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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Daniel Finn-Foley (04/21/04)

I was really looking forward to Monday's class with Commander David Scott, and I was not disappointed. Commander Scott has all the natural charisma I would expect from someone living under the national spotlight for many years. The fact that he has actually been on the moon, and I got to talk to him, really blows my mind. It was yet another unique opportunity to get an unparalleled perspective on the exploration of the heavens.

I decided to use this opportunity to contrast Command Scott's opinions with Dr Garvin's from the week before on the benefits of manned exploration over robotic exploration. Since Dr Garvin is currently running the robotic missions to Mars and Commander Scott is a figurehead for manned exploration, I thought their two views would be interesting. It turns out they share very similar views on the nature of exploration; Dr Garvin ultimately hopes the missions he is commanding will open up avenues for manned missions, and Commander Scott appreciates the level of data that can be achieved through robotic exploration. Ultimately there is a trade off, and both agree that manned exploration of Mars is the next step, though both were hesitant to say when that would be.

I thought it interesting that Commander Scott believed the President's space initiative to be “ill advised” since of all people it seems he would support more manned space exploration. As an astronaut himself, however, he has a unique perspective on what is feasible and what isn't. Considering some of the “small problems” he has survived in space, I imagine he would be hesitant to send a mission to Mars with out planning every detail.

I was very impressed with Commander Scott, and thankful for the chance to talk with him and add another level to my understanding of the issues facing space travel today. It is always fascinating to be able to ask questions of people who not only know the field so well, but who have actually been there.
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