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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Frank Crespo (04/21/04)

Hearing from Dave Scott and his experiences on the moon was a great honor. I thought that he represented NASA very well. Based on the way he spoke to us, I noticed that he exuded a lot of confidence. I especially noted this when he mentioned that failure never came to his mind during missions. Initially, I thought this was a sign of arrogance, but upon contemplation it seems logical for him to have so much trust in the "system."

After the Telecon discussion, Professor Head asked us if we thought we could endure a similar mission. I did not raise my hand at first because I did not think that my personality fit with Dave Scott's. However, I was glad that the professor cleared this misconception up for me after class. Just because I do not have the stereotypical astronaut personality, does not mean that I am unable to go to Mars. Space missions need a wide variety of crew members, and I could possibly fill one of these positions. Thanks Jim for opening my eyes to the possibilities out there.

My potential involvement in space exploration was also augmented when Dave Scott told us that we could study anything we wanted in college and still go on to Mars (i.e., as long as we are good at what we do). This is good news, especially since I now know that I can incorporate chemistry and medicine in space. I could definitely see myself as a pilot/physician in space.

What shocked me most from today's seminar was Dave Scott's perspective on human versus automated missions, as well as his perspective on the Presidents initiative. Scott stated that "funding should be spent on robots and not humans." This totally surprised me, especially since he was involved in human exploration on Apollo 15. I thought he would endorse the human side of exploration a bit more. I would have liked to ask him why he thought robots should be our prime focus right now. Moreover, I was also surprised that he classified the President's initiative as "ill-advised." I expected him to give a more positive opinion of it, since he works for NASA, but I guess even NASA's employees are able to catch Bush's faulty logic.

An overlap that I saw between this class and last was the idea of human adaptation. Dr. James Garvin mentioned that humans are the only species that are capable of adapting to unusual situations. Dave Scott similarly hinted at this point when he claimed that it is in our nature to adapt to unusual situations that pop up in the moon and on Mars. Scott went on to explain that because of this innate ability, psychological preparation is the least of astronauts' worries. Instead, he stated that physical well being is the most difficult preparation to achieve. I had always thought that the converse was true. I think the media has engraved this belief into my cognitive set. When don't we see a space related movie that doesn't show a character missing a loved one or enduring a psychological struggle?

One thing that I learned from this lecture was that there is a possible energy source on the moon: helium. This possibility definitely makes me favor a precursor mission to the moon before Mars.

The most depressing part of this seminar was when Dave Scott mentioned that there are fewer Aeronautic Engineers each year. This is not a good sign for NASA and space exploration in general. I think NASA should start a recruitment program where they go to high schools and speak to students about their program. I personally was not exposed to these things until I came to Brown. For the future of humanity, and space travel in general, we should definitely consider planting the seed of exploration in future astronauts; it is up to the next generation to continue the space legacy that NASA has acquired.

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