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 (03/10/04)

The pictures of the planets in the solar system, even though I have seen them a few times, have always been abstract in my head. I used to just think that Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter… are ones in the same category, in terms of what they look like and their environment. This is of course some time ago, before I began to have some concrete images and knowledge about the planets. The slide in class was refreshing, reminding me of how small a fraction earth is in the Solar System.

The discoveries and important characteristics of the earth, moon, and Mars presented in class were very similar and contrary at the same time. It is true that no one on earth knows everything or has explored everything about all kinds of life forms that exist – on the surface, in the ocean, or under the ground. Life is so abundant that it might even take longer to discover all of it than to explore the moon or mars. It's natural, after knowing these facts to think that earth is very special in the Solar System. I also personally think so in terms of the richness in living organisms. Why should Mars, the similar round planet that is not much farther from the sun as earth is, be so dry and inactive, lacking the abundance of life?

From what I learned in class, one reason I could come up with was the obliquity cycles. I felt that earth is very lucky to have moon nearby which has moderated the obliquity extremes all along. Mars probably would have been a more “livable” planet had there been something analogous to earth's moon in its orbit. Could extreme cycles be the cause of the evolution of Mar's environment? What we are discovering currently on Mars is very far from what the planet might have looked like long time ago, judging from the evidence, such as outflow channels and valley networks. Also, the evidence for recent volcanism gives anticipation of another volcanic activity that could happen in the distant future, maybe with drastic changes in the environment. I want to find out more about theories on past life on Mars. If there once existed microorganism, why not other forms of life? Could it have become extinct due to major effects like global freezing, or huge volcanic activities? The more discoveries Mars rovers bring, the more interesting issues will rise.

At the “Bliny Night,” I felt very strange and excited to hear explanations from Dr. Basilevsky. Sitting in front of the fireplace after finishing the dessert, Frank and I were looking at the paths of Lunokhods, and he wondered why it made detour on its way of exploration. He took the sheet to Dr. Basilevsky to ask, and he started the long story starting from the idea of Lunokhod project. He told us about big holes on the moon's surface and how the machine had to avoid it, and also about the landing site where all the Apollo spacecrafts and Lunokhods landed. Aside from the content, just the fact that I was listening to his first-hand experience was fascinating, and I couldn't help thinking how privileged I was to be there.



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