beyond our earthly bounds


Miramar Uncovers Human Remains

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- During a press conference yesterday at the University of California, Berkeley, the leader of the Miramar Project, Professor Tom Sever, NASA's head archeologist, said "the latest discovery of artifacts on the surface of Mars could be the most significant discovery in the history of mankind."
     He went on to say, "The dig was vast and exclusive, but revealed scientific evidence unexpected by all disciplines in academia and the science world."  He declined to comment on reactions by theologians who claim these findings were a hoax or a deception conducted by NASA or the university.
     But the project leader said he hoped his suggestion that this was the greatest archeological find in all of human history would calm public fears to any possible ramifications of such a find.  Professor Sever said, "Project Miramar has recovered artifacts from the dig site that may indicate an advanced civilization, far more advanced than our own.  And the human remains are undeniable and are probably the most remarkable of all the finds so far.  These remains have been carbon dated to prehistoric man and suggest an uncanny resemblance to modern man.  But I want to warn everyone; no conclusions have been reached at this point and time."
     A NASA scientist speaking under anonymity said "this could be the discovery of the so-called 'missing link.'"  She went on to say she is convinced the advanced technology recovered from the dig site was in fact our own, "and will send most modern theories of our origin spiraling back to the past."
     Professor Sever concluded the press conference by saying, "When the Miramar team returns from the dig site, we will be able to build the puzzle of these peoples, and if possible, determine the link between us and them."
     The Miramar team has been on the surface of Mars for the past eighteen months and has been relaying data back to NASA through the five year old Mars Orbital Observatory.
     When asked how long before the artifacts would be brought to Earth, Sever said "We anticipate a return trip to begin early next week, and barring any complications, the team should be back by the first part of November."
     For the past fifty years, questions have been raised as to why humankind should spend hundreds of billions of dollars to explore the Red Planet, but this latest discovery may final give answers to all those questions.

Should We Explore and Colonize Mars?
by Carmen Tassone

s long as I can recall, I've always been fascinated with time, space and the night sky.  I remember when I was ten years old I wrote my first space adventure, and for a science fair, I built a small planetarium.  I might have won if my sun hadn't burnout halfway through the show.  But irregardless, I wasn't discouraged and continued to be marveled by the night sky, and to this day, I am captivated by its wonder and beauty.
     As I grew older and studied the stars, I learned about the constellations and about some of the mysteries of space, but more importantly, I learned how space is like a looking glass to the past.  The night sky is like a time machine, that allows us to be witnesses to what happened millions of years ago.  And I think most people still hold their childhood dreams of adventuring into space and learning our and our universe's origins.
     And so, it is easy for me to answer the question to explore and colonize Mars.  To me, we should explore and colonize Mars, but not because we might find something similar to what I wrote in the sidebar, but because I feel we as humans beings are compelled to explore and colonize beyond our present realm of security.  I think it's in our nature to venture out and explore the unknown.
     So, knowing it is only a matter of time before we start sending manned missions to Mars, we must first prepare for such ventures and determine the dangers and limit the risks.  We must construct spacecraft that can take our astronauts to Mars and returned them back to Earth safely.
     However, according to NASA, before we can consider manned voyages to Mars four objectives must be met.  First, the international space station must be completed and operational.  Second, we must be able to work with other nations in a cooperated effort in space.  Third, we must develop an "affordable mission scenario" within one decade.  And lastly, we must allow "the world economy to improve substantially." (NASA 1)
     With these objectives in mind, NASA plans to construct and operate the international space station during the first decade of this century, while during the second, NASA hopes to start sending manned missions to the surface of Mars.
     Long before NASA could send manned missions to the surface of the moon, it had to conduct numerous unmanned and manned missions to ensure such a venture was possible and safe.  Some of these unmanned missions were intentionally crashed into the surface of the moon.
     In the end, the final price tag for the Gemini missions was $1.29 billion (NASA 2), while the Apollo missions cost American tax payers $24 billion. (Jones)  And, of course, again the American tax payer will bear the heavy burden to pay for similar missions long before NASA can send manned missions to Mars.  Current estimates for such an endeavor is put at $450 billion.

