What Does The Mars Society Do? (Issue #33)

By: Nicole Willett

blog 33 aThe latest episode of Neil DeGrasse-Tyson’s Star Talk, featuring, Bill Nye, President of The Planetary Society, Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, and Astrophysicist, Dr. Michael Shara, was chock full of great information and insight.  While watching, my heart ached for our civilization to understand the importance of a manned mission to Mars.  Charles Bolden stated NASA’s plan is to be on Mars around 2030 with the current budget of half of one percent of the US budget, we believe with more resources and cooperation from various countries and private organizations we could be on Mars sooner and possibly cheaper.  A major reason for needing a human touch on Mars is for exactly what Bill Nye stated which is that a human scientist could do in one minute the job that a robot does in a week, it’s about a ratio of 1:10,000.  The problem was stated clearly by Dr. Michael Shara, “Frankly, we are not as brave as we should be.” These statements are extraordinarily important to be shared with the public.  We are not as brave or as curious as we should be. Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of The Mars Society and one of the bravest men I have ever known, says we could be on Mars in ten years with the proper funding.

Shopping bags, MonbiotAren’t you curious? Is curiosity lost to our civilization for the most part?  Some days I think it is.  I often get asked this question, “What does The Mars Society do?”  This question sometimes frustratingly comes from a place of condescension and rarely a place of curiosity.  I have to remind myself that the work we are doing here is to take humans to another planet, an event that would change human history and that most people unfortunately have no concept of why it is so important. The short answer is:  We are an advocacy group to promote the human exploration and settlement of Mars.  Our goal is to educate the public through our Education Department, bring like-minded people together at chapter meetings and our annual conventions, and promote a human mission to Mars via projects and competitions.  Sounds simple right?  Well, not really. You see, people really like the societal pleasures of who is who, who is wearing who, what team are you for, what kind of car do you drive, what do you do for a living???? On and on this goes.  Meanwhile, billions of people are left uninformed of what is really important: Curiosity, knowledge, and exploration.  Instilling curiosity, providing access to true knowledge of scientific facts, and the goal of Mars exploration by humans, is an important part of what we are trying to accomplish.

blog 33 koolfmIt is frustrating for sure, as a teacher of young people, to see that most are much more interested in the latest phone app than the intellectual curiosity for really learning anything.  The way the educational system is set up is flawed and is partially responsible for the noninterest to learn.  People do not enjoy memorizing things in order to take a test.  People want to LEARN.  Only learning can create critical thinking and curiosity, maybe this is the source of the apathy in America.  I encounter some very curious minds, but sadly too few.  Learning takes place with hands on experience and discussions, not workbooks and vocabulary lessons.  We need to have a strong work force of critical thinkers, not robotic followers.   The Apollo 13 Mission was not saved by people that had been able to get the highest SAT score blog 33 nasabecause they memorized a bunch of facts, those brave scientists were able to quickly and critically think and creatively solve a problem and save the lives of three brave men.  The Mars Society is an organization that is involved in many projects that make an environment conducive to learning by hands-on experience and discussions, which lends itself to creativity and critical thinking.  Going to the Moon took about 400,000 people, going to Mars will take many more.  We need strong minded, willful, brave problem solvers to get to Mars.

So, what does The Mars Society do to move this endeavor forward?  Well, with a lot of patience and a group of very dedicated and passionate volunteers.  The Mars Society was founded by Dr. Robert Zubrin in 1998, stemming from the Mars Underground which was started by Dr. Carol Stoker, NASA, Dr. Chris McKay, NASA, and Dr. Penelope Boston.  The Mars Society is involved in many projects, including but not limited to:  holding annual conventions, an Education Department for public outreach, STEM Education Events, Red Planet Pen (an educational blog), Red Planet Radio (podcast), a Speakers Bureau, having two analogue stations named Mars Desert Research Station and Mars Arctic Research Station, the University Rover Challenge and the Youth Rover Challenge.

