I was thrilled to see the following notice in the AIAA (American institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics daily news summary for September 13:
Clinton: I Support Human Exploration Of Mars.
Space News (9/13, Subscription Publication) reports that “in a response to a questionnaire on science policy topics released Sept. 13 by ScienceDebate.org,” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that she supports a manned mission to Mars, and quotes Clinton as saying, “A goal of my administration will be to…advance our ability to make human exploration of Mars a reality.” Space News notes that Clinton “broadly endorsed” NASA’s efforts, and said she would ensure NASA “has the leadership, funding and operational flexibility” to work with industry. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “did not formally support a human Mars exploration program” in his response, but said that the federal government “should encourage innovation in the areas of space exploration.”
While the Mars Society is a non-partisan organization, the fact that a major party candidate is explicitly talking about sending humans to Mars is not only exciting in and of itself, but a sea change from the situation only a few years ago. As recently as a couple of election cycles back a Mars Society member got to ask the presidential candidates of one party during the primary season about sending humans to Mars and it was dismissed as a crank question. Our older members may remember a time back in the 70’s when a leading senator (who later became Vice President) led the charge to cancel the human space program in its entirety by cancelling the Space Shuttle, calling it a ‘senseless extravagance’. Now a vigorous space program and sending humans to Mars is becoming bi-partisan national policy. Politicians as odd a set of bedfellows as Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have both advocated more spending on space exploration. While we are not there yet – the distance we have come is incredible. In no small part this change is due to the dedicated activities of the Mars Society and our like minded sister organizations – that means all of us. I look forward to the future.
Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year for Space and Mars. I think that one day people will look back at the current time in the 2010’s as exciting for Space as the 1960’s – but this time the development is deliberate and for the long haul. Heavy lift launchers (yes, plural) are being developed, manned spacecraft (also plural) are nearing flight, re-usable boosters (also plural) were launched and recovered, and discoveries were made across the solar system from Mars to Pluto.
SpaceX went from a loss to an incredible return to flight, all within a span of 6 months, ending with a historic return to base of a perfectly re-usable first stage. I think this is the space travel equivalent of the computer chip and the steamship in terms of cost reduction – an innovation that will change the economics of space flight from the realm of government programs to ordinary commerce.
I’ve been in the aerospace business for decades and seen many ideas of recoverable boosters come and go, and listened to how SpaceX’s ideas were “clever PowerPoint presentations that couldn’t be done” – but there it is sitting quietly on back on the pad in Florida! Unlike previous attempts at re-usability, such as the Space Shuttle, that required fleets of ships and armies of technicians to virtually rebuild the craft – and the engines – after each flight, the Falcon 9 booster was reportedly ready to fuel up and go again. This could get interesting.
NASA demonstrated what they do better than anyone – jaw dropping execution of deep space exploration – with flybys of both Ceres and Pluto – both dethroned planets. (Ceres used to be the ninth planet in old 19th century school books before Pluto was discovered). Pluto was amazingly complex for a “frozen world”, and the data gathered during the brief New Horizons flyby will take months to download.
And then in an unexpected turn, Congress even gave NASA $1.3 billion more than requested, to a total of $19.3 billion.
Closer to our hearts, liquid water was confirmed below the surface of Mars – close enough to the surface be observed from space. Given that no natural body of water on Earth is devoid of life, this raises some exciting possibilities. As we learn more about how widespread easily accessible water is on Mars, the more NASA is moving to in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) using groundwater directly rather than the use of hydrogen brought from Earth combined with the Martian atmosphere, the process Bob Zubrin first brought up in The Case for Mars – a change that uses the recent discovery of water on Mars to simplify mission architecture and vehicle size.
Lastly, the Mars Curse was broken! At last, a big budget, top notch, well done, popular movie about Mars exploration, “The Martian“, came to theaters to positive reviews and box office. And it even was realistic – no aliens, zombies, or chattering monkeys (Robinson Crusoe on Mars anyone?).
