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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Andrew Baum (04/28/04)

First, I am super jealous that you were on vacation while we had to stay here in rainy old Providence, but I suppose I can put that past me. I actually wasn't a huge fan of this past class session. It was very interesting to hear Captain Young give his opinions about current issues surrounding Mars, but I think many of them were rather farfetched and impractical. At times, it seemed like he was just giving short quick answers, when there were explanations necessary. In any case, it did give me a different perspective on how to look at Mars exploration.

Jay, “catch-up” was interesting as usual. He mentioned that there was new software sent to Spirit to make it travel faster, which is great. I was just wondering what new information they could have sent up, or what adjustment was made to make it move faster. Did they tell it to move the motor/ wheels faster, or did they tell it to navigate around rocks better? In the picture, it looks like it went straight….and fast. Why didn't they just send the rover up with speed in the first place? Well, with a few more months left, I really hope it makes it to the hills because that would allow us the opportunity to make some more huge discoveries.

Jay mentioned that the reason it only lasts for a certain amount of time, or at least one of the reasons, is that the dust on Mars covers the rover and decays the solar panels. Why didn't they just equip the rover with some sort of windshield wiper, or air stream that blows off the dust? What if something accidentally blew up and stuck on the lens of the camera? Would the mission be over right then and there, or do they have some sort of cleaning method that would clean the machine? (just a thought)

For starters, I liked the Apollo 15 patch better…there were no secrets in this one! In talking with Captain Young, I was very surprised, as I mentioned before, with a lot of his comments. As Hanna said in class, he seems to have a very apocalyptic view of Earth. He kept saying that our mistakes as humans are going to kill us some day. For this reason, we need to spread ourselves around the solar system and colonize on the Moon. I personally think this approach to space exploration is a bit farfetched. I think we have a LONG LONG LONG time before we can even consider colonizing on a different planet. I really don't think it is very plausible for this to happen, but maybe I am just being pessimistic. Do you think it is plausible for us to be thinking about colonizing at this stage? Should that be the motivating factor for us to explore space? Is something really going to happen to Earth soon that will wipe us all out?

While we were talking about Mars travel and Captain Young's mission, a few things stuck in my mind that I think are worth mentioning. He seemed to think that a thirty-day stay on Mars would not be worthwhile. I can't disagree with him because I really have no reference to say how productive astronauts are on their missions. I suppose that we should plan for a long trip though, just so we can find out the most we possibly can. I thought it was funny that Captain Young reiterated almost word for word David Scott's idea that we should go to the Moon to practice the mission and test the equipment. I agree that this is a good plan as well. The astronauts should have as much practice as humanly possible before they go thousands of miles away from Earth to complete a mission. I was wondering if they would then go from the Moon to Mars, or if they would stop back at Earth first, then go to Mars? I think the later way might be better, so they can re-prepare for the long journey. He also said that once we start, we would be unable to turn around and come back. Why couldn't we somehow add thrusters onto the spacecraft so that in the event something does happen, we can turn them on and turn ourselves around? Why is there no way we could abort the mission and return home safely?

Captain Young's remark about sending electricity with solar rays was an interesting one. I actually don't think this idea is too farfetched. As we as humans develop ourselves and our technology, I think it is very possible that we will be able to send electricity through the atmosphere. As it is now, we can send pictures, emails, and voices through cell phone waves. We can send just about anything through satellites and what not. I think it is in our near future that we will be able to send electricity as well. Just think how helpful that would be on our planet. There would be no need for outlets at all! I think it was a good idea.

Young also mentioned that he enjoyed the small amount of gravity on the Moon. That would probably one of my favorite parts of going to the Moon. Hey, we can always dream, can't we?

Finally, I will end with the same thought he did…”Our great grandchildren may be living and working on the Moon/ Mars, which would be great.” I can't say I agree with that statement too much. I personally don't think it would be great if people were living on a different planet. Also, I don't really see it happening in our near future either. But in any case, it is still something interesting to think about. I suppose that's all we can do at this point. See everyone next week.


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