Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Victoria Lay, H01 Final Blog: Exploration

Post 1

Robert H. Goddard, the creator of the first liquid fueled rocket, once said “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today, and the reality of tomorrow.” Evidence of this is all around us. We have advanced immensely as a species, but from the hunter-gathers using tools of stone and bone to the car-driving, phone-using, plane-flying people of today, one thing has remained the same. That thing is the need to explore and discover. Mankind has travelled across the cradle of Earth, crossing its deepest oceans, climbing its highest peaks, and later flying across the sky. Now humanity turns to beyond the sky, an untouched frontier awaiting brave adventurers to reach it. With our neighbor Mars in sight, human footprints may soon be found on the red planet’s surface. We as a species feel the deep need to go above and beyond, to seek what we cannot even imagine. However, the reason is subject to opinion.

It cannot be denied, unfortunately, that some people are what many people consider greedy, which might be considered as a need to gain wealth and power with no concern for others or being truthful. History provides evidence of this all over the globe. One example would be the theft of Native American land by European settlers once precious resources were discovered on said land. Another would be when a weakened China was carved into “Spheres of Influence” by European countries in the 19th century in order to create exclusive trading rights with these areas.
            The vast heavens above us represent a frontier untouched by man and filled with resources. It could be assumed that if we created (or perhaps joined) the galactic community there would be some people who would try to wantonly take advantage of these resources, likely resulting in the destruction of several non-Earth celestial bodies. The moon and Mars could eventually be up for land grabs, and wealthy entrepreneurs may decide to stake claim to these lands for the construction of off-planet facilities, all for a substantial price of course. Entire asteroids or planets could be claimed by mining companies, stripping them of anything of value. These bodies may be altered so much that anything that might have been available for discovery: a rare formation, microscopic fossils, etc. could be wiped away before scientists could find them. Important objects and research may be stolen and sold to the highest bidder on the black market. Fake information and artifacts may be planted off-world in order to gain publicity and fame. These areas are completely separated from the Earth. The “space police” might not be a thing, so early colonists would be susceptible if anyone with less than good intentions managed to slip through the cracks and reach a colony. These concerns are more than likely for advanced future colonization. The earliest explorers should be carefully selected from major space agencies like NASA and will likely be only sent to Mars and possibly some asteroids for very short-lived missions. The earliest colonists would also be selected in order to ensure their ability to create a startup colony on another world. However, eventually space travel will be accessible to all kinds of people, and that includes those looking for fame and fortune even if it means not playing fair.

            I believe John Locke has some validity in his belief that a newborn’s mind is blank slate. I do however believe some tendencies are tied in to our genetics, and thus some traits are more likely to emerge than others. However, we are not chained by our genes. Our experiences play a key role in who we become as a person. The things we see and do, the people we meet, the events in the world have critical roles in shaping us as people. Every person should have an equal opportunity for advancement, should have access to essential services, and be able to grow into their best. It is true that in the news we see terrible things every day. Sometimes people go against what they are taught is good, and these people might be considered “inherently bad.” I would like to believe that these people are less common than we think, and that the media focuses on bad events far more than good ones. I think that this negative focus might actually make things worse. It might make people lose faith in humanity, and thus care less about how they act.
A study was conducted over the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which is where two players have two options, and the outcome depends on each other’s choices. Computers were set up to show a situation where two people were able to either cooperate or defect. If both people cooperate, they both gain $300. If both defect, they both lose $10. If one person defects but the other tries to cooperate then the person who defects gains $500 and the person who cooperates loses $100. After several different scenarios were tested the researchers found that the most effective strategies were the ones in which the first person would not be the first to defect, were quick to forgive someone who had earlier deceived them, and were not envious if the other person won just as much money. The researchers also noticed that strategies where the opponents continuously tried to deceive each other made the least amount of money in the long run. These cooperative strategies can be seen in the animal world with social species helping one another to survive and shunning uncooperative members. This proves that it is better for people to cooperate, and we should act based on these good strategies.

Although the risk of corruption and greed certainly is a concern, not all humans are like this. As long as teams are subject to extreme scrutiny we could hopefully avoid incidents of espionage, theft, and destruction. Once more and more people are sent to off-Earth colonies, law enforcement as well as frequent check-ins should reduce the criminal presence. But hopefully, the first explorers of non-Earth planets and asteroids will have nothing but curiosity and a thirst for adventure.

Post 2
Curiosity and Advancement

            Although curiosity may have killed the cat, for humans curiosity has led to the advancement of our species in amazing and previously unimagined ways. Our desire to explore the unknown can inspire teamwork and a sense of comradery. Former enemies can forge together towards a brighter future of discovery that can benefit everyone.

