S198 – OU Mars Course

I’ve just completed my end of study exam for the S198 – Exploring Mars Open University course. Again, I enjoyed it very much. It started with a background guide to the solar system, eventually homing in on Mars. I then learnt about the Martian landscape, the planet’s geology and the evidence for and against the presence of life. The geology didn’t appeal to me at first; it’s never been a subject that has grabbed me, unlike the particle physics of the previous course. However, it’s like Mr Feynman says, and after a while I did indeed become fascinated by it all.

I learnt about what happens to the surface of planets when they’re hit by comets; how volcanoes can grow 24km tall yet have a very shallow incline all the way to the summit; who Phobos and Deimos were; how you go about the search for life on a different planet and what constitutes life, anyway? And much more. The course came with a very well written and illustrated course book, as well as Beagle: From Ship to Spacecraft (I just searched for this on Amazon and got the following: “We found no matches for “beagle ship spacecraft” . Below are results for ‘shop’. If you prefer, you may try another search.”) This was written by Beagle 2 lead scientist Colin Pillinger, and was an interesting comparison between the first Beagle and its modern contemporary, leading up to an explanation of the various instruments on board the small spacecraft. The only problem was that it felt a little rushed due to various grammatical errors, but the content was so good I can’t hold that against it.

The course was another £95 well spent. It’d be rounded off perfectly if Beagle 2 would just let us know it’s alive (January 6th is looking like crunch day, btw). Please please please.

Hopefully I’ve passed the final exam, at which point I’ll have 30 points, out of the 300 (well, maybe 360) needed for a full degree. This may take a while 🙂 I’m fairly sure I’ll be doing another astronomy course next, but haven’t looked into it yet.