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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Alana Firl (03/03/04)

The bulk of this class was devoted to a discussion with Drs. Khrushchev and Basilevsky, and the history of space travel from the Soviet Union perspective.

One thing I found interesting was the Soviet motive for space travel—according to Khrushchev, it appeared to be completely spurred by Soviet fears of being annihilated by America. Whereas Kennedy made overtures to work together on going into space, the Soviets were dead-set against revealing their level of technology. I don't know much about Cold War strategizing, but it makes me wonder if Kennedy's true intent was only collaboration. Khrushchev and Basilevsky both seemed to be in agreement that Kennedy's offer was sincere, but I wonder about the motive and whether or not it was wise of the Soviets to refuse to work with America.

Simply hearing about what it was like to basically launch something onto the moon, starting from scratch and competitive time constraints, made it very clear to me what it was like for the engineers and geologists at the time. It must have been very daunting (yet exciting) to be given this unheard-of, nearly impossible task of launching something out of the planet, and all for the purpose of intimidating the Americans.

It's funny how you hear about the successful launches, but the failures tend to get swept under the rug. I guess they aren't worth mentioning to the general public, but I wonder how it must feel to launch something so expensive that simply debating the costs took seven years, only to see it miss the target or land somewhere in the ocean. I can imagine that would be very off-putting.

Once again, I was amazed by the amount of politics involved with space travel. I must say I was also a little disheartened. Perhaps it is a necessary evil, but when I think of science, I like to think of it as being free from messy issues like government involvement and ulterior motives, but I guess it comes as no surprise that such is not the case. I'm glad that I am finding out about this now.

Even so, I'm still hoping to hear about the more scientific aspects of Mars. People and politics are very interesting as they pertain to space travel, but I'm also very interested in what's on Mars, and how it works and how it came to be a dead planet, or if indeed it even is dead. I enjoy the Spirit and Odyssey updates at the end of class. It's very nice to be able to see the actual progress that the two probes are making, and it'll be really interesting to see what kind of data they come up with.



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