Call to Join 2012 SEA Legislative Blitz on Capitol Hill

The Space Exploration Alliance (SEA), a partnership of America’s major space advocacy groups, including the Mars Society, with a combined membership of tens of thousands of people, will hold its annual Legislative Blitz in Washington, D.C. from February 26–28, 2012.

The planned two-day campaign on Capitol Hill will involve meetings with members of Congress to discuss current challenges facing the U.S. space program and future planning for space exploration.   Informational and training sessions will be held one day prior to the start of meetings in order to prepare participants.

The Mars Society is calling on its members to come to Washington, D.C. to help represent the organization during this important legislative blitz.  Let government officials hear your voice and understand the importance of and need for a humans-to-Mars mission in the coming decade!

If you are interested in joining other Mars Society members in Washington, D.C., please contact us for more details.


For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org. Your donations are welcome.

Mars Society Announces Dates/City for 2012 International Convention

Mars Society Logo 200x188December 10, 2011 by The Mars Society

The Mars Society is pleased to announce that it will be convening its 15th Annual International Mars Society Convention on August 3 – 5, 2012 in Pasadena, California.

The dates were selected to coincide with the anticipated landing on the Red Planet of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, better known as Curiosity, sometime late in the night on August 5th.

More details about the next Mars Society convention, including the official itinerary, list of speakers and exact convention location will be made available in the near future.  Thank you, and we hope you’ll be able to join us this August!

On to Mars (with a stop-over in Pasadena)!

A Call to Action: Save the Mars Missions!

Mars Society Announcement

November 7, 2011

Dear Friends:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has zeroed funding for NASA’s future Mars exploration missions.  The Mars Science Lab Curiosity, currently on the pad being readied for launch will be sent, as will the nearly completed small MAVEN orbiter scheduled for 2013, but that is 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

Listen to Audio Recording of Mars Society/Planetary Society Capitol Hill Forum

The Mars Society, together with the Planetary Society, held a special forum yesterday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current crisis facing America’s space program.  Entitled “NASA at a Turning Point: Vibrant Future or Close Up Shop”, the discussion focused on the severe challenges facing NASA’s space exploration, space astronomy and human spaceflight programs.

Participating in the mid-day program were four prominent space policy experts – Dr. Robert Zubrin, Mars Society President, Prof. Jim Bell, Planetary Society President, Prof. Scott Hubbard, former Director of NASA Ames Research Center, and Dr. Heidi Hammel, Executive Vice President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.

To listen to the full audio recording of the Capitol Hill forum, please click here.

The Mars Society would like to express its appreciation to Adam Keiper of The New Atlantis for providing a copy of the audio recording.

NASA at a Turning Point: Vibrant Future or Close Up Shop

NASA at a Turning Point: Vibrant Future or Close Shop

Special Capitol Hill Forum, sponsored by The Mars Society and The Planetary Society

November 3, 2011  Rayburn House Office Building, Room 338, 11 AM-1 PM.  Lunch provided.

Speakers:

Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society

Professor Jim Bell, President of the Planetary Society

Professor Scott Hubbard, former Director NASA Ames Research Center

Dr. Heidi Hammel, Executive VP, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

America’s space program is currently facing a severe crisis.

The planetary exploration program is in grave danger. In its FY 2012 budget, the OMB has effectively terminated support for future missions.  The Mars Science Lab Curiosity — currently being readied on the pad — will be launched, as will the nearly completed small Mars orbiter MAVEN scheduled for 2013, but that is it.  No further missions to anywhere are in the budget.  If things are allowed to stand, after 2013 America’s amazing career of planetary exploration, which ran from the Mariner probes in the 1960s through the great Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Spirit, Opportunity, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Galileo, and Cassini missions, will simply end.

The space astronomy program is also headed for destruction.  The now orbiting Kepler telescope will be turned off in mid-mission, stopping it before it can complete its goal of finding other Earths.  Even worse, the magnificent Webb telescope, the agency’s flagship, which promises fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of the laws of the universe, is in danger of not getting sufficient funds to allow a completion in a timely manner.  This guarantees further costly delays, with the ensuing budgetary overruns leading inevitably to eventual cancellation.