There were some disappointments – the delay of InSight due to a leak in its drill cover from the planned 2016 launch is a big one.
If there were no failures, we wouldn’t be trying hard enough.
Next Year promises to keep the pace moving forward: Juno will orbit Jupiter – the first deep space probe without nuclear power, the Falcon 9 Heavy is expected to make it to flight, and ExoMars will (hopefully) launch to Mars. We’ll see if SpaceX will re-fly a returned booster, and we will be very close to the first manned launch form US soil in a long time – SpaceX’s dragon is expected to fly manned in early 2017.
We’re seeing a growing consensus that manned Mars missions are not only the logical ultimate destination of America’s space program, but a realistic near term one, and one we need to start preparing for… now! We could have at least four orbit capable US made manned space vehicles (Orion, Dragon, Dream Chaser, and the CTS-100) coming online, a continuous manned presence on the ISS, two heavy lift launchers (SLS and Falcon 9 Heavy) in development, several man-rated US designed rocket engines in production or development (as opposed to zero for the last few decades), instrumentation for the Mars 2020 lander – which will be part of the Mars Sample Return, as well as a Europa orbiter in development. Curiosity, Opportunity , MRO, and all of its friends are still on station and in operation. What will the find in 2016?
It is a good time for space…..
Closer to home, the National Mars Society had a great convention in DC, and seems to have settled on the location (the National Catholic University) as we will have it there next year – I think the first time we will ‘double up’ on locations. The date will be later in the year in order to better suit students (and bring cooler weather!). It was a great convention, with top-line speakers and debates ranging from Mars One to Viking data results. It was good to see April and the crowd from McClellan again!
Our Moon (Mars) Day exhibit was another popular hit with another record attendance – and we expect 2016 to be even more so. Looking forward to working all the ideas to make it even better.
The University Rover Challenge had another record setting year, with 40 teams registering and over 20 showing up. This year we have over 60! URC is expanding across the globe, and for the first time we will split the competition into two classes to handle the crowd. We need more volunteers not only to go to Hanksville but to help during the year (hint hint!).
The Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair was fantastic, as it always is, and we had a first group outing to see the Martian together. Overall, it was an active and productive year!
Besides all the ideas for group outings, we may bring in more ‘outside’ speakers to our meetings – don’t miss this January’s meeting (Jan 31) for a discussion on ‘Hilton Hotels in Space’.
May this year be even better than the last!
Webmaster’s note: I also updated the theme of the website and improved the commenting system with Disqus. – Greg
Yes, it is a long month, and the last Sunday lands right on the last day of the month, so it is a bit later in the month than usual, but we have our usual monthly meeting this Sunday, Aug 31, at 6:30PM, at the Spaghetti Warehouse, off of 15th street and Rt 75 in Plano.
Same bat time, same bat location…..
The convention was awesome! We had a noticeably, and substantially, larger, younger, and more energetic crowd than my last convention (two years ago). We had many youths and younger folks from April’s college, the student design competition, and the Mars One Colonist finalists. People came from all over the world, with the strongest attendance of Europeans and Asians I have ever seen at the Mars Society. This is becoming a World Endeavor!
Another exciting thing for me were talks describing the coming NASA and private company space hardware – the Space Launch System, larger than the Saturn V, the Orion, following in the footsteps of the Apollo, and the Inspiration Mars closed loop life cycle systems – all are moving into detailed designs, actual hardware, and reality. It is not just pictures and talk. The hardware to send humans to Mars is moving from the drawing boards to the factory floor!
It gave me something to reflect on when I sneaked off for an afternoon (!) to the Houston Space center. The astronaut training floor now has, besides the usual ISS modules, Orion AND SpaceX Dragon training mockups replacing the now retired Shuttle mockups. We are moving to a beyond low earth orbit manned space program! Looking at the old, but still awe inspiring Saturn V, sitting silently on its side. I thought it is time to move on, and create our own history on the shoulders of those who traveled before us.
