APS's Bob Parks Chimes in on Mars/Water/Fuel issue...

Posted by bobba on Jun 04, 2002 at 10:52

MARS: THE MOST EXCITING QUEST IN SCIENCE GETS GOOD NEWS. In 1962, John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth. He went barely 100 miles from Earth. That same year, with less acclaim,
Mariner 2 flew by the cloud-shrouded planet Venus, 100 million miles from Earth, providing the first direct information about conditions on another planet. The public seemed unaware of what was happening: it was our robots, not our astronauts, that were exploring the solar system. Forty years later, astronauts are stuck in low-Earth orbit, while NASA scientists, using the Mars Odyssey orbiter, have become virtual astronauts, discovering frozen mud beneath the polar surface of Mars. The prospect of discovering non-terrestrial life is now much greater. The search for life to which we have no genetic link is surely the most exciting quest in science. But the Mars lobby sees the mud as a source of drinking water for astronauts, and rocket fuel for the return trip. Rocket fuel? In the early '70s, an inventor named Sam Leach drove a car across the country using, he said, water as a fuel. Alas, the oil companies suppressed it. We now face a deadline: explore Mars before astronauts contaminate it. If they rely on water as a source of fuel, it should be easy.


BobbaNote: I always liked Bob, despite our political differences. Clearly on this issue he takes Southern Man's side. Reading between the lines, I think Bob's real contention is that:

1. While it [putting man on mars] could be done, using or depending Martian resources for the return trip is a pretty dumb and unnecessary way to go about it, and

2. Why bother putting man on mars in the first place - at least given our current state of technology. Robots could do it far, far more cheaply, perfectly safely and ultimately, more successfully than could man.

Personally, Im torn on both one and two. Southern Man and Bob make some good points but isn't the education we'd receive accomplishing (or at least trying to accomplish) the task worth a great deal also? Isn't it imperative that we "go west young man" or eventually perish? If so, then isn't an early start better than a late one? On the other hand, the economic resources required to do this might be better spent on theoretical R&D rather than engineering R&D. After all, wheres the profit in putting a man on mars? Any single or couple of theoretical discoveries could easily lay waste to any and all engineering advancements made in the space exploration no?

torn - torn torn but leaning toward Bob (and hes getting nervous)

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