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 (04/28/04)

Once again, I would like to thank Apollo 16 commander John Young for taking the time to have a teleconference with our class. I thought that our discussion with John Young was excellent, in the sense that it was very different then our discussions with any other Apollo commander and/or NASA representative. He had a very clear-cut view of what we have to do in means of exploration and he cuts the fat. He was blatantly honest and I feel that is a very good quality to have because that isnÕt always an easy thing to do, especially when talking about a sensitive subject like say the Bush initiative.

John YoungÕs distinct view of Mars exploration was very different from what all the other people had to say. He really is looking in on the long run of things and I think that is also a great quality to have. Along with human specialness, we also feel like our world is indestructible and that there is no chance that something like say Armageddon could ever happen. Yet, the truth is that our planet is just as fragile as we are and I think we take it for granted sometimes. IÕm not saying go and build yourself a bomb shelter and the world will be over soon, all IÕm saying is that we need people like John Young to bring up some of these strange points to sometimes add a broader perspective to things.

His Armageddon type view of the world made me think of what he himself would think about the human natural yearning to explore. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to ask him my question early enough but I believe I can assume that he would see human exploration as almost a subconscious survival mechanism. He said it himself, that single planet species will not survive. We can see this through the past inhabitants on our planet: dinosaurs, ice age, so on. Maybe these past inhabitants didnÕt have the natural propensity to explore, maybe they did and we just have the obvious ability to increase technology. Whatever it may be, we are the only species (other than bacteria on meteors) that has traveled to another planetary body (from out current knowledge). That has to mean something, doesnÕt it?

Professor Head was right when he said that John Young was probably one of the most intelligent astronauts. He had many insightful things to say about the exploration itself. Most significant was his all or nothing view of mars exploration, which I feel was very understandable in my respect. Mars is simply too far away and there is not enough money and quite possibly patience to take many preliminary trips before actually landing on Mars. Heck, we really werenÕt patient with landing on the moon. Of course, there was the space race, but some other factors still contribute to Mars exploration that may rush it up a bit. When people give/donate money to an organization, that organization will be pressured to show immediate results. People want to see results and want to see them fast. I am not saying that NASA will actually rush through things but the possibility of it does lie overhead.

Overall, I think it was a great discussion and it did turn a few heads. John YoungÕs sometimes over-excessive views are great and keep the spark to ongoing debate and future discussions of Mars exploration, as well as hold the excitement of NASA.

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