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 (04/14/04)

Dr. James Garvin's presentation delivered in Monday's class was so well prepared and delivered that much of what was conveyed really went home and inspired a lot of thought on just where we as a country can and should go in the exploration of our universe.

Dr. Garvin brought up the questions of Martian exploration into where water was present, how much at what time periods, where the bulk of it has gone, and whether or not it existed long enough for life to evolve. I believe these questions represent well-directed goals of our space program in further research of Mars, and are going to be key in maintaining support for initiatives that will fund the research. With the uncertainty of the upcoming election, it is hard to tell just how much NASA will be able to do in the next few years, so getting and maintaining public support is key if NASA wants to keep their drive regardless of who's in office.

I was also interested by what Dr. Garvin outlined as the current barriers to sending a human into the Martian environment. For example, the fact that we don't yet have the technology to transport the systems masses is a fact I hadn't really been aware of. It will also be important to mark the degree of success of preceding sample return missions to see the best techniques for leaving a planet with an atmosphere. I had also thought that radiation wouldn't be an issue as we had already designed space suits able to block out the levels of radiation in space when we went to the moon. These obstacles are all going to add great cost to the Mars initiative, but will, I think, be beneficial to future space and earth explorations once overcome.

The outcome of a successful human mission to Mars would likely be a renewal in the national pride of the generation of our parents. In many ways, accomplishing this would just be the United States flexing its muscles for the rest of the world's benefit, and many might find this idea extremely appealing. But more than just for our country's benefit, it would benefit the human condition in its entirety. So many people have waited for so long for some portion of the science fiction they believe in to become a reality that making it to Mars could help them to fill in some small part of the desire to be in contact with other worlds. As far as the possible scientific advances go, I do not feel qualified to predict what might develop from the information gathered, but I am willing to guess that the results would be staggering and we would see a jump in achievement like we have not seen for some time.
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