get a set of questions out to you sometime tomorrow.


The February 20 issue of Science has a piece by Richard Kerr about the current status of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).


This Monday, March 1, we will discuss some aspects of the Soviet Human and Automated Lunar Exploration Program. This will be excellent preparation for the analysis later in the semester of President Bush's Moon and Mars Initiative.

We will be joined by two individuals who played major roles in the projects. Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, was a rocket scientist at Chelomei's Design Bureau and active in the decisions that were made to send humans to the Moon, and the design of the rockets. Alexander Basilevsky is head of the Comparative Planetology Laboratory in the Vernadsky Institute in Moscow, and was active in planning and mission operations for the Soviet Luna and Lunokhod missions.

So in preparation for this session, please read the following articles, which are on the class web site or links can be found to them there.The most important one is "The Soviet Manned Lunar Program', by M. Lindroos. This will provide you with the background that you need to understand the political and technological forces involved in the decisions to go to the Moon and will give you some ideas on what is at stake in redefining a new set of human planetary exploration goals.

The second article, "Two Weeks that Killed the Soviet Dream", by P. Pesavento, describes some of the formative and decisive events in the preparation of the rockets that were to take Cosmonauts to the Moon. This article, as well as the third article, are available on the course website as pdf files.

The third article, "The Other Moon Landings", by Brown graduate Andy Chaikin, describes the highly successful Soviet automated lunar exploration program, a set of missions that have not been duplicated by anyone, even 30 years later. This information will form a basis for questions to Sasha Basilevsky.

Some questions to ponder when reading these articles and talking to Sergei Khrushchev and Sasha Basilevsky:

-Why did the Soviets decide to send humans into Earth orbit?
-What were the motivating factors?
-Why did they decide to send them to the Moon?
-Were the Soviet decisions made in terms of establishing leadership or just
responding to what the Americans were doing?
-How strongly were these decisions supported in the Soviet system? What
were some of the issues that were discussed?
-Was there a debate about the relative importance of human versus automated
exploration? If so, what were some o the points that were made?
-Why did the Soviet human lunar exploration program fail and the American
one succeed?
-Why did the Soviet Automated Lunar Exploration Program succeed while the
Human Lunar Exploration failed?
-What was it like to participate in the Human Program (Sergei Khrushchev)
and the Automated Program (Sasha Basilevsky)?
-What forces or combination of circumstances are necessary to justify
sending humans to the Moon and Mars?
-What are the lessons that we can learn from the Soviet experience relative
to President Bush's Moon and Mars Initiative?

Brown Chaplain Janet Cooper-Nelson forwarded this interesting article related to our class discussion on life, evolution and religion.

As supplemental reading relating to the discussion in the last class, here is Isaac Asimov's forward to the book Fire and Ice: A History of Comets in Art, by Roberta J.M. Olson.

Week 4 (Summary due 02/18/04; Readings are for 03/01/04) (Readings may be downloaded here or picked up in Lincoln Field 105)

Please complete a writeup assessing the class seminar discussions we had during class yesterday, Monday, February 16th, 2004. Please outline what you thought the most important points and themes were and document your initial thoughts, and how these changed due to the class discussions and your further thinking. Any more reflections on the Sagan/Mayr debate? What abut the cultural environment of "the times" as suggested by the poem and the sheet music? How might our current cultural environment influence our thinking on these issues? What might that environment be like in 50 years? How did discussions with the Brown University Chaplain Janet Cooper-Nelson, inform you or modify your views? See below my notes and further thoughts about the discussions. Also share with me and the rest of the class any outside discussions that you had with individuals of different or complementary backgrounds. Not all of you had the chance to describe these in detail and these points are very important. Check out the web site on "Possible life on Mars raises theological implications"

Finally, point out any topics or themes that you think might be in need of further discussion.

Among the questions on which we tended to focus were:

2. What are the reasons that humans have been willing to conjure up the presence of advanced civilizations on Mars? Social, psychological, scientific, intellectual?

5. Why do we care if there is life elsewhere in the cosmos? What would be the effects of discovering life elsewhere? How would this change our religious perspective, our cultural outlook, our future?

As a baseline, consider the following possible separate future events:

a) Microscopic life is found elsewhere!: Scientists confirm that samples returned from Mars contain unusual fossilized bacteria indigenous to Mars.

b) We are from Mars!: Scientists determine that fossil microbes in Mars rocks are exactly similar to the oldest microbe fossils found on Earth and that living microbes blasted of Mars by impacts four billion years ago fell in the Earth's oceans, explaining the origin of life on Earth.

c) Advanced life forms are found on Mars!: Fossils from multicellular, complex organisms are uncovered by the Mars Exploration Rovers at both the Gusev and Meridiani sites.

d) Intelligent radio signals are received from deep space, outside our solar system!: Two and a half years after an unusual power surge occurred during the broadcast of one of the early "Survivor" shows, a complexly coded message is received from deep space. When decrypted, it reads: "Tell us more about your unusual culture."

Remember that these writeups are not just reports on what happened, but should be reflecting your inner thoughts and feelings on these important issues, and how your thinking has been modified by ideas and input from others.

These are due the Wednesday February 18, by 5 PM. Please e-mail this to me as an attachment and they will be posted on the web site. These do not need to be limited to one page.