The discovery of the New World encouraged the trade of new plants and animals which helped stimulate the European economy. Not only that, the new crops proved to be able to help solve Europe’s food shortages, for these new crops proved to provide more food from the same amount of space. The pioneering of space technology has in a similar way provided benefits to all humanity. Those who ask, “Why are we trying to go into space when it cannot help our problems here,” do not realize that space technology and research has been repurposed to help people back at home. Things like scratch resistant lenses, artificial limbs, space blankets, chemical detection, and more were developed by or had influence from NASA. People should not jump to the conclusion that space travel is useless or frivolous when they do not realize all of the important things that have come from it.

     We have been sending rovers and satellites to other bodies in our solar system for decades. These have given us an up close look at the other planets, moons, and asteroids of our neighborhood. However, these robotic missions can only tell us so much. Manned exploration is key to understanding the deeper aspects of these places. Also, never going to these places makes them feel distant, impersonal, and unreachable. We feel the need to step on the surface, to feel the ground beneath our feet, and to gaze upon the alien landscape with human eyes, not robotic ones. A manned exploration would cure us of these feelings and satisfy our wandering nature, and we could one day gaze up at the night sky and think, “There are people there, reaching what was once unreachable.”

  Discovery is key to understanding the world around us, and perhaps to providing a clue of who we are and where we come from. The study of space has provided us with some possible answers, but it also baffles us with many more questions. What makes us who we are as a species is our undying need to know, or at least to try and know. I believe it is in our nature to go into the unknown, and all of us will feel the call at some point in our lives. The greatest things are not discovered by staying in the comfort zone.

Post 3
Challenges and Risks

As a species we have decided that we are ready to spread our wings and make our way out into the universe. Many scientists seem to agree that our next step in colonizing and exploring the solar system seems to be sending humans to the planet Mars. Sending the first people to Mars will be no easy task. The trip will push astronauts to the limits as they will be confined in a limited space with the same people for roughly two years. Along the way they will be subjected to harsh solar radiation in a low gravity environment and be completely alone with no hope of rescue if something happens. It is important to try and work out what could happen, what options we have and then decide the best course of action.

            In the book How to Live on Mars: a Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet, by Dr. Robert Zubrin, he explains that one of the cheapest and most fuel-efficient orbits to reach Mars would be the Hohmann Transfer. If the planets were the hands of a clock, the spacecraft carrying the explorers would leave Earth at the 6 o’clock position. They would travel in an ellipse to reach Mars at the 12 o’clock position. The total time to reach Mars this way would be roughly eight and a half months one way.

            Eight and a half months is a very long time for people to be in space, and the continuous two to three years it would take to get there and back has not yet been accomplished. The longest anyone has stayed in space one continuous mission was 437 days by the Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polykov on the Russian Mir space station. Mars explorers would be faced with an even longer mission, but also potentially in a smaller spacecraft. It will push astronauts to their psychological limits to be within a tin can flying through space with the same people and little outside contact for this long. They would be truly alone, with no one besides themselves to rely on if something goes wrong. This is a terrifying reality that astronauts must face. If they die, the world may never know what happened to them.

            The microgravity environment is a serious concern. It has been seen that prolonged stay in these conditions have detrimental effects on astronauts. The National Space Biomedical Institute lists several of these problems. Bones no longer experience the strain of supporting the body, and so they become brittle and weak as calcium is broken down and released into the body. Muscles which also support posture begin to weaken, increasing risks of fall-related injuries once they reach the Martian surface. To combat this, astronauts are required to participate in vigorous exercise to keep the muscles in use. The heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood, and so leads to deconditioning and shrinking. The inner ear, which helps maintain balance and helps us understand our orientation, cannot function properly without gravity. This can lead to motion sickness and problems stabilizing when the astronauts land, and the effects get worse the longer the astronaut is in microgravity. These are just some of the issues that arise in this harsh environment.

            Radiation is a killer. When astronauts eventually leave Earth’s protective atmosphere and magnetic field they will be exposed to the full radiation given off by the Sun and from deep space. Radiation is known to damage DNA, which may lead to harmful mutations and health problems. Once astronauts reach Mars, its atmosphere and the planet itself will provide some shelter, but out in open space the radiation will be relentless. Scientists will need to predict space weather to try and determine when solar activities which eject large amounts of radiation would take place. Adequate shielding on both the space vehicle and the Martian habitats is essential.
            Martian dust is also a problem. If there is one thing we have learned from being on the moon, it is that its dust sticks to everything. Nothing is clean after a trip onto the lunar surface, and even once the equipment is brought back it is still difficult to clean off. Not only does it stick to everything, inhaling the dust can lead to lung disease. The reason the dust sticks to everything is that it is electrostatically charged, and it appears that Martian dust will be the same way. Not only does it cling to electronics and suits, Martian dust is corrosive and carcinogenic. On top of that, Mars has relentless dust storms that can last for weeks on end, obscuring vision, disabling solar powered equipment, and dirtying everything in their path. Thus cleanliness will be an important issue to address.