blog 33 cuaThe Mars Society will convene the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention on the campus of the Catholic University of America from August 13-16, 2015.  The annual four-day event brings together key experts, scientists, journalists and policymakers to discuss the latest news on Mars exploration and efforts to promote a humans-to-Mars mission in the coming years. We have many notable speakers, including Dr. Robert Zubrin, President and Founder of the Mars Society, Apollo astronaut Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt will give a plenary address, Dr. Deborah Bass, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, will discuss the planned exploration mission, Dr. Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, will give a plenary talk about his long-term vision for solar system exploration and the role communications will play in this endeavor, Sam Scimemi, Director for International Space Station (ISS) at NASA Headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Dr. Pamela G. Conrad, an astrobiologist and mineralogist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Deputy Principal Investigator for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, will talk about the potential habitability of the planet Mars, and many, many more!
blog 33 mdrsThe Mars Society has two analog research stations.  One is the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) and the other is the Mars Arctic Research Station.  Analog Research Stations are laboratories for learning how to live and work on another planet. Each is a prototype of a habitat that will land humans on Mars and serve as their main base for months of exploration in the harsh Martian environment. Such a habitat represents a key element in current human Mars mission planning. Each Station’s centerpiece is a cylindrical habitat, “The Hab,” an 8-meter diameter, two-deck structure mounted on landing struts. Peripheral external structures, some inflatable, may be appended to the hab as well.  College students gain credit by living and working at the MDRS hab for two weeks at a time.

The Mars Society Education Department maintains an educational forum website with resources free to all students, teachers and Mars enthusiasts.  Opportunities for speakers, online or in person, are available to enhance students’ educational experience around the world.  The Speakers Bureau of experienced Mars advocates can be contacted to speak and do a presentation and will either come to you or organize an online event for your group or class.  The website also has an archive of blogs with a vast amount of information about Mars and the spacecraft that have visited the Red Planet.  To enhance all educational materials, The Mars Society has a YouTube Channel that has hundreds of videos of talks from previous conventions.  All of these resources are meant to stimulate minds and allow anyone to learn as much as they can about Mars and what a human mission to Mars entails.

blog 33 urcChuck McMurray, the Mars Society’s Deputy Education Director, launched the Youth Rover Challenge in 2013 which is geared toward middle and high school students.  The rover program consists of two levels of competition to get kids started earlier and also prepare them for participation in the University Rover Challenge held annually at MDRS in Utah.  Grade levels 5 through 12 will be invited to compete in the Youth Rover Challenge.  The University Rover Challenge (URC) was started in 2007 and run by URC director, Kevin Sloan.  It is the world’s premier robotics competition for college students.  Held annually in the desert of southern Utah in the United States, URC challenges student teams to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that will one day work alongside astronauts exploring the Red Planet.

So, what does The Mars Society do?  All of these things and so much more.  We want the world to know the importance of a human mission to Mars.  The reasons are many, but here are a few that can be found in our Founding Declaration:

We must go for the knowledge of Mars.

We must go for the knowledge of Earth. 

We must go for the challenge. 

We must go for the youth. 

We must go for the opportunity. 

We must go for our humanity. 

We must go for the future.


Humans to Mars as a bridge to the stars…………..

[Image credits: NASA, Guardian, koolfm, NASA, CUA, TMS, TMS]

The Mars Society Latest Events and Programs-Get Involved!!! (Issue #27)

By: Nicole Willett and The Mars Society

Mars Society Logo (High quality)Annual conventions have become a staple of The Mars Society.  Many leading scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs hold plenary talks and participate in panel discussions regarding many aspects of the human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.  The 17th Annual Mars Society Convention will be held from August 7-10, 2014 in the Houston area in League City, Texas (near NASA’s Johnson Space Center).  The convention will be at the South Shore Harbour Resort.

The Mars Society invites presentations for the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention. Subjects for discussion can involve all matters associated with the exploration and settlement of the planet Mars, including science, technology, engineering, politics, economics, public policy, etc.

If you would like to submit an abstract to be considered for a presentation at the convention you may email your submission here.  Email is preferred, however you may mail your submission to The Mars Society, 11111 West 8th Avenue, Unit A, Lakewood, CO 80215 .  The submissions are to be no more than 300 words and must be submitted by June 30th. A few of the proposed conference sessions are:

  • The search for life on Mars
  • Latest findings from Mars spacecraft
  • Why Mars?
  • Plans for 2014 Mars missions and beyond
  • Curiosity rover – research & accomplishments
  • Concepts for future robotic Mars missions
  • For further details and a full list of conference sessions, click here.

