24 May 2012
Keynote on Mars Exploration
Introduction and Welcome: Waleed Abdalati, Chief Scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States
Speaker: Steve Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University, United States
The first keynote address of the Global Space Exploration Conference featured Dr. Steven Squyres speaking about exploration efforts on Mars. His address summarize where the international space community stands on Mars exploration, what he feels will come next in exploration, and what must be done to achieve those next steps.
He provided a thorough review of all previous Mars exploration missions, discussing each of the specific finds that the explorations made – like ice on the planet, evidence of past abundant water, and evidence of an ancient magnetic field which gave Mars an atmosphere that was probably warm and water filled at one point. As far as next steps, Squyers discussed upcoming missions to study trace-gas elements in Mars’ upper atmosphere, missions which will study the interior of the planet – with a particular emphasis on the geologic history of Mars; and efforts to return more samples of Martian soil to Earth for more intensive study and research.
Squyers included in his presentation with a discussion of the international cooperation that will be necessary to complete these studies. Given the cost, complexity, and challenges involved, Squyers believes that only international cooperation will make current and future Mars exploration efforts successful. He condensed his view into this short summary – “I don’t know the how of how we do this, that’s up to you. But I know what we need: 1) We need big rockets; 2) We need orbiters – most have been American or European, but other nations like China or India are getting involved with their lunar missions; 3) We need to land – even if we do it differently every time; and 4) we need rovers, be they US, Russian, European, or those of another country.”
Squyers finished with this thought on the necessity of continued international partnerships in exploration, explaining: “In a book shelf on my office at home, I have a vial with stuff from mars. But I would like more, especially in my laboratory. There is no way to get what we want without going there and getting it, and it’s too big a job for one agency to do alone.”