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Team: Stanford University

Over the last 20 years interest in Mars has waxed and waned as geopolitics and science create mixed motivations to explore the Red Planet. The faculty advisor on this proposal ( Dr. Lusignan), as a student member of Stanford's Radio Occultation experiment on the first mariner flyby, witnessed one of the world's great moments of planetary discovery. He later took JPL's Voyager Photographs of Mars to China, part of the opening of scientific exchange with the P.R.C. and in the last decade his "Center for International Cooperation in Space" has developed joint Mars Exploration plans together with Russian and Japanese participants.

The Stanford student Space Systems Engineering studies have detailed technical and scientific systems for Robotic and Human exploration of Mars, Communications Satellites and Radar Mappers, new space suits, and SSTO launch systems. Over the years, these studies have contributed significantly to NASA's own Mars Studies.

And here we sit today with the discovery of possible early life forms in meteorites from Mars increasing interest of scientists and the world's youth, while Mars exploration becomes less and less important to government budget planners.

We believe the innovation needed to get to Mars in not technical, but rather philosophical. In the following proposal we will argue the there are several valid technical ways to get Mars and back, well within the means of the world's developed economies to Cold War motivations , we will not be going. We suggest that linking Mars exploration to cooperation and adventure will enhance both interest in the venture and promote cooperation in other important areas.

Our approach is to be open about the motivations of aerospace projects during the Cold War, to be academically accurate about the state of progress I world disarmament today and to be inventive, even colorful, in developing a post-Cold War global Mars exploration plan.

In a nutshell we suggest that during the Cold War, scientific space exploration be used as an extension of weapons development, to demonstrate to the public that our nation's rockets were bigger than the enemy's was. After the Cold War, that motivation evaporated, leaving the scientific façade unsupported by an underlying national need. Today if Americans still wish to go to Mars, NASA will need to build a new foundation of support based on a real public interest in Mars, on curiosity and adventure, not on the need to demonstrate rockets in a show of power.

In a world with increasing emphasis on "free enterprise" NASA can benefit from allowing public and corporate interest to share responsibility and participation on Mars exploration. In an increasingly global economy, NASA can benefit from sharing responsibility and profitability with other nations on an equitable basis. In an era when no one doubts the ability of the U.S. rockets to eliminate other nation n the world, NASA needs to develop a new justification for Mars exploration.


2000 NASA Means Business Student Competition is sponsored by NASA and is administered by Texas Space Grant Consortium.


Last Modified: Thu May 04, 2000