Oh, and yes, we sold out all of our T-shirts! We got many compliments on Mark’s great artwork. It was fantastic to have so many folks from the local chapter present, see old friends, and see the future unfold.
Many things to talk about, reminisce, and contemplate for next year.
Just saw it on Twitter, so it must be official – 2014 Mars Society Convention will be in Houston. I got the impression there was not an active chapter in Houston, so we might be the closest chapter (not sure about Austin, San Antonio or other Texas cities).
LASP has extended the deadline for including your name and message with the Mars Evolution and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission to September 10, 2013. Sign up and become part of a permanent artifact on the red planet.
Robert Zubrin to Debate ‘Zero Growth’ Ideologue Phil Cafaro on April 15th
“The subject of the debate has everything to do with Mars exploration. ‘Zero Growth’ ideology is antithetical to human expansion into space, and opening the space frontier is completely subversive to Malthusian and related limited resources ideology.” — Dr. Robert Zubrin
Mars Society president and aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin will debate Dr. Phil Cafaro, a professor of Philosophy at Colorado Christian University (CCU) and president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, who says that we need to stop immigration and impose population control in order to stop global warming. CCU will host the event on Monday, April 15th at 7:00 p.m. in Lakewood, Colorado.
The planned debate, entitled “Are People the Problem?”, was occasioned by an article that Dr. Cafaro wrote in the Denver Post, arguing that immigration contributes to global warming, because by coming to America, immigrants increase their incomes, and thus their carbon footprints. This, says Dr. Cafaro, must be stopped.
Dr. Zubrin then published a rebuttal of this argument in National Review.
Dr. Cafaro’s ideas going beyond immigration are even more remarkable. In his anthology “Life on the Brink” (introduction by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, edited by Dr. Cafaro and Eileen Crist) he states that it is not only necessary to cut off immigration to America, but that the U.S. population needs to be reduced to 100 million people. According to Dr. Cafaro, “The last thing the world needs is hundreds of millions of more Americans.”
In addition, Dr. Cafaro requires that the world population be cut down from its current 7 billion to 2 billion, and recommends using the denial of U.S. foreign aid as a method to coerce Third World countries to accept population reduction. In addition, argues Dr. Cafaro in his included essay entitled “Is humanity a cancer upon the Earth?”, economic growth must be ended.
In the same book, contributing author David Foreman, the founder of Earth First and fellow leader of the “Apply the Brakes” anti-growth organization, objects to feminist interference in the family planning movement on the grounds that some feminists have the temerity to insist that a woman’s right to choose also includes the right to choose to have children. He says they have no such right.
This is going to be a significant debate. Dr. Cafaro’s views bring sharply into focus the anti-human and totalitarian implications of the ‘Zero Growth’ movement. In opposing him, Dr. Zubrin will make the case for human creativity and freedom.
Admission to the debate is free, but advance registration is required. Those wishing to attend may register online.
The Mars Society
Media & Public RelationsLakewood, CO
We will have our March monthly meeting this coming Sunday, March 31st, at 6:30pm at the spaghetti warehouse at 15th street and rt 75 in Plano, Tx. Yes, i know this is Easter Sunday, and i hope that this doesn’t cause any interference.
We have many projects going, and we’ll get an update on:
> a re-cap of the Dallas Science Fair, since many of you were not able to make last month’s meeting when we went over our experience as judges
> planning for the URC
> planning for the convention
-news on the poster competition
-discussion of our T-shirt design and sales.
> Moon day planning
> convention papers
> Zooniverse Mars wind data extraction
> latest Mars news regarding Curiosity, as well as other probes, and the latest news in the Space community.
