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 (03/24/04)

I did not know what Professor David Marchant was going to talk about, and then he suddenly began the PowerPoint presentation. It was easy to follow, and especially interesting because I like visual presentations. Before the class, I only heard about the research bases in Antarctica from many different countries. Other than that, some pictures of the Dry Valleys were the end of my knowledge of the place. Not knowing any details, I used to think, “Why is it that hard to go to Antarctica and explore? How can they compare going to Antarctica, a place on earth, and flying over to the Moon or Mars?”

Surprisingly, what he showed us did not seem easy and simple at all. It was real “exploration” that I would only imagine to see in a movie, and I couldn't think how much you should set your mind to it in order to be in such an adventurous trip full of hardships.

Looking at the pictures from rough regions in Antarctica, I found it somewhat similar to the plane I saw in the CAVE – very dry and empty, no plants growing. From then, I began to think about the advantages and disadvantages of the exploration by human, in comparison to automated exploration. I'm not sure which will be more costly – before, I never thought about the expense of people going to Antarctica, but it was more than obvious that exploring the polar region was extremely expensive and complicated, let alone the human exploration of the planets. What if we set aside the money aspect? As Professor Marchant said, robots we send to Mars does not yet have ability to make logical decisions that humans can do, upon discoveries of mysterious or unclear objects. Machines are also much slower, in today's technology, in exploring the landscape.

I learned that even some kind of “simple exploration” is an important activity in scientific research and development, even though some scientists might oppose and say it's nothing more than physical work. We gain a lot from those explorers – and scientists – who go down to Antarctica to make discoveries. After watching the presentation and listening to the Professor, I'm inclined to support the thought of sending humans to Mars. Of course if the problem of cost is resolved.
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