Geoffrey Stetson (03/17/04)
One of the reasons I signed up for this class was to enter in the virtual reality simulator. It has always been a dream of mine, being a child of science fiction, to use VR. My father and I used to watch Star Trek: the next generation, every week and my favorite part always was when they would go on the holodeck (my all time favorite holodeck experience was when Warf had to battle either Data or Captain Picard in traditional Klingon fashion). This seems as close as I'll ever get to a holodeck so I was rather excited.
As we got there we were given a map of quadrants that were in high definition that we could look at. I wanted to look at valles marineras and could easily pick it our on the map we were given. After a quick tutorial, me and 4 other humans were cruising the surface of mars. It was an amazing experience. We would go in every nook and cranny, which is exactly what I tried to do when I had the remote. I didn't want to fly over the surface, I wanted to get down and dirty and experience what it would be like to be on the surface of the planet. Traversing through the canyon was definitely amazing. It felt like we were in a car driving through an immense tunnel with the lid chopped off.
One thing I wish was that the scale was correct. The technician helping us said that the scale was skewed to a magnitude of 15 or 20. Some little humps in real life, appeared to be humongous spikes that would make going to Mars extremely dangerous for humans. This made me feel like the experience I was having was a little less real than I had previously thought but it was awesome anyway.
Outside of the CAVE there was another semi-virtual reality simulator set up in mono that we could play with while the other half of our group was in the CAVE. I found this very useful and fun. It gave us a low definition view of the entire planet which gave me a good understanding of what was going on, on the planet. The thing that I took away from the experience was how boring the northern lowlands are. They contain very few features and are important to think about. If an ocean had covered this area, that would compensate for the lack of features and the smoothness of the area.
Four most important aspects of Mars exploration and where to look:
Water – Water is the most important thing to search for on the planet. Life is more likely to have occurred in the presence of water and if there was water, there is a chance there was life. Good places to look would be in craters in the northern lowlands.
Life – Along the same lines as above, life will probably have occurred near water, which is why that is the most important search, but the ultimate goal of the water search is life. Searching for life will best be accomplished in the same places as mentioned above.
Volcanic Activity – Volcanic activity would suggest a completely different picture of Mars then we see now. Best place to look, I guess would be near the mountains which used to be volcanoes.
Tectonic Plates – the search for these would have the same implications as #3 but I have no idea where you would look for them.
These things would need to be investigated thoroughly. The question is wether to send humans or robots. I think the risk is not worth sending humans out there. Robots have been getting the job done so far, and until we can't build a robot to do what we want, I say we keep sending robots.