     I suppose such a large price tag does beg the question, "Is it worth spending that much money on expeditions to Mars, when it could be better spent here on Earth?"  For instance, this money could be better spent to supplement low income family wages.  Or maybe it could be used to fight starvation and homelessness in our country and around the world.  Or maybe this money could be better used to find cures for incurable diseases.  Although humankind could benefit from this money if it were used for such efforts as I mentioned, as well as, those I did not mention, we have benefited from past Space Programs in many ways "by expanding the realm of human knowledge through a systemic program of exploration and discovery." (NASA 1)  Benefits that no other technology could have offered, and future Space Programs promise additional benefits to the human race, either directly or indirectly.  
     For example, the computer I am using to create this paper would not be available, or for that matter, affordable if it had not been for our Space Programs.  According to NASA's Website, other benefits gained from the Space Programs include:

  • Virtually every aircraft in use today utilizes technology pioneered by NASA. Aeronautics is one of the Nation's strongest industries, employing almost one million Americans.

  • The U.S. aerospace industry generates over $40 billion in annual exports and almost $30 billion in positive balance of trade each year.

  • New industries have been built on the technology that made space exploration possible, including personal computers, advanced medical equipment, communications satellites, weather forecasting and natural resource mapping.

  • NASA's high-technology research and development provide a return on investment by generating jobs, the demand for goods and services, and new opportunities as advanced technologies spin off into the private sector. (NASA 1)

     Just some of the commercial spin offs include bone and muscle research and treatment, blood collection, CATScan technology, pacemakers, chromosome analysis, cancer detection devices, computer-based medical systems, cardiac monitors, telemedicine, global positioning satellite system, air purification systems, improved airline safety, energy storage systems, night vision, infrared and spherical cameras, digital camera technology, stress measurement systems, scratch-resistant lenses, hazardous environment robotics, telemetry systems, computer engineering, force feedback joysticks, video compression, intelligent agent technologies, semiconductor cubing, simulation software, 3-D audio, real-time 3D visualization, protective coatings, automated pollution control, tire recycling, infrared fiber optic sensors, and the monitoring of Earth's atmosphere and its ecosystems.
      This long list of contributions goes on and on, and only includes benefits realized from recent Space Programs.  This list doesn't include NASA's aerospace research and development or its success in the field of education.  And I've not even mentioned the visual contributions about our solar system and our universe, which NASA has provided the world.  Nonetheless, in my view, the potential for future contributions and benefits from the Space Program overshadow potential benefits if the money were used elsewhere.
     Besides, NASA's "budget has represented less than 1 percent of the total $1.6 trillion Federal budget since 1977." (NASA 3)  Such a fact tells me the costs for us to venture beyond our own planet is just a drop in the fiscal budget.  Other medical and social programs are allocated funds necessary to provide specific social benefits.  So I see no need to take away NASA's budget and forfeit any future benefits that it may provide humankind.  As I see it, going to Mars will result in benefits we can not at present begin to imagine.
     And lastly, "Mars and Earth shared similar conditions billions of years ago, but appear much different today.  A comparison of Mars and Earth will allow scientists to understand Earth's history and possibly its future." (NASA 4)  This alone could be the most important reason why we must go to Mars and try to learn and understand its past and to possibly preserve our own future.  Throughout history we've ventured beyond our protected realm to mysterious lands beyond our knowledge, and I see the Red Planet to be no different.

 Works Cited:

          Jones, E. "Apollo 15 Summary." Eric Jonesl. 1995. Online. Available:
http://www.solarviews.com/eng/apo15.htm. 23 April 2000.

          NASA 1. "NASA and the U.S. Space Program." National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 2000. Online. Available: http://www.nasa.gov/qanda/nasa_space.html#whypeople. 23 April 2000.

          NASA 2. "Chapter 5 Tortoise Becomes Hare (1964-1969)." National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 2000. Online. Available: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-4406/chap5.html. 22 April 2000.

          NASA 3. "NASA Fact Sheet FS-1999-01-003-HQ." National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 1999. Online. Available: http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/facts/HTML/FS-003-HQ.html. 23 April 2000.

          NASA 4. "Mars Global Surveyor." National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 1999. Online. Available: http://marsweb.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/overvu/overview.html. 23 April 2000.