Meeting Sun March 30

All:

A long month, but it is time again! This Sunday, I hope to see you all at the Spaghetti Warehouse at Plano, 6:30 pm, Sunday, March 30th (yes, I know it is the season finale of the Walking Dead, but sacrifices must be made!)

Aeola Mons Crater on Mars

Curiosity is working its way towards the final push up Aeolis Mons in Gale Crater. New data is out on radiation exposure on and on the way to Mars. And we have seen new impetus towards US based launch vehicles due to world events, even as the ISS operations stays above (figuratively as well as literally) above the fray.

Closer to home, we have convention and Moon Day planning, URC coming up, T-shirt ideas (yes, that time of year again)… For the T-shirts I think we need to have some internal discussion about alternate vendors or price hikes, as we barely broke even last year.

There is a lot to talk about, and lots to do! See you Sunday!

Kurt

2014 Science and Engineering Fair Results

All:

I’d like to give a quick re-cap of the 2014 Beal Bank Dallas regional Science and Engineering Fair. This is the 2nd year now that we participated as judges. Tom, Kris, and I were joined by our newest member, Irwin, who is moving to the Dallas / Fort Worth area from Boston. Once again, we were overwhelmed by the huge number and deep talent and dedication exhibited by the hundreds and hundreds of high quality exhibits. Even just concentrating on the Senior High division, there were nearly 1000 exhibits. It is really heartening to see, in an era where ‘they’ keep saying that our youth are unmotivated and lacking, so many students working so hard, and delving so deeply into so many complex and important subjects.

Even concentrating on subjects that were related to Mars exploration and settlement (spacecraft, space science, food preparation and preservation, and technologies of interest in closed environments) there were many great exhibitors that we interviewed and got to understand better. And this year, we had an project that was directly related to Mars!

Our Curiosity Prize went to project 923, ‘The Mars House’. Two students had developed and tested a concrete / brick method for making a mars settlement house that offered protection from UV radiation, heat, cold, and pressure (including a pressure test). They had clearly put thought into how this would be done in a Mars environment, and were the winners for us, being so closely related to Mars exploration.

We gave four honorable mentions – non-cash prizes, but the students can claim these prizes on their resumes and records.

Project 913, ‘Dark Matter’. at first we passed by this project, as, while Space related, it was not Space Exploration related, but in the end we circled back and were absolutely blown away. The young lady had done some very in-depth and original research into the nature of Dark Matter and the nature of the Universe. It was amazing how deep her knowledge was (at least the part that i could understand, which wasn’t much – most went over my head!).

Project 927, a project on the stability of rockets. These was a return team of two young ladies who we had seen last year, and they had really done a great job. They actually built a small wind tunnel and put rocket models in them to experimentally verify their stability levels, and compare it to theory, which matched very well. All in all, very impressive.

Project 746 was a different one, seemingly unrelated to Mars, and i wonder if the young man who did the project is scratching his head as to why the Mars Society gave him a prize. But hear me out. He had conceived of and built a purely hydro-mechanical, passive, device that would rotate a solar array to better track the sun. rather than using electric sensors and servo-motors, he built fluid flasks that would naturally re-balance their fluids in response to sunlight that would tilt a solar array to follow sunlight. he did his work with water and intended it to help in low-tech third world environments, but the same design could in principle be applied to solar panels on Mars. Of course you’d need a different fluid in the cold Martian environment (liquid methane?), but this could really be something useful.

Then we had project 940, where a team of young students had worked on using slightly burned banana leaves as a water filter that was actually quite effective at filtering polluted water. The ability to use one ‘waste’ products to better clean other waste, while intended for 3rd world farmers, would of course be valuable in a closed environment like a Mars colony.

All in all, very impressive work, and thanks again to Tom for setting up our judging, and to Kris and Irwin for helping out as judges.

See you Sunday,

Kurt

PS here is a link to a newspaper article on it. Our group can be seen in photo # 5.

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/white-rock-east-dallas/headlines/20140215-north-texas-young-scientists-show-off-projects-during-science-fair-at-fair-park.ece

Next Meeting Sun, Nov 24 ’13

All:

Yes, another month and year has rolled around again! This is an ‘early’ meeting, on the 24th, the earliest our last Sunday meeting day falls as the last day of November is Saturday. This means, unlike past years, we are meeting the weekend before, not the weekend after, Thanksgiving. Hope that fits with everyone’s travel and family plans!

There is the latest news to discuss, including India’s first Mars mission, the (hopefully!) successful MAVEN launch, the ongoing MER and Curiosity Rovers, and other national space news.

