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 (05/05/04)

I felt that our discussion last Monday was maybe one of our more intense discussions we had in a while. Many classmates were very animated about John Young's approach to the future of space exploration either supporting him or debating whether he had any real arguments for reasons for exploration. I wrote about his approach more in dept last summary so I will not spend too much time discussing about this. I just want to reiterate that I feel that we definitely need people like John Young in the administration always restarting this spark and fire with his incredible knowledge, especially his distinct knowledge about statistical data about our planet's and specie's future.

As Professor Head said, John Young is definitely not a man that you want to head your administration because nothing in the short run would ever get done, but the position John Young holds now is perfect. He is still there to share his strong knowledge about anything you could ask for that is any NASA and space exploration related. I also do not think that John Young is thinking in the long run that some people think. He is definitely thinking many decades from now. His knowledge about our technology and potential growth of advancements is well aware that many of the things he said we should accomplish in the future will not happen in the near long run future. I am sure he understands that we will not be colonizing Mars by 2030.

In regards to the President's initiative, I found a few a few things in his speech that just do not seem right. I may be a little unclear, but he said that it would be cheaper for us to establish a human presence on the moon and use it as a launching pad for further missions, then to just launch from earth. I understand that getting out of the earth's atmosphere is really hard and expensive, but moon base or not, whatever we need to send on further missions will at one time require us to send it out of earth's atmosphere whether it goes to the moon first or directly to the mission. Besides, I would expect that establishing let alone maintaining a moon base would be much more expensive then simply skipping a step and sending future missions right from earth. Moon soil may be used to harvest air and fuel, but how expensive would that be? What about food, waste disposal, and regular everyday things people would need in order to survive? I don't know the exact figures, but generally it does not appear to be cheaper let alone easier to get things done.

Furthermore, he expects us to have this new crew exploration vehicle up and working by 2015, roughly ten years from now, and have extended human missions to the moon. Not only does this not make sense with budget issues but also the sheer fact that we would be able to build such a craft in ten years seems unlikely. He strongly feels that in ten years we will create something small, efficient, reusable, and powerful enough to escape and enter earth's atmosphere without using millions of gallons of rocket fuel for the lift off phase of the mission.

First of all, this new craft would require a brand new technologically advanced propulsion system as well as a plethora of other technological advancements that we have not accomplished yet. I think he is looking through a very narrow perspective with this. It appears that he simply sees this as one advancement, to go from space shuttles to the new crew exploration vehicle. A broader perspective would show that more than one advancement is taking place: new propulsion, new lighter and stronger materials that can undergo stress and constant reuse, better energy sources, and increased guiding and mapping technologies are just a few examples of the many things that we still need to advance in before this new ship can be made. This new crew exploration vehicle would be the most advanced vehicle ever made in our existence as human beings. The effects of building this vehicle would be incredible when it comes to technology and knowledge. Our commercial planes would definitely change as well as cars and all other vehicles we use. I am not trying to be cynical, but I just do not see something as great as the new space exploration vehicle being made within the next two years. We have a falling economy to worry about, a long and strung out war, mars rovers, and so many other things going on right now on the agenda and only a limited amount of money. There is not enough focus and priority on this project to get this done in 10 short years, but I could still be wrong.
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