Dozens of Talks from 2012 Mars Society Convention Posted on YouTube

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

Curiosity Data Shows Mars Surface Cosmic Ray Radiation Dose Rates Acceptable for Human Explorers

Measurements by the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover Curiosity show that the galactic cosmic ray (GCR) radiation dose rates on the surface of the Red Planet are about half those that RAD measured during its interplanetary cruise.

Interplanetary GCR dose rates were previously measured by the MARIE instrument aboard the Mars Odyssey spacecraft during its cruise to the Red Planet in 2001 and shown to be about twice that experienced in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  Thus, in combination, the MARIE and RAD results show that Mars surface GCR dose rates are about the same as those experienced by astronauts in LEO. This mean that GCR doses will not be a show-stopper for the human exploration of Mars.

To view a graph of radiation measurements published by the Curiosity RAD team, please click here.

Please note that the MARIE authors report interplanetary GCR dose rates ranging from 0.28 Sv (28 rem) to 0.73 Sv (73 rem) per year.  Taking the 50 rem/year average of these figures as an interplanetary dose baseline, it can be estimated that a human Mars mission which spends 6 months flying to Mars (as Odyssey did in 2001), 18 months on the Martian surface, and 6 months flying back to Earth would receive a total GCR dose of 88 rem.  Such a dose is estimated to represent a statistical risk of about a 1 percent chance of getting a fatal cancer sometime later in life, assuming no advance in medical technique and would therefore represent a modest portion of the risk faced by astronauts on a human Mars mission.  Furthermore, it has already been received by a number of astronauts and cosmonauts working on the ISS or Mir space stations without incidence of cancer among any of them.

It is therefore now confirmed that hypothetical radical new propulsion systems enabling much faster transit times to Mars and/or the ability to leave the Red Planet regardless of launch windows will not be needed to enable human Mars exploration.  With its first important results, Curiosity has slain the mythical radiation dragon previously barring the way to Mars.

The Mars Society

2012 convention and MSL landing


This is a quick note about our chapter’s participation in the 2012 Mars Society Convention and MSL landing. We can go into more detail at our next monthly meeting. I know i also owe a status report on our last monthly meeting and our very successful Moonday on July 21!! I have been super busy between Mars Society and work, but no excuses! coming soon!

The convention was, in a word, fantastic. The venue was convenient, Pasadena beautiful, the weather pleasant (you could walk outside without a blast furnace of heat!!), the convention smoothly executed, the speakers incredible, the experience unforgettable.

We watched a countdown to MSL’s landing via live feed, seeing Adam Steltzner, lead of the engineers at JPL in the Entry Descent and Landing (EDL) team on TV after having seen him that very day at he convention, and we joined in cheering wildly when we got word real time that MSL had landed.

We ran our T-shirt table, selling most (!!) of our T-shirts, as well as some old ones and not a few of Pam’s trinkets and Mimi and Roger’s budget beads. Tom gave an interesting talk on some old Mars mission profiles – the background on Von Braun’s 1950’s era plan to land with gliders in Mars’s ‘thick nitrogen atmosphere’ was both fascinating and totally new to me. Kris attended virtually every talk and track, taking reams of notes, as well as helping out with the T-shirt table and, of course, formatting the convention program everyone was using.

Tom, Donna, and Emily deserve a special mention for manning the main convention registration table for most of the convention. Without them, the convention would not have come off.

And, during the banquet, i was honored to present our check for $300 directly to Bob Zubrin in Roger’s memory. Roger was with us in spirit.

Over all, a great experience. Next year, we can look forward to hearing just what MSL has discovered!!


The Mars Underground Loses One of Its Founders

Mars Society Announcement

July 11, 2012

Tom Meyer, an important figure in the efforts over the last 40 years to make human exploration and settlement of Mars a reality, passed away June 27, 2012 after a long illness.

Tom was a founder of The Mars Underground and the lead organizer of the Case for Mars conferences and activities from 1983 to 1996 that helped to keep the dream alive of human Mars exploration during a long period that the American space program was dominated by the Space Shuttle and operations in Low Earth Orbit.

The Case for Mars conferences led directly to the founding of the Mars Society, and Tom was a founding member of that organization as well. As a conference and workshop organizer during the Case for Mars conference series period, Tom was known for his attention to detail and the individual attention he gave to every participant and their needs. He firmly believed that the Case for Mars should not advocate an ideology but should provide a neutral forum where all viewpoints could be expressed. He succeeded in instituting that belief.

Tom was devoted to hastening humanity’s expansion beyond Earth. He was an accomplished scientist whose work spanned many fields including geophysics, computer science, aerospace engineering and science policy. His diverse professional and academic interests included designing and building systems for In Situ Resource Utilization at Mars. An early advocate for Educational and Public Outreach aspects of Space missions, he helped develop the EPO website for the Stardust mission that returned samples from a comet. He was also web-master and an avid participant in the Deep Space Exploration Society of Boulder Colorado, a private group conducting radio astronomy research with a 60 ft parabolic radio dish antenna.

