2014 Science and Engineering Fair Results


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,


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


Starship Congress

Icarus Intersellar will host Starship Congress in Dallas, TX from August 15-18, 2013.

This is not an official event of Dallas Mars Society because a) it is outside the scope of The Mars Society, and b) the schedule coincides with The 16th Annual International Mars Society Convention held in Boulder, CO.

However, some members of DMS who are unable to attend Mars13 may wish to get together and attend Starship Congress. Please watch the newsgroup or attend one of the meetings.


Monthly Meeting May 26, 6:30PM at the Spaghetti Warehouse in Plano


Yes, another month has gone by, and our next monthly meeting is coming up. We will meet at the Spaghetti Warehouse at 6:30pm in Plano this coming Sunday, May 26 – same as usual!

We have a number of activities and news to discuss;

  • The URC is coming up that week! I leave May 28 to volunteer. We have a record number of teams and the new obstacle course! it should be the most exciting and best URC yet!
  • Mark hit 10,000 re-tweats for the Dallas chapter!
  • The Mars Society national convention, to be held in Boulder in August, is lining up an incredible array of speakers. Those who are planning to go, make your plans!
  • Moon day is coming upon us quickly, and Tom has a number of exciting ideas to make our presence even better than last year.
  • Speaking of conferences, it is coming time to talk about our T-shirt order. We decided at the last meeting to use the convention logo for our design. Now Mark needs to turn it into an actual T-shirt design, and we need to think about how many to order. April A said that she should be at the convention with some students, and they can help us man the T-shirt table in turn for help selling some MDRS cookbooks. Deal!

In national news, both Opportunity and Curiosity safely made it past conjunction and regained contact. Opportunity, deep into its 10th year on Mars, has logged over 22 miles, surpassing the 40 year old distance record of Apollo 17 (which they did it in three days, but…). (The lunakhod 2 lunar rover still holds the extra-terrestial record of 23 miles)

And, closer to home and nearer to Mars, the Explore Mars ‘Humans 2 Mars’ summit held May 6-8 had a variety of major space figures openly calling for NASA’s main manned space priority to be a manned mission to touch down on Mars within 20 years. This is the first time that a time-bound manned mission to Mars was discussed as NASA’s next main goal so openly by such senior government policymakers. We are getting closer all the time to national policy finally coming around to where it belongs: mankind’s next step is Mars!

See you Sunday!


Microgravity, Artificial Gravity and Blue Dragon

One of the most hotly debated topics related to sending humans to Mars is the health effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity and how these might be mitigated.

Prolonged exposure to microgravity (a.k.a. “zero gravity”) has several serious effects on the human body:

  1. Without the need to support the weight of the body, the musculoskeletal system atrophies and weakens. Bone and muscle mass tend to decrease at a significant rate. Bone mass can decrease at 1-1.5% per month.
  2. Under normal gravitational forces…

More (Mars Settlement)…

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

SpaceX Falcon 9 Has Wings

If you’ve been paying any attention, you probably already know
that SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9/Dragon to the
space station this morning. If all continues to goes according to
plan, the Dragon will rendezvous and dock with the station on

For what it’s worth I did stay up late and live tweet the Falcon
launch for DMS on our twitter page (was glad to do it:)



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 CNN.com, 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