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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Paul Rosiak (04/21/04)

It was an amazing experience to actually talk to a former NASA Astronaut. The whole time I was stuck in the aura that the man we were speaking to on the telecom was on the moon so many miles away. It was important and good to hear what he had to say about the many aspects of space exploration as well as his analysis of the current efforts with Mars exploration. His experience in the fields adds a new perspective and kick to the issues we talk about. He had many important “enlightenments,” so to speak, about the realities of what it will take to accomplish such a feat.

Bush's space initiative was the most blatant of all comments that he made. It didn't come to too much of a surprise when he said that Bush's initiative was ill-advised. The amount of money that was being redirected to NASA (by either direct funding or redistribution of budget) is far from the actual cost of what such a mission would take. The amount of time to do such a task will also take much longer than the plan appeared to believe it would. As David Scott said, we will need many more years of training and technical advances before such a great exploration occurs. Robotic explorers will be there for many more years before a human touches Mar's surface. Furthermore, in relation to Bush's plan, some specific talks of moon bases and other objectives do not sound very feasible and a focal point at this time and realistically naming Bush's plan “ill-advised” hits the nail on the head.

I feel that the most significant idea I managed to get out of David Scott's response was that the main problem behind President Bush's initiative is that it appears to be more of an attempt to gain some secondary motives. (The upcoming election is the first obvious thing in mind) In other words, Mars exploration will require an enormous amount of continuous support and effort, and it doesn't look like President Bush is making this plan with the idea of full long-term commitment, especially after the upcoming election. It simply does not appear that he will be willing to make the firm commitment that it requires to accomplish such a great endeavor, especially considering that our nation is currently in the long trenches of warfare and in a downward sloping economy.

Even still, the other side of me says that he is doing a good thing. I want human Mars exploration to happen very greatly, even if it means having to make some sacrifices. On one hand, I feel President Bush is making empty promises, on the other, I feel he is helping the Mars initiative. He is bringing attention to NASA and their future attempts at a new exploring endeavor, and like any Hollywood publicist would say, “Any publicity is good publicity.” (I am not saying that NASA is getting bad publicity, just that it's possible Bush's plan in relation to NASA may appear tainted to some people) In the end, NASA has to take whatever it can get and this is a perfect opportunity to try to jumpstart their future goals.

It was also very interesting to hear what David Scott felt were the challenges in a forthcoming Mars expedition. When having the experience he had, including constant life and death situations in space and making history in being the first to do many things, he had a very realistic and insightful view of what the future will look like in NASA's mission to mars. Firstly, he reinforced what I felt would probably be the biggest challenge facing this mission, the time. Yet, I was surprised to hear him say it would take approximately two and a half years as apposed to about one and a half years as we discussed in class. (Which is the better estimate?) As for the types of ships that would carry us there, he went with the good old rule of thumb that we would require a specialized craft for each part of the mission. He felt that having one ship that could do it all would probably be very unlikely because of the massive amount of jobs that one ship would have to be capable of doing. As stated before and as many agree, robotic exploration has a lot more to accomplish before we will be ready for Mars exploration. Whenever the day will come, I am sure that David Scott will be watching it on television just as people in the past watched him.
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