HONR 289V Assignments

Please turn in all reading responses, your final paper, and any other assignments as PDFs from this website: http://janus.astro.umd.edu/datadir/ed/18s/homework. I will return the hardcopy to you with comments and will keep the electronic copies as a record of your responses.

Reading Responses

Each week, except as noted in the lecture schedule, there will be a reading assignment. Before the relevant class, please read the selections from our books as well as any supplementary websites listed on the HONR289V homepage. Follow up on one of the topics raised by the assigned reading that interests you and research it using at least one additional online source. Write one single-spaced typed page on your reaction to the assigned reading. A good essay will include a concise description of the topic covered, as well as your reaction to it. What did you learn and what do you still find confusing? Your reaction should be honest and it may be emotional (was the reading interesting? exiting? tedious?), but must be well argued and must include your thoughts instead of just being a straight summary of the reading. In one paragraph, indicate a relevant webpage not listed on the reading list, and your response to it.

Turn in Reading Responses here by Sunday 6pm: Take My PDF, Please!

Final Paper

At the end of the semester there is an opportunity for a short research project with a 5-6 page writeup (double-spaced) and a short class presentation (see below). The paper is due the morning of the Monday of finals week. Try to write at a level that can be understood by non-experts (that means define any terms that you did not know before taking this class). Undertake your research by finding multiple sources (at least 3-4) that discuss your topic (magazine articles, newspaper articles, web sites, etc.). Try to fully understand your topic and summarize it in your paper, citing your sources as appropriate. Your paper should be a factual summary which reports differences of opinions (if you find any) and gives your own opinion, if appropriate. Grading will be more stringent than for the reading responses (it is hard to be less stringent!). If you have questions about the appropriateness of a particular topic, please feel free to ask me.

Possible Topics:

  • NASA’s plans for a Mars sample return mission
  • NASA’s plans for human missions to asteroids
  • Aspects of Terraforming Mars
  • The Mars Society
  • The Planetary Society
  • The National Space Society
  • The Space Frontier Foundation
  • SpaceX Mars plans
  • Mars One
  • The Mars 500 Project
  • Inspiration Mars Foundation
  • George H.W. Bush's plans for Space Exploration
  • George W. Bush's plans for Space Exploration
  • Barack Obama's plans for Space Exploration
  • Choose a theme from Zubrin's writings (p 356)
  • The current status of solar sail technology
  • The current status of ion propulsion
  • The martian meteorite controversy
  • The Aldrin Cycler concept
  • Any topic that you studied for a reading response that you'd like to know more about
  • Any topic relevant to the human exploration of space

    Class Presentation

    In lieu of a final exam, you will have the opportunity to describe to the class what you learned in your research. Your presentation should be a summary of your most interesting findings and should take 4-5 minutes, with 1-2 minutes for questions. Your goal is to cover your topic as clearly and completely as possible, both in this presentation and in your written paper. Turn in a PDF copy of your presentation on the class website by noon on the day of the final exam so that they can all talks be presented from my computer with minimum time lost for setting up. To avoid technical issues, no movies allowed! Movies are not a good choice in a short talk anyway. Your goal as an audience is to ask interesting questions that help you and others understand the presented material. I will grade your talk on the quality of your content, the effectiveness of your presentation, and your speaking style. Prof. Cole Miller gives some excellent advice on giving a talk here.

    Class Debates

    We will have several formal debates during the class and I will inform you of the debate topic about a week in advance. As you will have prior knowledge of the topic, I will expect you to prepare in advance. The debate will take about 45 minutes and its structure will follow the outline below. I will allocate times for you to discuss collectively the major points for and against the proposition. The role of your group and your role within the group will be determined by random drawing. For example, in an early debate, one group will argue for expanding Mars exploration at the expense of other Solar System opportunities while the other group will argue for the reverse, and the remaining groups will judge. Unlike in competitive debates, we are not looking for rapid presentation of many points, but rather a clear presentation of the key points. Each side begins with an opening argument and then responds to the other side with one or more rubuttals. After the debate, each of the judging groups confers separately, and then each individual judge decides who he or she thinks won the debate. A judge should select as winner the group that he or she feels presented their side best, and not necessarily the group whose arguments he or she agrees with. I will poll the judges individually for their statements and votes. I will arrange things so that all students take on at least one and no more than two speaking roles in the debates. These count toward your participation score.
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