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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Julie Spector (05/12/04)

I felt that the supporters of both theses did a very good job, particularly since I began to agree with Thesis 1 by the end of its presenters and then I began to agree with Thesis 2 by the end of its presentors! This apparent contradiction made me realize that as long as everyone does their job, Thesis 1 and Thesis 2 do not contradict each other; in fact, they need each other. NASA is a federal agency and by all means it should have executive and legislative “supervisors”. That said, the President must realize he's not a space scientist nor has (s)he ever worked with the intricacies within NASA for a living. Hence, the director he hires. Now, the President may have some grand ideas concerning space travel—and this is a good thing that the President is excited about space travel—but since (s)he's not a space scientist, has not worked within NASA specifically, and because this is country is a democracy, the President's ideas are not law. What does the director think of them? What does the rest of NASA think? In fact, what are NASA's ideas and objectives? They need to run those by the President, just as (s)he ran his by NASA. The two bodies (the President and NASA) decide what they want to do, each taking into account the other's knowledge, and if people actually care about the state of space travel and not just politics, the right idea will be pursued. A mini checks-and-balances system, if you will. And then the real checks-and-balances come in: the President, on behalf of NASA and himself, presents to congress. Because frankly, NASA is expensive. It needs public (and private) support. The best way it will get money (whether from the government and/or private donors) will be a splashy campaign to get the people excited, all fully, openly supported by the President and congress. Even though it may appear that the President is fully charge of NASA, that NASA is doing what the President says no questions, that's not actually what is occurring. But by this pretense, the American public's spirit is revved up. The government gives more money to NASA. So do private donors.

For something as grand as the Mars Initiative, I think that the people who mentioned sustainability were right on track. This specific initiative requires a long term commitment from its pursuers: anywhere from 50-200 years. This obviously spans quite a lot of different politicians. Space travel, and potentially colonization, requires national recognition (and inevitably it will become international recognition) that is a national security priority (and inevitable, an international security necessity). That means, no matter who is President—Republican, Democrat, Green Party, whoever —or who is in Congress (and eventually who the world leaders are), the governing body never decreases any sort of support for the Mars Initiative. The Mars Initiative would have to be a priority for every politician, no matter what. No breaks in the support, either. Fully constant, fully sustaining. I personally think it would be about 25-50 years or so before the USA admits this needs to be international, and then other countries could (and hopefully, would) join.


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