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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Geoffrey Stetson (04/21/04)

What an amazing opportunity we were given this week. To speak to a man who has actually gone to the surface of the moon. There are probably less than 20 people who have done that and we had one of them give us his undivided attention for an afternoon (even though it was late at night for him). It was a real treat.

He said some very profound things that really caught my attention. He said that automated missions should continue for the foreseeable future. It seemed like he was in no hurry to get humans out there. Rightfully so, it poses many problems to send humans, but being the man that he is, I would think he would love humans to extend the reaches of our accomplishments and send some humans to Mars. But what he said was very logical. We can't send humans until we know exactly what is there. This will mean many more significant automated missions. But my thought is, once we know exactly what is there, then there is almost no point to send humans to Mars at all.

Along those lines, Mr. Scott said that the way we would get to Mars would be if everyone agreed on an objective and we had consistant funding that would last throughout the entire project. I think this would be very difficult to make a reality. Once we know the planet well enough to send humans there would be no point anymore, except to say we did it. And I don't think that is a strong enough reason to convince congressmen to invest the type of money we would need for the project. The only way I see us going to Mars, would be to set up a lab on the surface, but I feel we would need to find traces of life for anyone to be dedicated to erecting a lab. This provides another problem in that, finding life on Mars would be a situation in which sending humans would create a dangerous “andromeda strain” situation. So there is a lot to consider when thinking about sending men to Mars. I personally don't think I will see it in my lifetime.

There are so many things that we have to conquer before sending humans out there. One thing that I hadn't thought much about was the dust. David Scott talked about how dirty the suits got on the moon and the problems that caused the astronauts, but that was in an environment without any wind. Mars is a windy place and the dust getting into the suits will be an even harder problem to deal with. The Astronauts will need a way to wash their suits very well. Perhaps a shower room as they walk into their habitat could solve the problem, but it is one of the many things that would need to be taken care of before sending humans. Other things that would be problematic loss of bone and muscle mass on the trip there and back. Also construction of the vehicle would be ridiculous. It would need to he humongous and launched in multiple pieces. The lunar landers took crews of 3 people. The crew that David Scott proposed was 8 people. Living space for 8 people alone would be huge, but there would be many other scientific parts and supplies that would take up a huge amount of space. Thinking about this reminds me of the opening scene to one of my favorite movies, “spaceballs” when lord helmet's ship flies by in front of the screen for almost 3 minutes.

But in the end, David Scott felt it would be adventure that would send humans to the surface of Mars. Humans are an adventurous species, and “relatively” soon, we will be really considering getting out there.


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