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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Cindy Beavon (03/10/04)

I enjoyed this week's Scientific American reading because of it's clear organization. It plainly laid out four ways Mars differed from the Earth, and three out of the four I had never considered. The pervasive presence of dust is fascinating. The author differentiates this from Earth, which is covered in “chemical weathering” and “glacial debris.” Next the author states that Mars is extremely windy. All the pictures I've seen of the surface of Mars have either been very close up or far away, and the surface shots taken by the rovers have been in defiance of these two points. The panoramic picture we looked at as a class suggest a placid environment not akin to frequent storms. Also in the article, I learned that slopes of gullies and mountains are often blanketed in snow. Clifford further addresses the presence of snow and ice underground in the Sky and Telescope article. My favorite part of the article was the “Where is the Missing Water” section. It is interesting to note that if there was water in gullies and stream-like channels at some time, most of it is still on the surface because only a couple dozens of meters of water could have been lost through hydrogen escaping from the atmosphere, meaning much of it must be contained underground beneath the north and south poles.

In class, I learned that Mars has a single plate, and that currently we can explain the mountains and volcanoes only through random heating and cooling beneath the planet. I also never knew that, on Earth, we are unable to locate rocks from the majority of our history that we are aware of. Now I understand why making discoveries of rocks on the moon and other neighboring planets is significant. In class, someone asked what unique advantage there is in sending a human being to Mars, and there were many responses, but no direct answers. I would have been curious to know everyone's opinion. I personally think the only advantage in sending people to Mars is for the sake of exploration. Robotics can perform any scientific task much better than people can. Perhaps a tandem trip would be the most scientifically effective, because a person can fix a machine if it breaks, but this may not be the most fiscally responsible option.

On bliny night, in addition to trying caviar for the first time, J I was able to ask Kruschev the questions I had framed in my previous class write-up. Those more in-depth regarding the Kennedy/Kruschev team of exploring the moon in wake of fierce military competition. Sergei said that the Cold War was more about conquering the world that never cooperating. He added that his father declined Kennedy's invitation because he did not at the time see space travel as an important issue. In addition, I asked Kruschev about his position of immigrating to the United States as the son of the premier of the Soviet Union, comparing him to a son or daughter of a US president. To Americans, if Chelsea Clinton, for example, became a citizen of Britain or China, it would be an insult to the country. Sergei responded that he had a dual citizenship.

Valentina also enlightened me as to the Russian education system- that going to graduate school is not as smooth a step from college as it in the United States because one must first secure a job or internship and take up a project to show to a graduate school in order to be accepted.




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