The course consists of six lessons (2 hours each) that explore humanity’s fascination and understanding of the Red Planet, culminating with two questions: One, how has our knowledge and understanding evolved over time? Two, can human beings thrive (not just survive) there someday? Considering that humans Mars have been exploring Mars for more than sixty years, and been looking up at the Red Planet since time immemorial, there’s a fair bit to unpack there.

Here is the course outline I’ve developed, which will include some multimedia presentations, recommended reading, and a bunch of slideshows:

Episode One: Popular Perceptions and Portrayals:

  • Mars in ancient astronomical/astrological traditions (fire and strife)
  • Galileo and the first telescopic observations
  • Giovanni Schiaparelli and the first detailed map of Mars (“Martian Canals”)
  • Speculation about life (seasonal changes, polar ice caps)
  • Robotic exploration, Soviet probes (1960 to 1969), Mariner probes, Viking orbiters/landers
  • Renewed interest, more robots, and crewed missions by the 2030s

Episode Two: A History of Proposed Crewed Missions to Mars:

  • Von Braun’s “The Mars Project”
  • Cold War Era proposals (NASA Orion, EMPIRE; Soviet MPK, TMK)
  • Mars Direct (Robert Zubrin)
  • The Constellation Program (Ares rockets and CEV)
  • The Moon to Mars and Artemis (SLS and Orion)
  • Gateway, Deep Space Transport, Mars Base Camp (2030s)

Episode Three: Mars in Popular Culture and Science Fiction

  • Early speculations about life in fiction
  • War of the Worlds (1897), a Princess of Mars (1912), Last and First Men (1930)
  • Popular trope of Martian civilization hostile to Earth
  • 1950s-1960’s “Golden Age of Sci-Fi,” (Bradbury, Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, Dick)
  • 1970s, scientific discoveries (Mars is lifeless), humans will be future “Martians”
  • Modern-day renewed interest and search for life (looks at adaptation, possibilities, ethics)
  • New stories of exploration, settlement, and terraforming (The Martian, Robinson’s Mars series, etc.)

Episode Four: Getting There (Transportation)

  • A review of the challenges and solutions for the first step in getting to Mars
  • Proposed missions to Mars by the 2030s, NASA and China
  • Launch windows every 26 months (Mars Opposition)
  • Space radiation, waste, microgravity, 6 to 9-month transit
  • Nuclear thermal/nuclear electric propulsion (90 days or less)
  • Direct or indirect missions (space stations at both ends)
  • NASA plans (SLS, Orion, Gateway, DST, Mars Base Camp)
  • Space X and Space Settlements (Starship, regular trips, first Martian City)

Episode Five: Staying There (Habitation)

  • A review of the challenges and solutions for living in a hostile environment
  • Surface radiation, extreme cold, dust storms, and lower gravity
  • Habitation modules, surface, subsurface, ice palaces, cities
  • Power, solar, wind, sterling, and kilowatt nuclear reactors, fusion reactors
  • In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), regolith, and ice (air, water, food, building materials)
  • Location dependent, Valles Marineris, Hellas Basin, Argyle Basin, Northern Lowlands (Mars City Design)
  • Economy built on local industries (manufacturing, metals, deuterium)

Episode Six: Living There (Economics, Adaptation, Terraforming)

  • From basecamps, subterranean, surface habs to living on the surface
  • Multiple examples in fiction and scientific studies
    • The Greening of Mars (1968), Mars Trilogy (1992-1996),
    • “Islands in Space,” Carla Sagan, and NASA “ecosynthesis”
  • Three main steps to long-term change (all complimentary):
    • Warm up the planet
    • Melt the ice caps
    • Thicken the atmosphere
  • Orbital mirrors, impacts, super greenhouse gases (SGGs), nuclear detonators
  • Introduce plant life, create water and carbon cycle, convert the atmosphere
  • To Terraform or to Aeroform (adapt the planet or ourselves?)
    • Concepts for genetic/cybernetic modification, all fictional
    • Seedling Stars (1942-1956), Man Plus (1976), The Titan (2020)
  • Long term human habitation, still be challenging, but feasible
  • Space Elevator to facilitate imports/exports, human migration
  • A Martian Civilization!

7 thoughts on “Good News: Teaching a Summer Course at the Kepler Space Institute!

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