The convention is open to the general public and everyone is encouraged to attend.  The four-day event will bring together key experts, scientists, policymakers and journalists to discuss the latest news on Mars exploration and efforts to promote a human mission to the Red Planet in the coming years.   To register for the event click here.

YoutubeIf you would like to view some of the presentations from previous years, please visit the Mars Society Channel on Youtube.   You will see previous Mars Pioneer Award winners and their keynote address.  The recipient for the 2012 award was Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla motors.   Musk passionately discussed the importance of a humans to Mars mission and how and why it should be done.  The 2013 recipient was Dr. Steve Squyres, the Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and Opportunity.  Dr. Squyres gave a wonderful update on the Opportunity Rover and an entertaining history of the MER program.

Insp mars shipAt the 16th Annual Mars Society Convention, Dennis Tito, founder of Inspiration Mars, announced an international engineering competition for student teams to propose design concepts for the architecture of the Inspiration Mars mission. The contest is open to university engineering student teams from anywhere in the world. Inspiration Mars Executive Director Dennis Tito and Program Manager Taber MacCallum were present for the announcement. “Inspiration Mars is looking for the most creative ideas from engineers all over the world,” said Tito. “Furthermore, we want to engage the explorers of tomorrow with a real and exciting mission, and demonstrate what a powerful force space exploration can be in inspiring young people to develop their talent. This contest will accomplish both of those objectives.”  The requirement is to design a two-person Mars flyby mission for 2018 as cheaply, safely and simply as possible. All other design variables are open. The Mars Society’s Inspiration Mars International Student Design Competition has drawn a massive worldwide response. As of the January 31, 2014 deadline, letters of intent to compete have been received from 38 teams representing 56 universities in 15 countries. Nations represented include the United States, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Poland, Mauritius, India, Bangladesh, Japan and Colombia. A sampling of some of the institutions signed up to participate include: John Hopkins University, St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University, Ohio State University, Warsaw University of Technology, University of Notre Dame, Indira Gandhi National Open University, York University, International Space University, Purdue University, Islamic University of Technology, University of Stuttgart, Keio University, and University of Glasgow.


URC2The University Rover Challenge (URC) is a robotic rover design competition that encourages college students to create rovers using guidelines set by The Mars Society.  URC teams are currently working on their rovers.  The seventh annual rendition of the international competition for college students is organized by The Mars Society and will be held May 30 – June 1, 2013 at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah.  This unique and renowned competition has hosted dozens of college teams since 2007 in a barren landscape that is an ideal analog of the planet Mars. The MDRS site is also home to human crews conducting mission simulations that test a broad range of Mars exploration topics. URC rovers are designed and built to one day assist astronauts on the Red Planet. The URC has a record 31 teams this year!  Click here for more information on how you can join the URC.

YRC2The Youth Rover Challenge (YRC) is a multi-tier robotics education development program that is hosted, sponsored and operated by The Mars Society. The program commenced on August 6th, 2013 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the landing of NASA’s Curiosity Rover. YRC is a STEM related educational effort that is designed for schools and organizations with students or members in grades 5-12 to have the chance to build and compete at a global level with a LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 based robotic rover and competition arena intended to simulate the surface of Mars. The YRC has 26 teams registered for this year’s competition. For more information visit the Youth Rover site or email Deputy Director Chuck McMurray.


The Education Forum continues its outreach efforts by hosting speaking engagements in person or via the web.  If you would like to schedule an event for your class, troop, astronomy club, or other organization, please contact Education Director Nicole Willett.  The talks range from 30 minutes to an hour.  The purpose is to educate the public to our place in the universe and the importance of the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars.  To see a list of previous events and accompanying images please click here.

Join The Mars Society Today and Help Play a Role in

Humanity’s Next Step into the Solar System!

All Mars Society members receive:

+ An official membership card

+ Regular Mars Society email updates & announcements

+ The Mars Quarterly online magazine

+ An opportunity to participate in local Mars Society chapter events & activities

+ A special invitation & discount to the International Mars Society Convention

+ Special access to exclusive online chats, webinars & discussions with leading Mars experts

Join The Mars Society NOW!

