Margot Mel Manhattan Beach Middle School Rebecca Allen A Delicate Balance Mars has intrigued curious men

and women for thousands of years. Fueled by a fascination of what may lie beyond Earth’s atmosphere, scientists have not ceased in their quest to better understand “The Red Planet”. As science writer Charles Choi explains: A human voyage to Mars remains a holy grail for NASA. The urge to get a human on Mars is driven by its potential to contain a life form. The resemblance to our own planet is striking. The similar axes, polar caps, atmospheric chemistries and the amount of land surface areas are all reasons why we look to Mars in search of life. Despite intense research, what we know is merely a drop of water in the ocean that is our universe. In recent years, robots have widened our understanding of Mars. Humans and robots have been working together relentlessly to advance our knowledge of the final frontier, but these efforts have been limited by the fact that to date, no human has set foot on Mars. I believe that having a human present on a mission would drastically increase the output of information on an expedition to Mars. While working with robots, the optimal situation would be a balance between what the humans and robots do. Humans could retrieve data and robots analyze it, or robots could be used to keep humans safe instead of the other way around in order to enhance our understanding of what lies in the ocean of emptiness. Since there are clear pros and cons between man and machine, it is crucial that a balance is achieved for idyllic investigation of our neighboring planet. The current use of rovers to retrieve data is limited and extremely expensive. However, if a human collected data and it was then sent to robots to be dissected and

analyzed, more time could be spent extracting information from samples than with the acquisition. This would already be a monumental step forward because when worlds away, a small technical glitch can cost billions of dollars. For example, if the robot gets stuck in a hole with little traction, the scientists back at NASA are as stuck as the rover is. Furthermore, because the rovers are solar paneled, when winter comes, or the solar panel gets covered with sand, the rover is rendered useless . A specific occurrence of this predicament was when the rover Spirit became stuck in iron sulfate, which has very little traction. For months, NASA’s efforts in liberating the rover proved to be fruitless. Doug McCuistion, NASA’s director of Mars Exploration , revealed “Spirit is stuck in a golfer’s worst nightmare, stuck in a sand trap that no matter how many strokes you take, you can’t get out of”. The lack of wind to dust off the solar panel turned out to be another detriment to the Spirit mission. Lastly, the rover can only move of 300 ft/hr. A human would be able to move more safely, and significantly faster. Although these problems seem trivial, one unfortunate mishap could send a multi-billion dollar investment spiraling down the drain and while excruciatingly slow robots may be our sole source of substantial information about Mars, they hold some advantages over sending a human. There are two sides to every argument, including whether or not sending a human to Mars would in fact, be the best option. Robots, unlike humans, are expendable. Sending a human being to Mars would be dangerous. Scientists have shown that space radiation can cause cancer, cataract formation, or even death. Also, sending people would be a vastly more expensive operation than sending a robot. According to NASA, the trip to Mars would take approximately 6 months, and the team of astronauts would have to stay for 18-20 months until the planets re-aligned correctly for another 6-month return

trip. In fact, the food alone, would weigh about 880 pounds per person. Because it would be inefficient to tote along that massive supply of provisions, plans have been made to construct a hydroponic growth lab. Food would then have to be grown on the surface of Mars, which would be a costly production. In conclusion, the current level of technology and budget that is available, is inadequate for sending a human 35 million miles away in a confined vessel for 2 ½ years. Because of the various advantages and disadvantages represented by humans and robots, the best solution is finding a balance between what tasks humans and robots accomplish. Currently, people maintain and control robots, however, I think it would be advantageous for humans to gather the samples because they could do it more quickly and efficiently. I believe a successful balance could be achieved if human's and robot's roles were reversed. In this situation, robots could work to maintain the safety of the astronauts. The robots could regulate the astronaut’s temperature from a remote location, analyze the different rocks and air samples, and send status updates back to NASA headquarters. If this system were implemented one day, it could lead to a more competent understanding of the planet Mars. Through the years, the relationship between man and machine has become stronger and exponentially more important. Not only do we rely on computers to provide us with information about outer space, but also we depend on them for our everyday transactions. People depend heavily on their cell-phones , iPads, and laptops, in fact, studies have shown that more people have cell phones than indoor plumbing! Thanks to constant advancements in the world of science, there is a balance of human interaction and technological communication. Synergy is crucial to receive an ideal situation for

extraterrestrial exploration because too much focus on the technology, and humans become the simple machines that revolve their lives around the robots. I believe that humans and robots are working well together to explore Mars, but improvements can always be made in this quickly changing world.

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