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By Blog Master
Posted: 05/25/2021
he Red Planet: Mars Exploration and Landing

On May 13th Louis Friedman, Director Emeritus of the Pasadena Planetary Society, presented a program on Mars for Village and community members.  He began by acknowledging a special fondness for the little Red Planet; he had led the NASA Mars program in the 1970’s.  He spoke with authority. He talked with the ease of a man with experience.

Mars has been subjected to an invasion from Earth.  There have been many missions from many countries that have set their eyes on that planet.   He questioned, “Why does Man struggle to do it?  Why go to Mars?” He then answered his own question. 

Mars has an irresistible appeal to humans.  Although Venus is the closest planet to Earth the air there is toxic.  It would be impossible for humans to survive there.  Whereas Mars, on the other side of earth, draws on our search for life outside earth. And, although the air is heavily laden with carbon dioxide, the air also contains some oxygen.  Mars lures us to its surface with the possibility of finding that life did at one time exist there and life may still be there near some of the water sources.  

Studies indicate that at one time Mars did have water on the surface. There are rock configurations that could only have been carved out by water. The water that exists now is underground. It appears that at some point in its history, the air on Mars became too light to hold the water down against the surface allowing the water to fly off the planet into space.   Underground water was not lost and is now the only water remaining on the planet. 

Currently, the three major Mars explorers include the United States, United Arab Emirates and China, the only countries that have managed successful landings on Mars.  The United States NASA program has a long history of missions to Mars, with many successful landings and exploration of sections of land.  The United Arab Emirates (UAE), new to Mars missions, is creating a place for itself in the global community by emerging as a science and tech country in the Middle East. China, whose Mars landing took place on May 15, is using its Mars missions as a way to position itself as a world leader. 

Historically, our current space age is in a period comparable to Earth’s 16th century when ships from across the many countries of Europe sailed the oceans looking for New Worlds. Countries are once again looking for new worlds, this time worlds in space. The program included beautiful pictures of the Martian landscapes, and potential landing spots for earthly visitors.  Videos of the recent landing of the NASA Perseverance Rover featured descriptions of the range of robots and drones that will be used to gather samples of rocks and soil on the planet. Over time samples will be gathered and placed in piles in an organized manner where they can be packaged and brought home to earth by subsequent missions for evaluation and study, probably 10 or more years from now. Extensive protocols have been put in place to protect against contamination of Mars by our robots and tools.  At this time all are sanitized before landing.  When bringing materials back home to Earth in the future, similar protocols will be in place to protect Earth against any contaminants from Mars. 

Humans are intrigued by the possibility that life has existed on Mars.  And the search is ever on to determine whether any life continues to exist on the planet. Why the fascination with Mars?  
Humans are advancing the research for life beyond the earth hoping to arrive at a conclusion to the question … will Man on Earth be limited to a life on one planet or will humans recognize the reality that there is some other space where humans can live and confirm their existence as multi-planet phenomenon? Today, man is looking for new worlds that can sustain life; looking for the possibility of life; looking for a place that could be called home to humankind. 

Thank you to Louis Friedman for a remarkable presentation. 

Thank you to sponsor Clifford Swan, Investment Counselors, for sponsoring this interesting and informative program for Village members and community visitors.

Esther Gillies

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