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 (05/05/04)

We began this week's discussion with a recap of John Young's conversation. We mentioned that he is always thinking about the long-term effects and events of the Earth, whereas most of us are not. To be honest, I think about the future more than I guess everyone else does. I often think about where I will be in five, ten, or twenty years from now. I also like to think of what changes, technological and medical, will be discovered in my lifetime. I always here stories of how things that are around now, like the internet, color televisions, modern computers, cellular phones, etc… weren't around when my grandparents, and even parents were growing up. I like to think about what will, or could exist when I am older that doesn't exist now. Time or teleporting machines? A way to fly? Hover crafts so that traffic and parking wouldn't be a problem anymore? Cures for cancer, AIDS, and mental illnesses? Earth has the potential to be a really cool place in my lifetime….I hope it doesn't let me down.

I liked the idea of using nuclear power engines for space exploration. I know very little about that, as mostly everyone on Earth does, but I think it is good that we are experimenting with new things. After all, that is how people make discoveries. It usually takes several mistakes and bad results to make a good discovery. Hearing that these types of engines are working on submarines, I think it is worth the time and effort to try and equip space shuttles with them as well. My only concern is that it is sometimes dangerous to use nuclear materials…for anything. I would be cautious, but still would experiment with it. While we were talking about fuel, someone mentioned that we might run out of petroleum by 2050! This shocked me. I hadn't ever thought about that happening in my lifetime. If this is a justifiable possibility for our future, we better get crackin' on ways to fuel our transportation vehicles. That could be a potential disaster, not having the ability to drive our cars. Think what a clutter that is going to cause once we do run out. Nobody will be able to use their gasoline-powered cars anymore, and will have to buy new ozone fueled, or electricity-powered cars. Maybe we could recycle all of the metal from the gasoline cars…very interesting, though.

We then moved into a political discussion about the current Initiative for space travel. I must say that I am not a very political person, so I didn't enjoy all of the conversation, but there were certain points that caught my attention. The first was whether this Initiative is a political call for Bush to get re-elected. I feel that this pro-space belief of his all of a sudden does have something to do with the upcoming election. I think after the war in Iraq, he lost a lot of supporters, and he is trying to reach out to all of the groups he can now, including the pro-space exploration group. I actually believe that any current event that was a big issue and turned out to be successful, he would have supported it. Any political candidate would have supported it for all I know. After the success of the Rovers' landing on Mars, interests of the common person followed the current events closely, and supported the project because of its success. If a political leader also decided to support it, like Bush did, one would expect them to be supported by the common people. Whether he actually has a desire to continue exploration if he is re-elected, who knows?

In one of the articles Jim gave us, it mentions that “the loss of Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia and their crews are a stark reminder of the inherent risks of space flight and the severity of the challenges posed by space exploration.” I think that these incidences are part of the reason why NASA is very eager to be successful on this Mars mission. They are using this as an opportunity to redeem themselves in the eyes of the United States. Although this mission to Mars gives them this opportunity, I don't think that NASA was inspired to go to Mars in the first place because of this need for redemption. I feel like NASA was just continuing to make new discoveries, and the next step on their list of discoveries was to explore Mars.

In another article, John Walsh said, “I cannot commit this Congress and future Congresses to a program that is undefined.” I think that NASA is always going to have an undefined mission. I think that is the whole philosophy behind exploring and making discoveries. Yes, people can have an idea of what they may find, or what they hope to find somewhere, but as far as when the mission stops, what is will find, and how it will affect the US, no one knows that. That is why we discover things…we take chances. The Queen of Spain took a chance with Christopher Columbus, and sure enough….he discovered America. Without taking chances, you can't make discoveries. Therefore, I think if you don't support an undefined NASA program, you cannot support NASA at all.

We also discussed why it is not a universal initiative. I think it is rather obvious…we don't get along too well with other countries….well….some of them. I really think the space race is still an issue. When Khrushchev came in, he even said that the race was very much still in existence. It is a test of who can be the most advanced, and then that will determine who is the superior country. Therefore, I doubt we will ever really be able to work with other countries in a joint effort for space exploration.

All in all, I enjoyed most of the discussion and look forward to finishing it in next week's class. I do feel like it is about time that we should say some good things about our president. After all, he is leading our country….although I suppose some would object to that too. See everyone next week.


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