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 (04/28/04)

Monday's class with Captain Young was a very interesting class as it gave us yet another opportunity to talk with someone who has had unique experiences exploring space. Combining Captain Young's experiences with those of Dr Garvin and Commander Scott a very wide view of space exploration is obtained including two astronauts who have been on the moon and the current commander of the rover missions on Mars.

When I asked Captain Young about my paper topic (the technical and financial feasibility of the President's current space initiative, he gave me a response I was not anticipating. Instead of directly answering the question, he asked me “what have you seen done so far?” This took me slightly off guard considering I was now being asked a question by a national hero, and I didn't want to offend him by stating my rather forceful opinions on Bush's initiative. I cautiously ventured, “not much?” which he agreed with. I got the impression that Captain Young is in favor of all space exploration, as I am, but does not completely agree with Bush's plan, or its motives. Being an active part of NASA, however, meant that he could not openly criticize a plan that in many ways benefited NASA, so instead he asked a question of me so that I would come to the proper conclusion. Overall he believes that if the administration “sinks its teeth” into the exploration plan and devotes enough money to it (which he does not believe Bush is doing) that it could be accomplished.

Overall Captain Young seemed like a very charismatic and confident man, as can be expected of anyone chosen for the astronaut corps. He possessed a certain “down home” feel though that was also endearing, referring to “all the critters” on Earth who are being hurt by humanity's activities. One of the more unexpected moments came at the end of the question and answer session where he said something along the lines of “Someday your grandchildren could be living on Mars… and that would be neat.” Captain Young's easygoing attitude, natural charisma, and clear interest in the science behind the exploration made him an ideal person to hear from for this class.

One part of the talk with Captain Young that was unexpected was his doomsday-like predictions for the future of our planet. He stated as motivation for exploration to Mars not scientific goals, exploration, or national pride, but instead as a means of preservation of the species. I found this to be an interesting goal for someone who explored Mars for all the reasons listed above except preservation of the species. Since his efforts lent so much pride to America and may have influenced the cold war, I am surprised ideals like national pride do not figure into his motivations. In any case, Captain Young gave me some very interesting ideas for my paper, and in general about the President's space initiative.
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