Category: Mars

Mars Post

CHID 496



Coming into this reading, I already had a particular interest in Mars.  I have always nursed a childhood dream that Mars could one day be colonized, and so I am always excited to familiarize myself with information about Mars.  This week’s reading helps to make clear the pros and cons of attempting colonization.  Certainly, Mars has locked away within its crust enough water and other natural resources to sustain human activity, but the problem is really with the atmosphere.

It was mentioned that atmospheric pressure on Mars is too low to allow water to exist as a liquid on the surface.  In addition, the thin atmosphere cannot prevent excess radiation on the planet’s surface, and the plane itself cannot hold onto a significant atmosphere.  The lack of magnetosphere due to the planet’s dead core also leaves the planet vulnerable to rogue waves of solar wind.

However, I am still left with the small hope that an atmosphere might be artificially maintained by controlled pollution either by direct processing of the planet’s minerals or by introduction of greenhouse facilities which might grow plant life in order to release organic gasses.  Although this does not solve the problem of a magnetosphere, it would increase atmospheric pressure and raise the planet’s temperature.

Exploration and colonization are intrinsically human endeavors.  I think it likely that Mars will at one time be the next point of interest in this arena.  But the planet has always embodied many issues and mysteries.  With this in mind, I find Holst’s music highly appropriate for the planet.


Mars Post

Mars: Bringer of War


Based on the title of this course, I expected the reading to be less about the atmosphere and geology of Mars and more about how Holst’s piece depicts Mars as the “bringer of war.”  Since I do not come from a music background, it would have been nice to see how others interpret the Holst piece and how it describes Mars.  However, because I do come from a science background, the assigned reading was quite interesting and easy for me to understand.  I just had a hard time connecting the reading with the music.

What interested me most about the reading was the fact that Mars used to have water, and still does, although it is hidden.  I was not aware of this fact and it made me wonder about whether life on Mars could have existed at one point, which is something that has always fascinated me.  The article as a whole does a good job of explaining why Mars is the way it is and why it is different from Earth.  Comparing Mars to Earth is a helpful way to understand all of the scientific aspects of the article.

Listening to Holst’s piece about Mars made me think of Mars as gigantic, intimidating planet, while reading the article makes me think just the opposite.  Essentially, the article describes Mars as a lesser version of Earth while Holst describes Mars as something to be feared, which is evident in the music.  However, the article does not translate the same feeling, making it hard to connect the reading with the music

Mars Paper

CHID 496


Response Paper 1


The interplay between the characteristics of Mars as the God of War, the planet, and Holst’s composition is astounding, even if the seeming connections come from retrospection. Even though Holst had never experienced mechanized war prior to his construction of Mars, the piece still sounds representative of modern warfare, and long before scientists understood the finer complexities of the planet Mars, the warlike connections to its environment are uncanny. I do not know if Holst was prescient or was simply lucky but I believe that Mars, more than any other composition on The Planets reflects or defines our understanding of war and our celestial neighbor.

It is fascinating to think of the similarities, at least in a poetic sense, between Mars and war. The Greeks initially associated Ares, the God of War with the fourth planet due to its blood red color. This characteristic relationship spread in several ways, one being the connected belief between the “Canals” on Mars, which was thought to prove the existence of an intelligent population, and that the population would be war-like. Since the mistranslation of “canali” in 1877, human interest in life on Mars has grown almost ceaselessly, even though we now know there are no little green men living on its surface. H.G. Wells wrote the classic War of the Worlds in 1898, in which England and presumably the rest of the world, is invaded by a powerful Martian army that nearly conquers Earth. Though less influential to our monstrous vision of Mars, though still evidential of our collective fascination of the planet, is Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoon series of novels, the first being published in 1917. The series is heavily influenced by Percival Lowell’s ideas about the landscape of Mars, specifically a race of Martians that controls the canal system on the surface. We are all familiar with the classic broadcast of the Mercury Theaters adaptation of The War of the Worlds, which could be argued as the pinnacle of our obsession. This broadcast tapped into the rich fear of our bloodthirsty neighbors and the reaction fueled the alien invasion movies of the 1950’s and 60’s, which were also inherently tied to another war, the Cold War.

Wells’ depiction of a death ray, a weapon on incalculable destruction, foresaw the birth of other weapons of mass destruction, most popularly the nuclear bomb. An incredible relationship between actual war on Earth, the fictional war between Earth and Mars and the true nature of Mars can be created by this concept of a death ray and in turn nuclear weapons. As stated in Seeds’ chapter on Mars, if you were to be suddenly exposed to the surface of Mars without protection your bodies heat could cause your bodily fluids to boil due to the lack of atmospheric pressure. It would not be a long process. In addition to your insides melting, Mars has almost no oxygen, so you would asphyxiate immediately too. I find this dangerous atmosphere to be beautifully analogous to war. Another feature of Mars that relates to war that Holst was unaware of is the massive volcano Olympus Mons. I cannot think of a better metaphor for a destructive cannon than the biggest volcano in the Solar System. Listening to Mars, I find the most prominent feature is the concussive blasts of what I think might be the bassoons (I don’t know classical instruments that well), and how much that sounds like explosions both natural, like a volcano, and manmade, like cannons or missile impacts. Holst may not have known of the extreme lethal nature of future wars or of the surface of Mars, but he could not have made a stronger connection between the two if he had wanted to.

