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 (03/03/04)

I really didn't know much about the race between the US and the Soviet during Cold War period, and it was interesting to both read the articles about it before class, and then listen to the real experience of Dr. Khrushchev and Dr. Basilevsky. Before I read some articles, it was hard to figure out what the exact motives for working on space projects were, for both countries. I initially had been thinking that the race to the moon started from the desire to show off to the world how modern their technologies are, and always wondered if it was worth that much effort, time and money.

In class, most of what I thought turned out to be incorrect. It wasn't just about showing to the world, and the issues behind were far more complicated than what I knew. I somewhat expected that there existed a big difference between the purpose of carrying on the lunar project in American's perspective and Soviet Union's perspective. The motivation that stimulated the Soviet people to dive into the mission was quite interesting in that it was not something related to national honor or fame. According to Dr. Khrushchev, they were working so hard mostly for their pride, especially in Korolev's case who strived to be the first designer to send his spacecraft to the lunar orbit.

Another major discovery for me was to learn how important the public reaction was at that time. From my simple point of view, an event like the success of Sputnik should be more than enough to stir up huge crowd of people at least in the country, but it was unexpected to hear Dr. Khrushchev say that the public was rather quiet when the news was announced. I felt it funny, or ironic that scientists and engineers, people with serious images who only seem to be interested in intellectual matters, would not have forced themselves toward success if it hasn't been for the crowd, or the intention of propaganda.

I haven't really been following up with the news about Bush's Initiative about Moon and Mars, but after learning about the Soviet Union's past motives, I wonder what exactly the president's purpose is, and maybe a bit worried that he could be thinking similar to designers of USSR's bureaus. Although America is the only one working on Mars exploration plan, it will be nice if they can proceed for the sole purpose of exploring and discovering beneficial things that can improve human life, instead of getting involved in too many political issues and calculation of individual gains.



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