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December 02, 2011

Future Human Exploration of Mars

As we discussed in class, NASA launched Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) into space just this past week on November 26. The purpose of this launch is to measure the past and present habitability of Mars. Curiosity will land on Mars' surface and it will be equipped with 10 instruments used to find elements of life, including water and carbon-based materials. It will also measure the radiation environment on Mars. Don Hassler, science program director at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), says, "The other primary objective of RAD -- Radiation Assessment Detector -- is to help NASA plan for future human missions to Mars by helping to determine the amount of radiation shielding required to keep astronauts safe on the surface of the planet, as well as during the long journey to get there and back."
Curiosity will land on Mars in roughly nine months and will collect data for two years. Hopefully after this mission is completed we can find ways to safely send humans to Mars.

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Posted by chazr at December 2, 2011 02:32 PM


This mission will be pivotal for adding to our extensive knowledge on Mars and it may prove once and for all if Mars was once capable of supporting life.

Posted by: jeffsong at December 3, 2011 04:47 PM

The question still remains whether we will ever consider 'terraforming' Mars with the intention of living there? Given some of the apolcalyptic predictions that Professors Miller have suggested, maybe we should.

Posted by: arevuo at December 3, 2011 08:45 PM

This is an exciting mission, hope we can get on mars soon.

Posted by: hanwen at December 3, 2011 11:27 PM

I really hope Curiosity has a successful trip to Mars. It is exciting to know that the rover is equipped not only to collect information regarding evidence of life-sustaining conditions on the surface of the planet, but also to dig beneath the surface for similar information. I will be interested to read more about how the RAD assesses the level of radiation on the surface of the planet and in the surrounding atmosphere. To the extent NASA could provide astronauts with enough radiation shielding to make trips to Mars safely, it would be a real breakthrough for the space program.

Posted by: djcarl at December 4, 2011 03:41 PM

Before taking this class, I thought the idea of sending humans to Mars was radical and I questioned the rationale. But having nearly finished this class and discussing the sun's increasing size and luminosity (over a few billion years), Mars just might be the place to be as time progresses.

Posted by: mhymes at December 5, 2011 10:51 PM

Even the possibility of being able to send humans to another planet to explore is mind-blowing! But I wonder how they would account for the high possibility of having solar particles destroy our astronauts before getting to Mars, considering the Earth's magnetic field shields us from having to deal with that threat. Humans on Mars could be the biggest event in world history.

Posted by: rmbonds at December 10, 2011 11:13 AM

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