We are not finished with Mars. This past year has brought us to an exciting precipice in history and exploration. On April 15th, 2010, President Obama set a long reaching goal to visit Mars within the next twenty years. This feat may not come to fruition, but it is evidence that we still feel the need to connect with the heavens. Holst has given us an audio track to inspire our imagination and drive our spirits to the stars.

Mars Response Paper 2

January 24, 2011


Week 3 Reflection: Mars


Of all the planets, I think Mars is the most entertaining, both in terms of the history and the music. I knew that it had long been the object of little-green-men fantasies, and its role in the mass confusion and panic the night of the dramatization of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds is infamous. But I hadn’t known that it was the illusionary canals which had inspired so much belief in life on Mars.

The potential of terraforming and colonizing Mars has always been a fascinating prospect as well. Of course, that depends on finding a tappable water source, which, from the reading, sounds like it is still a sketchy possibility. There would also be the intense weather patterns and dust storms described by the article to contend with. It’s certainly not a hospitable environment. But it is not an impossible one either, from the sounds of it. The biggest problem might be the atmosphere – which is only 1% the density of Earth’s. The problem of Mars’ comparatively low mass compared to Earth and thus low escape velocity would certainly pose a challenge for creating and sustaining any kind of viable atmosphere. It remains a fantastic possibility, nonetheless.

Of all the movements of the suite, Mars in its entirety might be the most familiar to me, mostly from sci-fi movies and TV series. It must have been used for half a dozen alien invasion and battle scenes – probably more. Which is apt, considering that it is the movement for the planet named after the God of War. Having seen the music put to visuals, it is the easiest of the movements for me to listen to and immediately be carried off into a story, my mind conjuring up collages of plots and scenes I’ve associated the music with before and building upon them.


CHID 496

Mars Response Paper


Mars, the reddish planet of war and strength, has many similarities to Earth and many differences as well. Mars, being one of our neighbors in the solar system, came off to me as a competitive planet; Earth’s alter ego if you may. Earth is full of land and water, shining blue and green; while Mars is reddish brown, an inhabitable planet. Since Mars is relatively “so close” to Earth, I feel by nature humans are threatened. In the 1930’s Orson Well’s “War of the Worlds,” radio broadcast sent thousands of people into a haven of panic sincerely believing life on Mars was attacking Earth. Astronomers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries began mapping out Mars in a sense that was pointing to life on Mars, giving people more reason to believe that this was actually a possibility. Mars has symbolism that parallels its appearance, Holst’s music, and the way people emotionally react to it. Mars, being the God of war, strength and man; Mars a red planet; and Holst’s music being angry, war-like, powerful and stern all leads to a very edgy feeling. I feel I should be looking over my shoulder, my adrenaline should be running, and I should be ready for battle. Although we have proven there is absolutely no life on Mars, the symbolism, color and feel Mars gives us, keeps the emotion of paranoia close. Was there once life on Mars? We know there is frozen CO2 in the poles, but could there be ice underneath those caps? Mars, with all of its symbolism, fits Holst’s musical interpretation perfectly.




















(From NASA Website listed above on the Spirit Rover Missions accessed 1/16/2011

Surface Operations begin once the rover has completed its egress. The rovers were designed to last for 90 days on the martian surface.

Surface Operations includes two highly interconnected efforts:

Engineers responsible for rover navigation and science team members must work closely together to achieve mission goals. What the rover actually does on the surface depends on complex calculations from the science team on which rock, soil, and other targets are high-priority and then intense discussion with the engineering team on whether the rover can actually move toward those targets safely and quickly.

Practicing surface operations here on Earth

Before the rovers get to Mars, the science and engineering teams practiced surface operations here on Earth through “field tests.” In preparation for this mission, a rover called FIDO was taken out to a remote desert location, while the scientists and engineers worked together to move it toward interesting science targets. To see what this experience was like, visit the FIDO Field Test site.

Eventual End of Mission

Toward the end of the surface phase for both missions, both power and telecom capabilities will be decreasing, as the Earth and the Sun become more distant from Mars, dust falls on the solar panels, the batteries lose capacity, and the Sun moves further North past the landing site latitude. Eventually, it is expected that the rover will be unable to store up enough thermal or battery energy to prevent its components´ overnight temperatures from falling below flight allowable levels. That will sooner or later result in failure of one or more of those components, silencing the rover forever