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 (04/08/04)

I had a fun time in class today- I think as we become more familiar with each other and the pacing of the schedule we become more casual and honest. Since we didn't have a guest speaker today, I feel like we were able to re-group and speak to each other rather than be pressured to participate in a non-stop stream of insightful questioning.

It was valuable to the class to hear from a student who was obviously interested in the space program recount her experience in Houston. I'm under the impression that in the beginning of the year, there would be class time allotted to each Monday for students to share their discoveries of the week. It'd be nice if there were more students willing every week to participate in this somewhat ‘show and tell' session. Additionally, I enjoyed listening to The Signal From Mars. I wondered what the motivations of the arranger/ composer were. Did they genuinely imagine a message from Mars to sound so air-headed and bangingly repetitive? Or were they selling out to an era that was already just wild about patriotic marches and two-steps? I've decided that musical breaks in class are a wonderful thing- even though I found The Signal from Mars mildly displeasing, it still felt refreshing to take a break from talking and listen in a different way.

During the discussion, I feel that the class got too hung-up on the first question: What is exploration?  How is it defined and what does this tell us about
the path ahead? There were ten questions outlined on the board, but only one was directly addressed, and only a few more indirectly touched on. Perhaps a moderator would be best to refocus the conversation when there is a sense that people are just reaching farther and farther for reasons why people explore, sans reactions or dialogue from the rest of the class. I did like the question: imagine you're a congressman/woman trying to pitch the Bush Mars initiative to others who may not feel as strongly, how do you convince others? I said that I would want to target the centers of Americans humanity. Hopefully, I was clear in expressing my sentiment that if Americans are ever going to approve of this project, it must be evaluated outside a paradigm of regular public policy. By ‘regular' I mean various welfare and economic-improvement initiatives. Going to Mars is very, very expensive, and to sell the idea to the people, they must be convinced that it's okay to somewhat forfeit traditionally important programs like education and health care, because space travel has an intrinsic value beyond money. If politicians in favor of a more extended space program have any hope of passing initiatives, they must convince the public to overlook cost and make an investment in the worthiness of exploration as a means to an end, because I believe we've evolved beyond exploration as a means of resource appropriation, at least as far as Mars is concerned. There are no conquistador-era promises of spice and gold from the Red Planet- we've already seen its bleak barrenness.

Other students disagreed with me, stressing that to convince Americans a mission to Mars would be worthwhile, there must be some fiscal or competitive element in the argument. Although Americans are quite receptive to promises to save their tax money or trumpet-calls of nationalism, there simply are no resources on Mars to promise (as of yet), and the reality is that we live in a Unipolar world in regards to international politics, meaning any ‘competition' with another country paralleling the space race with the Soviets would be ridiculous.


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