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 (05/05/04)

To be honest, today's discussion was not my favorite. I am not a very political thinker so I found myself at a loss for words a lot today. But I left with some good messages and a good deal to think about.

Cindy perceived John Young's comments to be rather American-centric and possibly xenophobic. I felt that he had a strong sense of pride in his country. Being in the armed forces and a member of NASA would do that for you, but I did not feel a sense of xenophobia at all. From a purely scientific standpoint, more people immigrating to our country are not good for maintaining a species. It will cause overcrowding and depletion of resources faster than without the influx. From his other comments and views about populating other terrestrial bodies, this interpretation makes perfect sense. He believes in spreading out of the human race to try and maintain survival. If we all congregate in America, our chances of survival will diminish. We will be more susceptible to a large-scale attack, whether it is a super-volcano, or terrorist attack. Also, our resources will be used faster and more waste will be produced. If humans utilized all the space on the earth, it would last a lot longer than if we concentrated in a few distinct areas. I personally did not perceive any xenophobic undertones, just a realistic view of the future plight of humans.

Regardless of John Young's motives, the real topic of today's class was the president's initiative. The main thing I got out of this discussion came at the end when we were posed with two theses about how to fund NASA. From my point of view, presidential initiatives are necessary for the implementation of large-scale space exploration. The majority of the country does not think that going to Mars is as important as education for their children, or defense of the country, so you will never get people to vote for more NASA funding. Also, congress is a representation of the nation as a whole. When congressmen are worried about reelection, you cannot get the majority of legislature to vote for something so purely scientific when people are starving in our own country. The way to get something like that funded needs someone with a lot of power to set it in motion. A presidential initiative is the way something like that has to get done.

But, presidents are only in power for eight years at the most. In my opinion, extenuating circumstances are also needed for continued funding. The cold war is what caused president Kennedy to institute his initiative to go to the moon. With his direction, men got from just a satellite orbiting the earth, with sputnik, to walking on the moon in just 12 years. Bush senior tried to pass an initiative similar to the one his son is working on now in 1989, but congress found it to be too expensive. No one found the Apollo program too expensive, because we needed to be better than the Soviets. We do not need to prove our technological superiority over anyone these days, so I don't see the president's initiative coming to fruition any time in the near future. I think the only way we would see something happen would be another stress on our system, like a competitive country, or an extreme need to get to Mars. I could see something like the explosion of a super volcano getting us moving towards our goal, but in that instance, it might be a little too late for us to do anything. I don't know what it is going to take for us to get motivated, but I see Bush junior's plan turning out exactly like his father's did.



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