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 (03/24/04)

Professor David Marchant of Boston University came to speak with us about going to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Most scientists that go there are biologists or geologists studying this extreme climate on Earth. Last year, however, our professor opened up exploring Antarctica to being a place to study the conditions that may exist on Mars, but on Earth. The Dry Valleys are hyperarid and cold—the same conditions that exist on Mars. Finding life or water in this place gives one an idea of where things like that could be found on Mars.

Professor Marchant talked about the stresses and conditions of going to Antarctica. The early explorers did not try to adapt to the habitat but instead tried to "bring a little piece of England" with them to it. This early on, the point of the journey was for exploration rather than scientific study. It must have been interesting to live during a time in which places on Earth had not been explored yet. There are very few places like that now, and most of them are underwater.

Being in Antarctica, isolation is the most important thing to consider. It would be a very large shift to have there be no changes in food, people, daylight, etc. and no free time. Packing must also be tough, because one will not be able to shower and such very often. Life must be very different out there. Certain comforts and definitely luxuries are forfeited going there.

I was not expecting there to be much training to go to Antarctica. But people who go there need to go through survival school and even garbage school—another thing that reminds one of the different lifestyle. There are many rules as well to keep one safe and it is simply easier to follow them then ask them why they are in place. I wonder how the hierarchy of command is set up. So many people have there own reasons for being there. It would take a very commanding person to make sure that everyone gets to do what they want.

The weather is harsh. I could not imagine being in such cold temperatures and yet it being dry. No nighttime would throw me off as well. But having humans there makes things easier than they would be with rovers. Granted, on Mars or the Moon, man would have to deal with more inhospitable conditions because one cannot breathe the atmosphere and the gravity is different for example, but to be able to make decisions and do more tests easier is valuable in scientific missions such as those would be.

Mars may be similar to the Dry Valleys, but it is truly a different world with a completely different history. One can only use the Dry Valleys for ideas on what might be on Mars—not what is. To find out what is, one must go there. Rovers are a nice, relatively cheap method for exploring, but eventually humans should be sent there to do what the rovers cannot.


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