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 (04/14/04)

Monday's seminar was definitely a new experience for me because I've never been a participant in a teleconference before. It was cool because I had to concentrate more on what Dr. Jim Garvin was saying, like listening to the radio, instead of having him speak to us in the room or speak to him via video-phone. I thought it was really nice of him to take time away from his vacation to speak with us and answer our questions.

We spent the beginning of seminar discussing more about exploration and coming up with good questions to ask Dr. Garvin. I find that as time goes on, more contributions are made by each member of the seminar, and not only is there more open discussion, the discussions are deeper and more thought-provoking. During our brainstorming session before the teleconference, the scope of questions was amazing—ranging from how safety factors will affect human space travel to Mars to the impact upon the National Budget to his personal reasoning for wanting humans to go to Mars.

Dr. Garvin started off the discussion with a brief power point presentation showing the progress the Space Program has made with respect to Mars, and what is important in our exploration and subsequent plan of exploration of Mars in the coming years. Much of what he glossed over we have discussed at greater length in seminar (like the “who, what, where, when, how” of exploration of Mars), however, he did place significance upon “following the water,” and the questions that must be asked (and eventually answered). Moreover, he outlined the basic hazards of Mars, which I thought was important, and discussed their implications on exploration and discovery.

One thing that Dr. Garvin said that really made me think was “We have time to be smart.” He said this in direct reference to engineering technology for Mars landers and human habitats. To me, this phrase meant not only that we should take the time to perfect our exploratory tools and appliances before sending humans to Mars, but also that we should prioritize and keep safety, of not only humans but of contamination of Mars, the number one goal at all costs. We should spend the time to hone our knowledge of the planet by taking many pictures of the surface as well as by sending additional rovers to the surface. We should explore the surface of Mars with automated explorers to determine what areas of Mars will be the most worthwhile for human exploration, as well as spending time to engineer space-craft capable of reconnaissance missions to bring samples back to Earth. Along these lines, it is quite important to take into account the ability for the astronauts to complete field work successfully and complete the goals stipulated by the mission, approximately 30-40 days long.

Tied to this idea of taking the time to be smart with regard to Mars travel by humans, it's also important to provide astronauts with necessary training on Earth before they travel to Mars so they have an idea of what Mars will be like in terms of climate and other factors, in addition to allowing them maximum potential to complete their duties. Research in Antarctica will greatly influence Mars missions, as well as provide a training ground for astronauts, since the environments and climates are similar, as well as the (somewhat simple) fact that the training ground doesn't need to be manufactured. The existence of a land-mass similar to Mars should be utilized to the fullest extent since unnecessary budget will not be spent in the construct of a suitable habitat for training.

All in all, I think Monday's seminar was quite informative. I think that I will adopt the motto “we have time to be smart” as a personal goal because when I think about what it means and everything it entails, with respect the human space exploration and Mars, in addition to life in general, it's HUGE…so many losses can be cut by proper preparation, and I think that if we keep this motto at the forefront of our minds, many accidents will be prevented and science, as well as our own lives, will greatly benefit. It's just like anything else—if you take the time to adequately prepare, you'll do better in the long run.


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