The human spaceflight program has lost the ability to reach orbit, and is adrift in the face of an ongoing fiscal tsunami.  Lacking a meaningful goal for the next decade or more, it could easily end up on the block as well.
The ostensible reason for the decision to kill planetary exploration and space astronomy is budgetary discipline.  Yet while overall federal spending has grown 40 percent since 2008, NASA’s funding has remained virtually the same.  It is not NASA that is bankrupting America, and our nation’s space program should not be made a casualty of overspending elsewhere.  Acceptance of the destruction of our space exploration effort simply amounts to acceptance of American decline.  That is something we truly cannot afford.

America need not accept defeat in space.  Come to the forum and join the discussion on how we can insure the continuation of our nation’s great pioneer tradition in space.

www.planetary.org                                                                                 www.marssociety.org

For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at www.marssociety.org. Your donations are welcome.

Mars Society Steering Committee Statement on NASA’s SLS-HLV

On September 14, 2011, NASA announced plans to develop the Space Launch System — an exploration-class, advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle (HLV) designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as cargo and equipment to the International Space Station, and ultimately to deep space.  The SLS rocket will use a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propulsion system with an initial lift capacity of 70 tonnes evolvable to 130 tonnes. The first flight is targeted for late 2017.

The Mars Society believes that NASA should develop an HLV, because an HLV is a critical system for enabling human exploration beyond LEO.  The Space Launch System HLV as currently designed is fine.  However, NASA’s human spaceflight program needs a mission.

The proposed plan is to spend $3 billion per year to get the HLV flying by 2017, without anything for it to launch until a putative asteroid mission in 2025. The Mars Society believes that this plan will almost guarantee program cancellation. NASA should not develop an HLV for 4th of July displays. It has to be developed as part of a plan to support a defined mission, with other necessary flight elements developed in parallel.

NASA’s proposed SLS-HLV budget of $3 billion per year is much higher than is actually needed to fund an HLV, and appears to be an effort to spend the former Shuttle program funds for political purposes. If this much funding is available, NASA should use the funds to develop the full spectrum of flight elements needed for human missions beyond LEO in parallel, enabling the near Earth asteroid mission by 2017, with Mars missions to follow a few years later.

NASA needs a deep space mission. From the mission comes the plan; from the plan comes the things necessary for its implementation. NASA needs to fund missions, not things. The mission comes first.

The Steering Committee of the Mars Society ratified this policy statement on NASA’s SLS-HLV by a vote of 12 yes, with 8 abstentions.

NASA on the Block

By Robert Zubrin, Washington Times, August 24, 2011

America’s human spaceflight program is adrift. The space shuttle has made its final flight, and the Obama administration has no coherent plan what to do next. Instead, it has proposed that the United States waste the next decade spending $100 billion to support a goalless human spaceflight effort that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. In the face of a mounting imperative to find ways to cut the federal deficit, this has set up the nation’s space program for the ax.

In order for NASA’s human-exploration effort to be defensible, it needs a concrete goal and one that is truly worth pursuing. That goal should be sending humans to Mars.

As a result of a string of successful probes sent to the Red Planet over the past 15 years, we know for certain that Mars was once a warm and wet planet and continued to have an active hydrosphere for a period on the order of a billion years – a span five times as long as the time it took for life to appear on Earth after there was liquid water here. Findings released by NASA last week indicate that underground water seeps are reaching the surface of the Red Planet periodically. Thus, if the theory is correct that life is a natural phenomenon emerging from chemistry wherever there is liquid water, various minerals and a sufficient period of time, life must have appeared on Mars and may still be there.

For full article please click here.

Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and of the Mars Society (www.marssociety.org). An updated edition of his book “The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must,” has just been published by the Free Press.

Case for Mars Cover