Next time (Monday, February 23rd) is a holiday so there will be no formal class. Stay tuned for more details on the next class, Monday, March 1, where we will focus on analyzing and understanding the role of international activities in the exploration of space with emphasis on the discussions of the role of the Soviet Union in the historic "Race to the Moon." Our guest will be Sergei Khrushchev, the son of the leader of the Soviet Union at this time, Nikita Khrushchev. Dr. Khrushchev was a scientist in the design bureau of the people who built rockets to go to the Moon, and his father was the man who made all of the key decisions for the Soviet Union. Think ahead to the kinds of questions that you will want to ask Dr. Khrushchev.

 

General Background Reading:

"The Canals of Mars Revisited," by Thomas A. Dobbins and William Sheehan, Sky and Telescope, March 2004, pg. 114-117.

General background reading for Mars: "Mars," by Mike Carr. From "The New Solar System," ed. J.K. Beatty, C.C. Peterson, and A. Chaikin.

The full radio broadcast of H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" is available here.

 

Week 3 (Summary due 02/11/04; Readings are for 02/16/04) (Readings may be downloaded here or picked up in Lincoln Field 105)

Please complete a one-page write-up assessing the class seminar discussions we had during class yesterday, Monday, February 9th, 2004. Please outline what you thought the most important points and themes were and document your initial thoughts, and how these changed due to the class discussions and your further thinking. Point out the main things that you think are in need of further discussion.

In class we tended to focus on the first four of the discussion points (below):

1. Why has Mars been a subject of human fascination since the ancient times?

2. What are the reasons that humans have been willing to conjure up the presence of advanced civilizations on Mars? Social, psychological, scientific, intellectual?

3. How has our perspective on the nature of Mars and the presence (and nature) of life changed over the last several hundred years?

4. What are the reasons, the driving forces, for this change? Has the change been linear or episodic?

These are due Wednesday, February 11, by 5 PM. Please e-mail this to me as an attachment and they will be posted on the web site.

 

Next time (Monday, February 16th) we will focus on the question of Life on Mars, which will center on aspects of the last several questions (5-7 below). I was impressed with the religious diversity in the class and I encourage you all to contact rabbis, ministers etc., who might be able to give you some perspective on these issues. Come with some thoughts and some opinions collected from others (suite-mates, dinner conversations, etc.). Call your parents and ask their opinions (they will LOVE it!), or your ratty little brother. Be proactive in searching out opinions and sources! In addition to the relevant readings from last week ("Life on Mars" and "Searching for Life in our Solar System"), you will also want to read the Sagan-Mayr exchange that I mentioned Monday in class.

As a baseline, consider the following possible separate future events:

a) Microscopic life is found elsewhere!: Scientists confirm that samples returned from Mars contain unusual fossilized bacteria indigenous to Mars.

b) We are from Mars!: Scientists determine that fossil microbes in Mars rocks are exactly similar to the oldest microbe fossils found on Earth and that living microbes blasted off Mars by impacts four billion years ago fell in the Earth's oceans, explaining the origin of life on Earth.

c) Advanced life forms are found on Mars!: Fossils from multicellular, complex organisms are uncovered by the Mars Exploration Rovers at both the Gusev and Meridiani sites.

d) Intelligent radio signals are received from deep space, outside our solar system!: Two and a half years after an unusual power surge occurred during the broadcast of one of the early "Survivor" shows, a complexly coded message is received from deep space. When decrypted, it reads: "Tell us more about your unusual culture."

5. Why do we care if there is life elsewhere in the cosmos? What would be the effects of discovering life elsewhere? How would this change our religious perspective, our cultural outlook, our future?

6. Is Mars today a worthy subject of interest?

7. What might be the range of rewards and returns from exploring Mars?

 

Week 2 (Summary due 02/04/04; Readings are for 02/09/04) (Readings may be downloaded here or a copy is in Lincoln Field 105)

From The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight:

Life on Mars / Canals on Mars / Percival Lowell / Vegetation on Mars

Jakosky, Bruce. "Searching for Life in Our Solar System." Scientific American Presents: Magnificent Cosmos, Spring 1998. p. 16-21.

Discussion Questions:

What are the reasons that humans have been willing to conjure up the
presence of advanced civilizations on Mars? Social, psychological,
scientific, intellectual?

How has our perspective on the nature of Mars and the presence (and nature)
of life changed over the last several hundred years?

What are the reasons, the driving forces, for this change? Has the change
been linear or episodic?

Why do we care if there is life elsewhere in the cosmos? What would be the
effects of discovering life elsewhere? How would this change our religious
perspective, our cultural outlook, our future?

Is Mars today a worthy subject of interest?

What might be the range of rewards and returns from exploring Mars?

 

Following up on our discussions in class yesterday,please write a one-page summary of who you are, why you want to be in this course, what you would like to contribute, and what you anticipate getting out of the course. Describe things in the course outline that specifically interest you and list things that are related but not necessarily listed. Your contribution will be posted on our web site and will be a resource for fellow classmates, a guide for me, and a way to assess how this course has met your goals and expectations. Please e-mail this to me as an attachment by 5 PM, Wednesday, February 4th. I will post mine there as well.

Week 1 (02/02/04) (Available in Lincoln Field 105)

- Digregorio, Barry E. "Life on Mars?" Sky and Telescope, February 2004, p. 40-45.

- Sheehan, William. "The Red Planet's Colorful Past" Astronomy Magazine, March 1997, p. 44-49

Discussion Questions:

Why has Mars been a subject of human fascination since the ancient times?

Is it a worthy subject of interest?

What might be the range of rewards and returns from exploring Mars?

 

 

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