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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Kate Edwards (03/03/04)

I was incredibly excited to meet both Mr. Basilevsky and Mr. Khrushchev, especially because of my interest in the history of the Cold War. Knowing the details of the space exploration program has only made me more interested.

I had no idea about the problems associated with the Soviet program. I never knew that they had intended to put a man on the moon before the Americans. The repeated failure of the missions thwarted this effort, but it was great to get the input of the people involved directly. I did not realize how far ahead the Soviet program was initially either. They orbited a human first and had many other firsts prior to the expansion of the American program.

I enjoyed discussing the effect Sputnik had on both the American and Soviet communities. I can only imagine how it must have felt to know for the first time that an object was circling overhead, and that it was the beginning of a new era of technology. It was also interesting to know that the American response to Sputnik created the intensity of the Soviet response after it had already happened.

Perhaps the most interesting point we discussed was the political aspect of the missions. It was interesting how both speakers said that if it were not for the tensions of the Cold War, most of the important missions on both sides never would have happened. It is also interesting that they talked about how this amazing science was happening at the same time that people in the Soviet Union were suffering. I also thought that Nikita Khrushchev was adamantly for the space program, but Sergei said that his priorities lay in helping the people. The way in which there was internal competition for the missions was also detrimental to the process.

This meeting really helped me to understand the pros and cons of sending humans into space. To do so is much more costly and dangerous. I have always believed that more progress can be made without humans, but I suppose the respect a program gains for using humans is greater. There is also more public interest I believe. Still, I find it difficult to justify Bush's proposal to put men on Mars, especially since there is so much more work to be done before we should reach that point. I know we will explore this further in future classes.




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