SAT Essay Prompt November 2017

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As you read the passage below, consider how Michael Menaker uses:

- evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.

- reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.

- stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.

Adapted from "Menaker: Why humans shouldn't go to Mars" by Michael Menaker. Originally published on Jan 10, 2015.

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover reached Mount Sharp in September. This image was taken by Curiosity's 100-millimeter Mast Camera on Aug. 23, 2012, as the rover made its long trek to the mountain across the red planet's barren landscape.

1. Mars has been in the news a lot lately.

2. Just recently, studies have shown that the red planet "belches" methane, harbors organic molecules and once was warmer and wetter than previously believed — all possible indicators of past, and maybe even present, simple life there. And last month NASA launched its Orion spacecraft in a first step to eventually send humans on a journey to Mars.

3. The space agency calls a future human mission to Mars its "next giant leap." Actually, attempting to eventually send humans to Mars is a pricey, risky leap. And a poor use of a great deal of money.

4. There are, of course, good reasons for exploring Mars. The first is that Mars is the easiest place to reach to look for direct evidence of life beyond Earth. One of the biggest questions in science is whether or not life has originated more than once in the universe. Mars is the best place to look. Another reason to explore is to study the geology of Mars, to answer a range of planetary questions that can improve our understanding of our solar system.

5. But there are many reasons not to send people to another planet. Mars, as close as it is, is a planet too far. It would take well over a year to get there, work there and come back. It may prove impossible to get the astronauts back — a one-way trip is being considered, which raises troubling ethical questions. The astronauts would absorb dangerous doses of cosmic radiation. The mental anguish they are likely to suffer from living for so long in isolation, much of the time in zero to little gravity, is a recipe for profound psychological damage.

6. It's also ridiculously expensive. Cost estimates are in the tens of billions of dollars. Based on previous experience with big government projects, we can expect the final cost to double or triple. By attempting to send humans to Mars we would divert a great deal of public money from potentially improving life on Earth for millions of people to just putting a few humans on another planet.

7. So why bother? The simple answer is people have a peculiar fascination with things that are hard to do. President John F. Kennedy famously stated in a 1962 speech, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." So we went to the moon between 1969 and 1972, a technical tour de force; a propaganda victory over the Soviet Union, our space-age rival. Inspirational at the time, but that was more than four decades ago and what, really, have we done with the moon? Planted a flag. Indeed we did gain advances in rocketry, computers, communications, avionics and robotics, but these were spinoffs from the difficult engineering task of finding a way to make "one small step for a man" on a close-by and barren sphere of rock and dust. We could have done just as well technologically by sending only robots.

8. Sending people to Mars will prove especially daunting. And I say this as a scientist who loves challenges. But the challenge ought to make good sense. Sending humans to Mars doesn't.

9. The fact is, we already have been to Mars. We are there right now. We have been operating rovers on the surface of Mars since 1997, and landed another one, Curiosity, in 2012. The results have been spectacular. The robots have operated better than and for far longer than expected and are sending back excellent data and images that tell us more about that planet every day than any human on constant life support ever could. Science is about discovery and we will continue to discover marvelous things by looking beyond our planet. It is the robots that are taking us there. At a fraction of the cost of human space travel.

10. And there's a bigger reason for not wasting more money on human trips to nearby desert spheres. We currently are underfunding basic science right here on Earth. Our young scientists are poised and eager to make important discoveries on the planet where we need them most. They are destined to make amazing discoveries, if only we would adequately fund them.

11. Mars is undeniably interesting. It's tantalizing and captures our imagination. But we've been there, we are there and we will continue to learn more from that marvelous red planet. If life exists there, or ever has, we will find evidence of it — with our robots.

12. In the meantime, there are urgent Earth-bound problems to solve. Let's focus our resources on the basic sciences, which are beneficial for every person on this planet, and for the planet itself — the only one we don't need a rocket to reach.

Michael Menaker is a professor of biology at the University of Virginia. He has conducted Mars-related basic research on circadian rhythms for NASA.

Write an essay in which you explain how Michael Menaker builds an argument to persuade his audience that Americans need to work fewer hours. In your essay, analyze how Michael Menaker uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of his argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.

Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Michael Menaker claims, but rather explain how Michael Menaker builds an argument to persuade his audience.

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