Kate Edwards (03/10/04)
I think the discussions we had on the status of water on Mars was the most interesting to me. I've always known that “following the water” was a major goal in Mars exploration, but I suppose I never really understood why. If there once was a lot of water on Mars, this could be incredibly significant in finding remnants of past life.
The temperature changes on Mars with reference to the progressive strengthening of the sun and the changes in obliquity also are very compelling. Because of the stability of the earth, I had no idea that such changes could occur. It adds more evidence to the fact that the earth may be unique only its luck to be in the right place at the right time. Had the moon not formed after its collision with the planet, as the theory maintains, Earth might not have had the stability it needed to develop and sustain life. It also leads me to wonder about the obliquity changes of other planets with moons. Are they as stable as is Earth, or does having more moons alter this effect?
The incredible size of the geological features of Mars is astounding. The volcanoes and valleys are far beyond anything we've ever seen. The article said that this was because of the lack of a tectonic system, which was interesting. I had always attributed the existence of such features on Earth to the presence of tectonics, and I never considered what would happen without such a system in existence. It seems a bit contradictory to me that what causes volcanoes on Earth is absent on Mars, despite Mars' great volcanoes. I suppose there is much more research to be done on this subject.
The short debate we had at the end of class about whether or not we should send humans to Mars definitely piqued my interest. Personally, I feel that this endeavor is a waste of time and of science, but it is true that humans can mobilize support and recognition that a robot never could.
Blini Night was a great experience for me. I was able to have a great conversation with Sergei about some questions I had about his father's involvement in the Cold War. I also learned a lot from him about what it was like to grow up in the Soviet Union. I had this stereotyped notion that all Russians were living in fear and starving and were controlled by entirely by their government, but this was not the case at all. Life there was much like life here and it was eye opening to get his point of view.
I loved talking to everyone in such an informal environment. It really gave me a chance to have personal conversations and to actually get to know the lecturers from class. I also feel that it was a great way to bring everyone in the class closer together and have a great time.