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 (02/11/04)

In class on Monday we spent a good deal of time in an open discussion about the nature of exploration on Mars. I went into class believing that exploring Mars was an integral part of human development. Man has always had an impulse to explore, and when denied that desire, struggles to develop. Throughout the course of history new discoveries have been made and the world seemed to shrink as more and more was known, so to exercise our need to explore, humanity began looking increasingly to the heavens. Mars provides that next step in human exploration, a virgin soil unseen by human eyes, and promising new discoveries.

Our discussion on the history of Mars' exploration went very well. Many key points were made including the interest in Mars as a “wanderer” in ancient times. This is an important point to understand since the very nature of Mars, a red planet moving in strange patterns across the sky, made it one of man's earliest curiosities. It spawned questions, myths, and was even named after the god of war. The further history of man's knowledge of Mars is also an important topic, the idea of astronomers getting the first looks at Mars through a telescope, the discovery of canals, and eventually, the speculation that life might exist on Mars.

This led us to the primary point of discussion, life on Mars. Since the famous “canali” were discovered on Mars, the idea of extraterrestrials existing there spawned many wild stories and massive speculation. Even as more information became apparent indicating life on Mars was unlikely, people still hung to the idea of aliens from the red planet, the word “Martian” often replacing the term “extraterrestrial” in popular use. The topic of religion was one I was personally very interested in. Not being raised in any particular faith, I have taken a neutral view towards religion and have come to the conclusion that organized religion is a double-edged sword. It can both comfort people and encourage ideals all humanity can agree to, or in the wrong hands it can spurn bloody conflict, genocide, and any number of atrocities. I look forward to hearing more opinions on the nature of organized religion and the effects the search for extraterrestrial life would have on it.


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