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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Boyoun Choi (04/21/04)

After browsing through the Smithsonian website and talking to David Scott, I found myself knowing very little about the Lunar program, contrary to what I've been thinking. I knew there were several number of Apollo missions in total, but did not really know how many of them did land on the surface of Moon, or when the last mission to the Moon was. Most surprising discovery for myself was the different types of various missions prior to Apollo, such as Mercury and Gemini. It was interesting, as I learned that Gemini 8 achieved docking in space for the first time, to picture the moment with images from the movie Armageddon, and realize (for the first time!) that such thing was actually possible and indeed happened more than thirty years ago.

Following the presentation, the enormous scope of mission to Mars became clear to all of us in a very organized way especially when he showed us a comparison graph of missions to Moon and Mars, listing their staying time, travel time, cost, and so on. The vertical graph representation of travel time to Moon was almost non-visible next to the tall graph of Mars. When I heard that the trip will require at least over three years, I first tired to think about the issues involved in planning such a trip and a possible preparation list, but soon gave up. It was beyond the scope of one's analyzing ability, I realized, as I remembered the complicated preparation forms and requirements that professor needed to go through just for three-month stay in Antarctica, a place on Earth.

I liked how Mr. Scott tried to present the general, objective opinions instead of making strong personal statements. He went over all possible reasons why we should go explore Mars, and explained the benefits of sending humans and of replacing humans with robots that have super artificial intelligence, although he slightly seemed to be inclined to oppose human exploration of Mars. This was first a little strange an opinion to come from an astronaut, but I gradually understood his point of view as I thought of it; he is one of the few people who really know by heart the dangers and complexity of traveling outer space, being isolated from familiar environment, living in a different gravitational force, and committing to such missions fully knowing the importance.

I can't really judge which is better at this point, but it is true that the development of artificial intelligence and computer science in general will be far greater than what we currently expect we might, in thirty years, reach a solution using automated rovers that cost less than sending humans, and even perform equally well or better than human explorers.


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