Marshall Agnew (03/10/04)
I liked this Monday's class the best so far. I enjoyed learning a little more directly about things I didn't know before. I have enjoyed the seminar environment so far because it has been interesting to hear what classmates have to say about mars, but I also want to know more facts from a professional in the field. I would like to have more of a mix of lecture and discussion. However, though Monday's class was more of a lecture than the usual, I think the seminar aspect of the class was still apparent and valuable. People asked more questions and discussed the ideas as well as simply listening. I wish more lecture classes were like that.
Before this class started I had no idea what planetary scientists do or why they do it. I have been steadily learning more about what they do and why they do it, but Monday's class gave me a more solid perspective on some of the goals of planetary scientists. I think it is interesting that one of the main reasons to study other planets in our solar system is to learn more about our own planet. The idea that all of these places have the same origin is comforting in some way. I like the idea that we can find analogies for phenomenon on earth in other part of space and that, in the case of our neighboring planets, we know that their formative years were all very similar. The trick seems to be to figure out why, though they all started from the same stuff, the planets ended up different.
My favorite thing about Mars is the fact that all of the geological features there are similar to ours but on a much larger scale. The volcanoes there can be many times the size of ours, the canyons are hundreds of times the size of ours, even the ice caps are huge. However, its not only the features in the land that are large compared to ours, the changing of the seasons is also on a grander scale than ours. Its neat that a planet much smaller than earth has analogous characteristics to ours that are so much more impressive.
To answer the question of what we could get out of sending people to mars that we cant get from a rover, I say we send photographers. The class seems fairly decided that machines can do a better job of doing science on mars than people could, but I'm sure people could take better pictures. Lets make the human mission an artistic one. With all of the impressive land features that so dwarf their terran analogues, we could get some pretty amazing pictures.
I also disagree with the class that humans would be absolutely useless for doing science on Mars. In terms of time spent and quick analysis, I think people could be much more efficient than robots. A human could look inside a lot of rocks in a few minutes, where as it takes the rovers whole days. That said, it would be much more expensive and complicated to send humans and ultimately, maybe not worth it.
Whether humans or robots are the future explores of the planet, I think what Mike Carr said about rage will be the key to finding out more about the red planet. As it is we are limited to landing in some very boring places because we want to be safe, but the most important places to study, like volcanoes and canyons, and very dangerous landing sites. So we need to be able to land in safe places and go to the interesting ones.