I’ll give an out brief of my talk at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and a potential area of local volunteer work that came up during the visit. There is planning for the Dallas Science Fair, and other news from the group.

And don’t forget, this is our last meeting in 2013!

In December, in lieu of another meeting, we are invited to Carol’s annual Christmas Party at her house. Details to follow.

See you Sunday!

P.S. Greg will not attend this one.

October’13 Meeting Minutes

All:

We had a great meeting last week, with eight members attending. As a switch up, we met at Outback instead of Spaghetti warehouse. And in a HUGE surprise, Greg dropped by! Greg is one of the founding members of our local chapter, back in the day, along with myself, Roger Carr, and April and Derek. That was a lot of spaghetti Sundays ago, but Greg continues to be an active member of our chapter all the way from Tokyo, Japan, where he lives and works: Greg is our webmaster and keeps our website up to date. He was in town for a trip and swung by. Good seeing you Greg!!

We went over the national effects of the shutdown, especially on Maven (set for launch tomorrow!!), next year’s URC, and upcoming local events.

Tom mentioned that it is time to register as guest judges for next year’s Dallas County High School Science Fair. We did that last year, and it was a great opportunity, a wonderful eye opening experience, and a lot of fun. It was amazing (and heartening!) to see literally thousands of incredibly bright, motivated young students displaying the results of their hard work. There were nearly a thousand teams in just the high school division for us to judge, so we could use extra hands next year! The idea is that guest organizations, like the Mars Society, as well as a host of other organizations, can walk among the displays and speak with the students and award our own prizes alongside the main event judges, who hand out the official prizes of the contest. in an era where so many of us hear so many discouraging things about the state of education and the motivation of young people, it was heartening to see so many that demonstrated that science and the passion for learning is alive and well.

The URC is ‘heating up’, with a lot of teams champing at the bit to register. We are expecting a potential step function in the number of teams this year!

I talked about my upcoming talk at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science – it went of without a hitch on November 5 – details at our next meeting!

Mark talked about his latest tweetups regarding Maven, and we talked about the latest (alas still slow) progress on the papers.

All in all, a full night!

Kurt

Meeting This Sunday Sept 29

All:

Fall is in the air, the nights are getting longer, and it is time for another monthly meeting!

As always, 6:30, Spaghetti Warehouse, Plano, off of Rt 75 and 15th street, this Sunday, September 29.

There is lots to discuss, including Curiosity’s discovery of a mild, wet Mars past, a lack of methane in the present, Voyager 1 officially leaving the solar system (!), and our plans for activities going into next year. With the convention in Houston, I bet we can have a lot of local attendance, and with us being close, we probably are well positioned to help out with the convention planning!

Hoe to see many of you at this Thursday’s AIAA talk by Todd Barber of JPL on Curiosity. Remember – if you are going, it is not at ‘our’ Spaghetti Warehouse, but the one in Arlington.

See you Sunday!

Kurt

Zubrin Quoted in NYT and DMN

In the September 20th edition of The Dallas Morning News, there was an article about Curiosity’s failure to detect significant methane in the Martian atmosphere. The article was originally published in the Sep. 19th edition of The New York Times. In it, Bob Zubrin was quoted as follows:

“If it had found methane, that would have been killer,” Zubrin said, referring to Curiosity. “Yes, it’s disappointing in that we didn’t get a pony for Christmas. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t ponies out there.”

Thanks to Zubrin, we can now imagine Martian ponies roaming the canyons of Valles Marineris!

You can read the complete article at the following NYT webpage:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/science/space/mars-rover-comes-up-empty-in-search-for-methane.html

Meeting Minutes for August 2013

All:

On August 25, 2013 we had our regular monthly meeting, with six members in attendance. Mark, who had attended the convention, was unable to make it, as he was at a tweet-up for MAVEN! We are looking forward to hearing more about that at the next meeting.

We discussed the moon day activities, as well as the convention, and our T-shirt sales. All of our t-shirts did sell, but with the new, higher prices from Zazzle, our existing price of $25 left us with only a narrow profit to spend on club activities. We will probably need to look for other vendors or raise prices next year. It also might make sense to go for a full 50 shirts to get the discount, as we sold out the 40 we got without even any sales to the local chapter (which also means I need to order online to keep my collection complete!).

We also discussed how to get our compilation of past Mars Society papers going again, and I think we have a plan! It is good to see us setting out on this project again.

This was my first Mars Society meeting after a missing several (the monthly meeting, Moon Day, and the national convention) while I mended from surgery. It was good to be back with everyone!

Till next month!

Kurt