‘Mars Direct’ – Read Robert Zubrin’s New 50-Page Kindle Edition
The human race is at a crossroads. In the coming years, we will make decisions about our human spaceflight program that will lead to one of two familiar futures: the open universe of Star Trek, where we have the opportunity to spread our wings and flourish as an interplanetary species or the closed dystopia of Soylent Green. If we ever hope to live in the former scenario, says Mars Society founder Dr. Robert Zubrin, our first stepping stone must be a human mission to Mars.
In MARS DIRECT: Space Exploration, the Red Planet, and the Human Future, a new 50-page Kindle edition by Penguin Publishing, Dr. Zubrin investigates the challenges and benefits of a manned Earth-to-Mars mission. These are challenges which, according to Dr. Zubrin, we are technologically more prepared to overcome than the obstacles of missions to the Moon in the 1960’s and 70’s. Dr. Zubrin’s plan could feasibly have humans on the surface of Mars within a decade. MARS DIRECT also discusses:
· The current predicament and bureaucracy of NASA and how it is crippling our space program
· The promise of privatized space flight from companies like SpaceX and how they are making more progress than government programs
· The larger importance of opening the final frontier to humanity and how it could be integral to our survival
Dr. Zubrin posits that man’s future as a species is intertwined with our ability to explore space and specifically Mars. In order to ensure humanity’s survival, we must take the necessary baby steps away from the cradle that is planet Earth or face the possibility of our ultimate extinction.
The 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention
August 15-18, 2013, The University of Colorado at Boulder
The Mars Society invites presentations for the 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention. Subjects for discussion can involve all matters associated with the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, including science, technology, engineering, politics, economics, public policy, etc.
Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent by May 31, 2013 to: The Mars Society, 11111 W. 8th Avenue, unit A, Lakewood, CO 80215 or via email to: abstracts (e-mail submissions are preferred).
Proposed Conference Sessions
The search for life on Mars
Latest findings from Mars spacecraft
Plans for 2013 Mars missions and beyond
Curiosity – Research & accomplishments
Concepts for future robotic Mars missions
Planning for human missions to Mars
Advanced space propulsion systems
Launch vehicles for Mars exploration
Long-range mobility on the Red Planet
Life support & biomedical factors
Human factors & crew composition
In-situ resource utilization
Mars agriculture & aquaculture technology
‘The First Martians’ – A permanent Mars colony
Terraforming – Creating an ecology for Mars
How Mars technology can help life on Earth
Technologies for reaching the stars
Analog studies relating to Mars exploration
The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS)
The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS)
Technology to assist human space exploration
Entrepreneurial approaches to a Mars mission
Benefits of space exploration for humanity
Public policy for Mars exploration
Privately-funded Mars mission concepts
International cooperation & agencies
Law, governance & social systems for the Red Planet
Philosophical implications for Mars exploration
Educating the next generation of ‘Marsonauts’
Asteroid missions & mining: A bridge to Mars?
Political action and outreach
Proposed projects for the Mars Society
The University Rover Challenge (URC)
Religion & space exploration
Phobos & Deimos: Missions to the Martian moons
Additional details about the 2013 Mars Society Convention will be posted online in the coming weeks and months (www.marssociety.org).
The Mars Society is pleased to announce that nearly all plenary and track talks, as well as panel discussions from the 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention in Pasadena, California have been posted on the organization’s YouTube page (The International Mars Society). The few remaining videos not on the page are in the process of undergoing minor audio and editing improvements and will be added in the coming days.
Several of the current postings include talks and lectures by Lori Garver of NASA, Elon Musk of SpaceX, Dr. Jim Bell of the Planetary Society, George Whitesides of Virgin Galactic, Dr. John Grotzinger of NASA/JPL, Dr. Simon “Pete” Worden of Ames Research Center, Dr. Carol Stoker of NASA, Dr. Peter Diamandis of X Prize Foundation, Dr. Jean Hunter of Cornell University, Dr. Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society and U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA).
The Mars Society would like to thank webmaster James Burk for his generous help in this effort.
The Mars Society