Even in the final terminal phases of Tom’s illness, he devoted his remaining energy to completing a study of a human Asteroid exploration mission (LeCompte, Meyer, Horsewood, McKay, and Durda. Early, Short-Duration, Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Missions, Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, 49, 4, 2012). Tom believed this mission could give humans early, deep-space interplanetary travel experience without posing extraordinary technical challenges and so would provide a precursor to human Mars exploration and beyond.

In many phases of his work during the past 27 years, Tom was ably assisted by his long time and devoted companion Keli McMillen. She has recently assumed leadership of the Boulder Center for Science and Policy, a nonprofit corporation founded by Tom, to carry his legacy into the future.

Tom was a sympathetic and attentive friend, always generous with his time. He touched many and his presence in The Mars Underground will be sorely missed.

[Prepared by the Mars Society]

The Mars Society

2012 University Rover Challenge


Kris and I came back from helping out with the 6th Mars Society University Rover Competition and it was a great success and a fantastic adventure. It is hard to describe in words just what an experience it was.

Like Mars, the contest, held miles off-road in the desert of Utah, is an isolated location, with harsh weather, including extremes of heat (hot, instead of the cold of Mars), dryness, dust, and high winds (VERY high winds! – we had winds of ~60mph that collapsed our contest tents!). Five teams came from around the world, bringing the fruit of their labors, with many hundreds – thousands – of hours of hard work behind each rover. And they discovered, as real life Mars rovers do, that the harsh environment of the field is not like the lab. Parts that were securely glued together melted apart in the heat. Dust and sand got into parts. Climbing over rocks broke apart carefully designed and painstakingly manufactured suspensions. Cameras and radio links that worked fine in the lab failed in the field. Missing or broken parts had to be fixed overnight with grueling multiple hour trips the the nearest city (which Hanksville does not count as! more like a wide spot in the road…). Rovers suffered vibration and buffeting from the rigors of travel – albeit in the back of a u-haul trailer bouncing down a dirt road instead of on top of a rocket.

Each rover had to weigh in, and perform 4 simple tasks – tasks any human, even in a spacesuit, could do in a few minutes. (Seeing the struggles of the rovers to do this really drove home the advantages of manned exploration over robotics. ) One involved going up to a simple panel, reading the instructions, flipping appropriate switches and taking a voltage level from a solar panel, then cleaning the panel of accumulated dirt, and repeating the process. Simple, right? Only one team managed…..

Remember that the teams operating this rovers do so ‘blind’ – with no line of sight to the rovers, and no visual queues other than the camera feeds from the rover itself. Getting all those coms and devices to work in the desert proved quite a challenge.

Beyond the actual contest, we had an adventure of our own. Kris was selected to be a judge, we got to sleep in the hab (!!), see dinosaur bones being dug out of the ground, visited a fossilized seashell bed, a sunset so incredible I can not describe it except to say ‘doh! we forgot the cameras!’, and drink (eat?) the unforgettable chocolate milkshakes in Hanksville, as well as meeting other dedicated volunteers and professors, viewing a desert sky filled with stars, and seeing the excitement the students had of competing in one of the toughest college contests there is.

We definitely have to go back next year….(we volunteered the group to help out with a new event!)

We’ll have more details (and maybe a slide show) next meeting….


Link to Mars Society Announcement

Why we shouldn’t wait to go to Mars

Editor’s note: Robert Zubrin, an astronautical engineer, is president of The Mars Society and author of “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” recently updated and republished by Simon & Schuster.

In the opinion piece “Mars can wait. Oceans can’t,” published recently on, Amitai Etzioni says that we should defer Mars exploration because the seas have a higher priority. While I have the highest regard for ocean exploration, the fact of the matter is that there are numerous agencies – including the U.S. Navy, the navies of other countries, academic institutions, research organizations, corporations and James Cameron personally – that are more than adequately financed and equipped to carry it out.

The idea that we need to suspend space exploration in order to provide the necessary resources to probe the oceans is categorically absurd. So let’s call it like it is: The argument that we should explore the oceans instead of space is not a call to search the seas, but simply a disingenuous way to give up our effort to reach the Red Planet.

But why should we try? There are three reasons.

Full Story

ZUBRIN: Obama shoots down Mars exploration

Space community outraged as real missions are replaced by simulated science

In its budget submitted to Congress Feb. 13, the Obama administration zeroed out funding for NASA’s future Mars exploration missions. The Mars Science Lab Curiosity is en route to the red planet, and the nearly completed small Maven orbiter, scheduled for launch in 2013, will be sent, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions with the Europeans for 2016 and 2018, and nothing after that is funded, either. This poses a crisis for the American space program.

Continue Reading at Washington Times

Donation in Memory of Roger Carr


At our last chapter meeting, on March 25, we agreed to donate $200 from chapter funds in a donation in Roger’s name to the National Mars Society.  We will give a check from our account to National during the fund raiser and dinner banquet at the next national convention in Pasadena this year.

