Paul Rosiak (03/17/04)
As I have been looking forward to all year, going to the CAVE was a great experience and a perfect tool for researching about Mars. It gives people a whole new perspective and insight about how it would be like to actually walk on Mars. Although not exactly to scale, it brings out many distinct characteristics that one may not exactly notice or actually envision by looking at a globe and different types of maps. The CAVE is a perfect tool to better further exploration of Mars.
When actually in the cave, you feel like you are floating and just soaring over the terrain and mountains. In some cases you may even fly through mountains and bury under the terrain and look up and see it as the terrain was a blanket of clouds. It may not be intended, but it's still pretty cool. The coolest part though is flying through the huge valleys and canyons like in Star Wars in the death star; that was really crazy. Mars looks like a much different planet when looking at it in the CAVE. It actually looks more like a planet and not just like a cratered moon in some instances. In many cases it is refreshing to see that this planet has so much information to offer and can answer many mysteries about our own planet.
In respect to vantage point, humans can be on Mars without actually being there when using the CAVE. With this new perspective, scientists can find better locations that may have more inherent clues about Mars's past and possibly what is in store for its future. Robotic exploration can also be much more sufficient and effective with the data that the CAVE gives us. We can find safer zones to land in and as previously stated better locations that can give us more data.
I would be really interested to visit and explore two major places on Mars that I feel may bring up a lot of data. The Elysium Mons area looks very interesting because if Mars did have oceans the three mountains in that area would be right smack in the middle of it, with water surrounding all around them. It looks to me as if there can be some useful information there about water on the planet and different types of soils and rocks. The Melas Chasma also grabs my attention because when we were flying through these valleys I kept on seeing these cone-like mountains right in the middle of them. I usually pictured the bottom of valleys being really flat and the bottom of (I think) Valles Marineres was not. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure venturing down there will not happen anytime soon because of the extremities of trying to descend and/or land there is dangerous, but it still leaves Elysium Mons.
As for the tradeoff that rover exploration and human exploration must deal with, I think the CAVE might be able to narrow down the tradeoff gap. Rover exploration is less costly and safer, but human exploration can be much more effective and heck of a lot quicker. A human won't stand in front of a rock for two hours deciding and calculating which way to go and how. We could get different kinds of data from the surface as well. Humans could dig further down into the terrain and try to discover whether or not this underground ice layer exists. Personally, I don't think we will really fully understand the tradeoffs until we have at least one manned mission to Mars. From there we could decide whether it's worth it or not to continue to send manned Mars missions.