Humans have always had the need to discover, explore, and uncover the unknown. Throughout history it can be seen that those who dare to go above and beyond often find the greatest success. We seek out answers, and even if the answers are not what we want to hear we can still take them, discuss them, and learn. We must delve into the depths where the light of civilization does not yet shine. Through continued exploration we have the potential to tap into new resources, pioneer new technology, and defeat the risks despite objections from some that it cannot be done. Did the hunter-gatherer ever think humankind would fly through the air? Did the people of the Cold War ever think they could collaborate with the people they thought would destroy the world? If we do not go against common notion, or if we fall into ruts and clichés, we can never really understand all of the sides of an issue. We must listen to the voice that calls us to the stars. We live in a time where we can be the first to see humans set foot on another planet. We must continue taking first steps, for to be defeated is to stop seeking new ideas, and to ignore what we as a species have done for millennia. We must explore, make today’s hope tomorrow’s reality, and hope that one day we can see those brave souls who give to the world, another world.


  1. Hey! I'm posting this here because it wouldn't let me post on the site itself. But this is the compilation of my reports 1-3. Thank you!
    Float On
    In 2004, Modes Mouse released the album “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” It was this album that put them on the charts for the first time. Their hit song “Float on” was the bands first song to ever hit mainstream popularity. This song really steps away from the darkness embodied in most of their previous work. In an interview with The A.V. Club Isaac brock, the band’s front man states,
    “It was a completely conscious thing. I was just kind of fed up with how bad shit had been going, and how dark everything was, with bad news coming from everywhere. Our president [George W. Bush] is just a fucking daily dose of bad news! Then you've got the well-intentioned scientists telling us that everything is fucked. I just want to feel good for a day.”
    The song really does portray a positive and happy message, no matter how bad things may seem, they will always get better. Sometimes life really isn’t that bad, it could be better, but it’s not going to get worse.
    As I continue through the other songs I have chosen, you will see that some of Isaac’s previous music wasn’t nearly as cheerful.

  2. Lives
    In the year 2000, Modest Mouse, still away from the mainstream released the album “The Moon and Antarctica.” The album was criticized by fans for its in-depth discussion of rather dense subject matter all tied in with Brock’s clever and introspective lyrics.
    In his song lives he preaches that people take life for granted, they don’t appreciated how short and precious it really is. We, as a species, are not living up to our potential. We settle for what is best at the time instead of waiting for something better. “No one really knows the ones they love, if you knew everything they thought I bet you’d wish that they’d just shut up.” Marriage today is almost taken too lightly, I’m only 22 and I know at least ten people who have been married and divorced at least once. People are so wound up in what they think they need to do that they don’t take the time to actually live before they die.
    We get so caught up in our day-to-day tasks that distract us from the much more fulfilling side of life. Instead of being someone you hate and doing nothing about it, take charge and make your life more fulfilling. Hope without action is only going to lead to further disappointment. So go out and pursue your dreams, no one is going to hand you anything in life that you haven’t deserved.

  3. Be Brave.
    I thought a lot about what song I should write my final installment on, it was a tough decision there are many that I have connected with over the years. This song in particular is off their new album, Strangers to Ourselves. I first heard this song when they came through Tennessee on tour back in march, and ever since then it has stuck with me since.

    As the song plays, it opens with heavy guitar riffs followed soon my Isaac’s cynical lyrics mocking humanities unnecessary need for mass reproduction. As we “get carried away” filling earth with our offspring with our intent not necessarily pure. We think we are so innocent and pure such as a sheep, but we terrorize the earth more than we may know just as the sharks terrorize the water. We rampage and kill everything in our way, while getting carried away with out actions. With super megacities and a natural
    tendency to be greedy.

    The next verse is an allusion to the tale of Sisyphus. Just as he was destine to complete a meaningless task essentially for all eternity it’s not easy to live in a world that doesn’t care about us. The world itself is absurd, Mankind has a fundamental sense to find meaning in things but we live in a world devoid of meaning or eternal truth. Camus concludes just like Isaac in that we should revolt and continue pushing the boulder up the hill, Isaac is telling us to push on and “be brave” as we continue on this difficult journey.
    Humans are always trying to find the balance between dark/light and good/evil we strive to be perfect yet we end up always having that struggle to find equilibrium. We have the resilience and spirit to keep on even though we are destined to screw up again. We just can’t quit.

    The world will live without us, hell it would probably be better without us, however, just like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill we must keep trying. We must keep pushing, revolting against nature.

  4. Beam me up, Scotty!

    Two new books I think you'd enjoy: "Beyond: Our Future in Space" by Chris Impey, and "The Interstellar Age" by Jim Bell.

  5. I will be adding those to my summer reading list!