For those who wish to donate towards this gift, you can give money to our account by giving them to Dan, our treasurer.  If the amount given for this purpose exceeds $200 then we will give the total given to National.  (Note that money given to our chapter is not tax deductible as we are not a registered charity.  Donations given directly to the Mars Society are of course deductible.  Please e-mail me directly if you want more details.)


Godspeed, Roger Carr

I have the sad news to tell all of you that Roger Carr passed away last week after a battle with cancer. Many of you remember Roger as one of the founding members of our chapter, and a founding member of the national Mars Society, a faithful member, stalwart soldier of T-shirt sales, and a tireless activist for space. He passed away in Maryland, where he had moved after he retired from the Dallas area. He was 68 years old.


Urgent Call to Save the Mars Missions

Dear Friends:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has zeroed funding for NASA’s future Mars exploration missions. The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity is en route to the Red Planet, while the small MAVEN orbiter is scheduled for launch in 2013, but that’s it. No funding has been provided for the Mars probes planned as joint missions with the Europeans for 2016 and 2018, and nothing after that is funded either.  This poses a grave crisis for all of us hoping for a human future in space.

NASA’s Mars exploration program has been brilliantly successful because, since 1994, it has been approached as a campaign, with probes launched every biennial opportunity, alternating between orbiters and landers. As a result, combined operations have been possible, with orbiters providing communication links and reconnaissance guidance for surface rovers, which in turn can conduct ground-truth investigations of orbital observations. Thus, the great treks of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, launched in 2003, were supported from above by Mars Global Surveyor (MGS, launched in1996), Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001), and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO, launched in 2005). But after serving 10 years on orbit, MGS is now lost, and if we wait until the 2020s to resume Mars exploration, the rest of the orbiters will be gone as well. Moreover, so will be the experienced teams that created them. Effectively, the whole program will be completely wrecked, and we will have to start again from scratch.

Furthermore, if the OMB cuts are allowed to prevail, we will not only destroy America’s Mars exploration program, but derail that of our European allies as well. The 2016 and 2018 missions have been planned as a NASA/ESA joint project, with the Europeans contributing over $1 billion to the effort. But if America betrays its commitment, the European supporters of Mars explorations will be left high and dry, and both the missions, and the partnership, will be lost.

America’s human spaceflight program is currently completely adrift. Unless it is reorganized as a mission-driven directorate committed to efficiently achieving important objectives within a meaningful timeframe, it may well prove to be indefensible in the face of the oncoming fiscal tsunami. But the Mars program is defensible. It has real and rational objectives, reasonable costs, and a terrific track record of success. It can and must be saved.

There is no justification for the proposed cuts. The U.S. federal government may be going broke, but it’s not because of NASA. Since 2008, federal spending has increased 40 percent, but NASA spending has only increased 5 percent. Trillions of dollars of out of control entitlement spending cannot be remedied by cuts in NASA, or even in the entire discretionary budget, defense included. Rather, the financial bleeding needs to be staunched where the hole is, and nowhere else.

In any case, cost is not the issue. With the Europeans putting up their share, a matching $1 billion contribution from NASA spread over the next six years would be sufficient to fund both the 2016 and 2018 missions at a level of a billion dollars each. This would require less than 1 percent of NASA’s current budget. There is no excuse for not doing this.

The Mars program is not being terminated to make funds available for future missions to other planets. In fact, there is no money in the OMB plan to fund any of them, either.

America’s planetary exploration program is one of the great chapters in the history of science, civilization, and of our country. Its abandonment represents nothing else than an embrace of American decline. This is unacceptable.

Mars is key to humanity’s future in space. It is the closest planet that has all the resources needed to support life and technological civilization. Its complexity uniquely demands the skills of human explorers, who will pave the way for human settlers. It is, therefore, the proper goal for NASA’s human spaceflight program, and the proper priority for its robotic scouts. The human spaceflight program may be in disarray, but the scouts have been making progress, and are set to make more, if only we continue with them.

If we allow the OMB to shut down the Mars exploration effort, NASA will lose its most effective endeavor – one of the few that delivers the goods that justify the entire space program as a national enterprise, the nation will lose one its crown jewels, the scientists will lose their chance to find life beyond Earth, and humanity will lose the one significant effort that is making real and visible progress towards opening the frontier on another world. We can’t let that happen.

So friends, here is where we need to make a stand. There is no excuse for wrecking the Mars program. The nation can afford it, and walking away from it is walking away from success, from our allies, from science, from greatness, from the pioneer spirit, and from our future.  Everyone needs to mobilize now to save the 2016 and 2018 Mars missions!   Write your congressman, or better yet, call up his or her local office and set up a meeting.  Have a talk with your Senators’ local staffers as well.  Write the White House, and let the people there know what you think.  Write to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  He needs to hear from you too.

This is a fight we can and must win. It’s time to speak up!

Robert Zubrin

President, Mars Society