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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Stephanie LaRose (04/28/04)

Today we got to speak with John Young, an astronaut who has been on numerous NASA missions including Gemini, Apollo 10 and 16, and testing the first space shuttle. He's been through a lot, but is cool about any issues he encountered on those missions.

Young saw the president's space initiative as a necessary step in NASA's program. When asked about the initiative, he responded that it was a good goal and a "good speech" made by the president. Also when asked if we would be able to get to Mars by 2050, he said that we'd need a heck of a lot of money that it seems is unlikely at this point. The significance of 2050 is from Young's reason we need to go to Mars. His main selling point is the fact that humans are threatened being isolated on Earth. By 2050 the population will have hit 10 million, with so many countries being developed that there would not be enough oil to sustain the population. Putting these two statements together, it does not seem that Mars will be the key to this resource depletion, and yet as Young talked he made this seem like an important reason.

Another major reason for going to Mars, in Young's opinion, is because there are major astrological and Earthly threats to Earth as a planet full of creatures. These include asteroids and super volcanoes. Super volcanoes are something not many people think of, but calculations tell us that there are seven to 10 of them on Earth, three of which are in the United States. When erupted, they could blanket huge areas, cutting off the sun and, therefore, life. These are disasters that would be prepared for if we have a base on Mars and the Moon to move people to. The only problem with this idea in my opinion is that it is very long-term and humans as a species generally think of things in the short- rather than long-term. It is also a very apocalyptic idea which does not make people think in a very positive way about a manned mission to Mars.

Young definitely agrees that we should first have mission to and on the Moon to test all of the designs for a Mars mission. He believes that we should not spend 200 days of getting to Mars to simply orbit for a couple days and then return for another 200 days. We need to stay on the planet for months the first time we make it there. This takes a lot of planning, motivation, and money. According to Young, the best reason to have humans conduct a mission is because they can anticipate issues, worry, and fix unexpected problems that are bound to come up. Young has been in several situations that have needed these innate human responses to correct. Of course, humans must also man these missions if we ever expect to get a base on Mars for humans to live on.

John Young is very gung-ho about getting to Mars. This is a slightly different viewpoint from Dave Scott, but we must also keep in mind that Young is still involved in the NASA missions and therefore would like to continue to be a part in these types of endeavors. If one listens closely, Young does not seem to think that this is the exact way or time to go about this type of a mission however. A lot of it is politics, and politics is the game Young must play.


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