Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mars On Earth

Last night I was sitting in bed reading from the book Mars On Earth by Robert Zubrin (ISBN 1-58542-350-5). Although it is apparent that Zubrin is an evolutionist I found it interesting the way he wrote about Al Schallenmuller, beginning on page 50.

So the Scenario Development Team (SDT) was formed, and one of the Vikings, Martin
Marietta Astronautics Civil Space vice president Al Schallenmuller was appointed to lead
it. Twelve people from across the company were handpicked by Schallenmuller and Ben
Clark to compromise the SDT. I was one of them.
Schallenmuller was a remarkable man. Before he came to Martin he had worked in the
Lockheed Skunkworks for the legendary Kelly Johnson. Johnson is famous within the
aerospace community for the speed with which he developed a string of revolutionary
aircraft ranging from the P-80, America's first jet fighter which Johnson developed
from program start to first flight in an extraordinary eighty days, to the Mach 4 SR-71
reconnaissance plane. As a result of his time with Johnson, Schallenmuller believed
that aerospace programs could and should be done quickly, because that was the way to
get the job done and save the taxpayer's money too. He thus felt that humans to Mars
within ten years was entirely feasible and appropriate.
Schallenmuller was also a very principled person, with a morality solidly rooted in
devout Christianity. On one occasion, he told me that he thought the quest of the Viking
biology team to find life on Mars was absurd. There obviously was no life on Mars,
he said, and the scientists would have known that "if they had ever bothered to read Genesis."
This statement would unquestionably have caused Carl Sagan and many of the other very
secular Viking scientists to have kittens. Yet it was Schallenmuller and a bunch of guys
like him that got their experiments to Mars. It just goes to show that it takes more than
one kind of instrument to make an orchestra.
Schallenmuller felt that for an aerospace contractor to go with the flow and advocate
a complex and expensive plan favored by the customer when a simpler and cheaper one
was available constituted "waste, fraud, and abuse," and I once saw him lecture a
committee of executives from a group of companies to that effect. Thus both by his
membership in the Viking fraternity, his background as a Kelly Johnson man, and his
morality as a Christian, Schallenmuller was inclined to support plans that sought the
quickest, cheapest, and simplest way to get humans to the Red Planet.

If people followed Shallenmuller's way of doing things, imagine how efficient society would function, and how much tax dollars would be saved while having the government actually getting things done.

With regards to life on Mars however, it does exist. They're alien life forms from Earth that have already ended up on Mars. They are microorganisms that hitchhiked there on the Viking landers, and all the other rovers that have been roaming the surface of Mars the past several years.

As far as taking people to Mars goes, it is a risky business. Whatever device is designed to sustain our lives in transit and on the surface needs to produce a magnetic field to shield from radiation. Mars has no significant magnetic field. Moreover, it's atmosphere is so thin that the surface pressure is what we would see at 120,000 feet from the ground here on earth. At such a thin atmosphere, water would not exist in liquid form in the atmosphere.

Even with those hurdles, between 1960 and 2002 there have been at least 33 failed missions. The failure rate is about equal between the Russian and the American missions. (Source: The Smithsonian Book Of Mars by Joseph M. Boyce, pages 34 and 35, ISBN: 1-58834-074-0).

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