Red Planet Pen (Issue #1)

by: Nicole Willett

There is a glowing red beacon in the sky, guiding us, no, calling us to her.  Mars, beautiful and majestic Mars…..she lures us in.  For those of us who are more Martian than Earthling, we understand.  The thought of one day standing on the Red Planet and looking out over the landscape may be beyond the imagination of some, but not to the members and friends of the Mars Society.

Mars in space (NASA-Christine Daniloff-MIT News)There have been myths and stories written about Mars for millennia.  From Edgar Rice Burroughs’, A Princess of Mars, to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall, Mars has been the setting for many science fiction adventures. However, at the Mars Society, our aim is geared toward science fact.  Our mission is to reach out, educate the public, raise awareness and, most importantly, send humans to Mars.

One way we can accomplish this is by hosting an annual convention in the United States.  This year’s event, held in Pasadena, California, coincided with the successful landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on the Martian surface. We were host to many scientists, journalists, inventors, teachers and even a couple of astronauts.  Some of the highlights included speeches and talks by MSL rover program head Dr. John Grotzinger, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Virgin Galactic’s George Whitesides and NASA’s Dr. Jim Green.  We are also in the process of launching an Education Task Force to reach out to educators, students and the general public to help expand their understanding of Mars, astronomy, space news and exploration (please contact me for more details about the task force).

If you have ever heard the saying, “It takes a village….,” well, we at the Mars Society are utilizing that concept to send humans to the Red Planet.  As an entirely volunteer organization, we have accomplished many great things since our inception in 1998.  An example of our research is the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS).  This facility houses volunteer crews of six Marsonauts, who live and do research as if they were on the surface of Mars.  We also dare students to participate in the University Rover Challenge (URC) where they build robotic rovers and compete until a winner is crowned.

The character of the human race will be measured by whether or not we have taken responsibility for our own future.  We must build our character by responding to what is happening around us.  What is happening is; we are outgrowing the Earth and need to become an inter-planetary species.  It takes a worldwide community of “Martians” to collaborate and reach the goal set forth by Dr. Robert Zubrin in the late 1990’s.  The goal is simple – explore and send humans to Mars.

Some may say the planet Mars is a frozen wasteland with robots slowly churning through a dusty and rocky landscape.  However, we think of Mars as the new frontier.  She is waiting, wonting, patiently orbiting her parent star while we decide when to set foot on her precious soil.  The time is now!

[Image: NASA/MIT]

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The Mars Society is a fully registered non-profit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States.