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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James Kytta (03/17/04)

The CAVE was an experience dissimilar to any previous encounters I have had with technology and virtual simulations. The program was useful in learning the relative spatial relations between the various Martian landmarks, such as Olympus Mons, the polar caps, and some of the larger canals. The program was unfortunately not as great in conveying the real scale of many of the features, nor a lot of the details. Hopefully further research will allow for an improvement in the resolution of such image map programs and therefore add greatly to their value.

The value of such simulators is a double-edged sword of sorts. While learning the geography can be done well through such means, it is too easy for many people to think that because we have simulation programs we don't need to return to (for example) Mars. I do not, however, believe this to be the case. While it can perhaps support an anti-human exploration program, discontinuation of research period would not be justified. Planets are diverse, dynamic systems, and though geology acts over grand time scales, things do change. For these reasons, I think we should return to the moon. Perhaps of greatest value, we could inspect the rovers left there from previous missions and see what effect the years of decay on the moon has done to them. This knowledge would be useful in understanding an atmosphere very different from our own, and the processes (such as the possibility of rust-like metal decay) that it supports.

It was also nice to devote a little more time than is normally allotted to discuss the current developments with Spirit and Opportunity and be able to further inquire into some of the specifics. As interesting and intense as our conversations in class often get, I think it would be valuable to all of us to be able to ask direct questions of those who are really able to clarify them, as news articles and the like can often be confusing and hard to track the sources of. I hope more time can be set aside for these discussions in the future.
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