[Images: The Mars Society, Youtube, Inspiration Mars]

2013 Mars Society STEM Education Event at the Boulder Convention (Issue #15)

Education logo
*Updated Aug. 9, 2013*
by: Nicole Willett
The Mars Society is convening its 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention at the University of Colorado at Boulder from August 15 – 18, 2013. The convention will include many key scientists and policy experts and also involve panel discussions on various Mars-related topics.  Some of the speakers include Dr. Carol Stoker, NASA astrobiologist, Dr. David Brain of the University of Colorado/Boulder and MAVEN co-investigator, and Dr. Steven Squyres of Cornell University and principal investigator for NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers as well as the recipient of the 2013 Mars Pioneer Award.  For more information and registration details, please visit our web site.  Also a list of confirmed speakers is now available online.

The Boulder convention runs from Thursday thru Sunday.  On Saturday, August 17th our organization will be hosting a special program called the 2013 Mars Society STEM Education Event.  There will be hands-on activities, guest speakers and special presentations.   The purpose of this program is to inspire young children and students while simultaneously encouraging them to learn more about STEM subjects, investigate space sciences and delve into the issue of the human exploration and settlement of Mars. 

**FREE Admission to the STEM Education Event for ages 0-18**

Dr ZDr. Robert Zubrin, President and Founder of the Mars Society, will address the guests of the event with a very special talk aimed at students.  Dr. Zubrin is also President of Pioneer Astronautics, an aerospace R&D company located in Lakewood, Colorado.  Formerly a Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, he holds a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington.  Viewed as a respected author and a renowned expert on Mars, Dr. Zubrin has testified in recent years before several U.S. government committees and in 2009 spoke in front of the Augustine Commission on the subject of the future of America’s human space flight program.  
Astronaut_Abby_PhotoAlso participating in the program will be Astronaut Abby, a 15-year-old student from Minnesota, who will talk about her journey and desire to become the first astronaut on Mars.  Abby has always had a dream to be the first astronaut on the Red Planet. Her quest has taken her on quite a journey so far.  Abby’s adventures include witnessing several space shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center, participating in space camp and visiting many space museums and education centers.  Her accomplishments include being guided by various NASA, Canadian and ESA professionals including an ESA astronaut mentor.  Abby has shared her enthusiasm and vision to thousands around the world. Recently, she has been given a rare invitation to the legendary Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, to personally witness the Soyuz TMA-09M, to the International Space Station. She was invited by Italian Astronaut Luca Parmitano, who has been active in her mentoring.  For more information about her adventures , please visit her web site.
YRC13 ModelChuck McMurray, Deputy Education Director for the Mars Society, will be launching the organization’s Youth Rover Challenge for middle and high schools.  This challenge is a national competition targeted at middle school and high school students from grades 8-12. The program is designed to give younger students the chance to learn more about the engineering and design challenges required to build and operate a rover. The competitive events allow students to measure the capabilities of their rover designs, as well as the ability for the rover to execute surface exploration and other duties. Younger students will get a chance to test their skills and prepare for the university level competition, while building on skills needed for future STEM careers that support planetary exploration and Earth-based research in harsh Mars-like environments.
Other exciting guests will include Christopher Nie and the Mars Foundation. Christopher is from theUniversity of Colorado/Boulder’s Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (CUSEDS) chapter and will be on hand with many interactive activities, such as developing space related postcards, stomp rockets, Alka-seltzer rockets, Mars rock geology, space mining, and crater formation.  The Mars Foundation will also be displaying how 3-D printing works.  This presentation is important to future Marsonauts.  3-D printing may very well be used to “print” habitats utilizing the resources found on the surface of Mars.
STEM Event Schedule:
  • 10:00 Mars Foundation, Bruce MacKenzie Mars Settlement
  • 10:30 Mars Foundation, Bruce MacKenzie & Seth Sinnemma 3-D printing for Mars
  • 11:15 Victoria Jordan Weather Balloon project
  • 12-1 Lunch Break
  • 1:00 Chris Nie CUSEDS
  • 1:30 Carol Kendall Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore!
  • 2:00 Dr. Robert Zubrin
  • 2:30 Chuck McMurray Youth Rover Challenge
  • 3:00 Astronaut Abby Quest to Become the First Martian Astronaut

You may register for the event here.

3-d printing hplus magazine com

We hope to see you all in Boulder on August 17th! 
[Images: TMS, Astronaut Abby, hplusmagazine.com]

For program inquiries and information about volunteer opportunities, please contact nicolew@marssociety.org.