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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Lillian Ostrach (04/28/04)

Speaking with Commander John Young on Monday was very interesting. Unlike the other two men we have spoken with, Commander Young is an astronaut still employed with NASA, and believes very strongly in exploring the Moon with a slight emphasis on Mars. I was quite surprised by his attitude regarding space exploration because he vehemently supported colonization of the Moon and utilization of the possible resources, energy being the main concern as well as the creation of a training ground for astronauts, as opposed to direct exploration of Mars by humans.

We began seminar with a brief introduction to the background of Commander Young and his missions and then quickly moved on to possible discussion questions. The potential questions, I thought, were very well thought out, especially since we have spoken with two other knowledgeable people. Many of the questions were based upon previous questions asked during the other teleconferences or as a result of the answers given to us during the teleconferences. By constructing similar questions each seminar, we could gain an understanding of different views of people who are or who have been affiliated with NASA. For example, Commander John Young seemed to be really the only person we've talked to so far who really feels that human space exploration is a necessity at this time. While he believes that automated exploration is useful, humans are much better than robots because we can “anticipate, worry, and fix things,” traits which no amount of technology can create in machines. On the other hand, both Commander Scott and Dr. Garvin seemed somewhat skeptical as to the importance of human space travel, especially when discussing the risks associated with long-duration flights such as the requirement to travel to Mars. On the other hand, Commander Young's belief was that we should get out there and deal with problems when we came to them—that potential dangers are not an issue because the important thing is to be decisive and make a decision to go.

I thought it was interesting how the Moon was at the center of Commander Young's focus. Stating that “single planet species don't survive,” Young said that it was necessary to go back to the Moon as quickly as possible since it's a necessity to “get people to other places.” He kept referring back to the number of super-volcanoes and asteroids that threaten the Earth, describing an almost-apocalyptic world if humans did not go back to the Moon. I thought this was very interesting since he was advocating the accommodation of catastrophe as a means to support space exploration. However, his view gives rise to the inherent ability of humans to adapt to their environment…and how we should learn to live in different conditions, especially since we don't know what the future will hold for us. He does believe, however, that “people will enjoy working and living in one-sixth gravity—it's sure delightful!” and that life on the Moon is part of our future.

Like we've discussed in seminar, it will be important to utilize the Moon as a training ground for astronauts and machinery that are Mars-bound. Young believes that the Moon should be used to test all equipment and train astronauts, as well, in order to find out all possible mistakes and how to handle them. As he said, “we should utilize lunar resources,” and this will be possible if the technological fields continue improvement and if allocation of funds is continued by Congress. According to Young, and I believe this as well, we should go to the Moon first, and make mistakes there because the time factor will allow for minimum danger. The Moon is only a few days away, while Mars is many months, and it is much more probable that issues resulting from equipment and machinery malfunction, as well as astronaut issues, can be resolved without serious injury or loss on a trip to the Moon than on the way to Mars. Young believes that each future Moon mission will be a stepping stone on the way to Mars, because, for Mars, “it's all or nothing.”



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