The Mars Society Latest Events and Programs-Get Involved!!! (Issue #27)

By: Nicole Willett and The Mars Society

Mars Society Logo (High quality)Annual conventions have become a staple of The Mars Society.  Many leading scientists, researchers, and entrepreneurs hold plenary talks and participate in panel discussions regarding many aspects of the human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet.  The 17th Annual Mars Society Convention will be held from August 7-10, 2014 in the Houston area in League City, Texas (near NASA’s Johnson Space Center).  The convention will be at the South Shore Harbour Resort.

The Mars Society invites presentations for the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention. Subjects for discussion can involve all matters associated with the exploration and settlement of the planet Mars, including science, technology, engineering, politics, economics, public policy, etc.

If you would like to submit an abstract to be considered for a presentation at the convention you may email your submission here.  Email is preferred, however you may mail your submission to The Mars Society, 11111 West 8th Avenue, Unit A, Lakewood, CO 80215 .  The submissions are to be no more than 300 words and must be submitted by June 30th. A few of the proposed conference sessions are:

  • The search for life on Mars
  • Latest findings from Mars spacecraft
  • Why Mars?
  • Plans for 2014 Mars missions and beyond
  • Curiosity rover – research & accomplishments
  • Concepts for future robotic Mars missions
  • For further details and a full list of conference sessions, click here.

The convention is open to the general public and everyone is encouraged to attend.  The four-day event will bring together key experts, scientists, policymakers and journalists to discuss the latest news on Mars exploration and efforts to promote a human mission to the Red Planet in the coming years.   To register for the event click here.

YoutubeIf you would like to view some of the presentations from previous years, please visit the Mars Society Channel on Youtube.   You will see previous Mars Pioneer Award winners and their keynote address.  The recipient for the 2012 award was Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and Tesla motors.   Musk passionately discussed the importance of a humans to Mars mission and how and why it should be done.  The 2013 recipient was Dr. Steve Squyres, the Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and Opportunity.  Dr. Squyres gave a wonderful update on the Opportunity Rover and an entertaining history of the MER program.

Insp mars shipAt the 16th Annual Mars Society Convention, Dennis Tito, founder of Inspiration Mars, announced an international engineering competition for student teams to propose design concepts for the architecture of the Inspiration Mars mission. The contest is open to university engineering student teams from anywhere in the world. Inspiration Mars Executive Director Dennis Tito and Program Manager Taber MacCallum were present for the announcement. “Inspiration Mars is looking for the most creative ideas from engineers all over the world,” said Tito. “Furthermore, we want to engage the explorers of tomorrow with a real and exciting mission, and demonstrate what a powerful force space exploration can be in inspiring young people to develop their talent. This contest will accomplish both of those objectives.”  The requirement is to design a two-person Mars flyby mission for 2018 as cheaply, safely and simply as possible. All other design variables are open. The Mars Society’s Inspiration Mars International Student Design Competition has drawn a massive worldwide response. As of the January 31, 2014 deadline, letters of intent to compete have been received from 38 teams representing 56 universities in 15 countries. Nations represented include the United States, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Poland, Mauritius, India, Bangladesh, Japan and Colombia. A sampling of some of the institutions signed up to participate include: John Hopkins University, St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University, Ohio State University, Warsaw University of Technology, University of Notre Dame, Indira Gandhi National Open University, York University, International Space University, Purdue University, Islamic University of Technology, University of Stuttgart, Keio University, and University of Glasgow.

 

URC2The University Rover Challenge (URC) is a robotic rover design competition that encourages college students to create rovers using guidelines set by The Mars Society.  URC teams are currently working on their rovers.  The seventh annual rendition of the international competition for college students is organized by The Mars Society and will be held May 30 – June 1, 2013 at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) near Hanksville, Utah.  This unique and renowned competition has hosted dozens of college teams since 2007 in a barren landscape that is an ideal analog of the planet Mars. The MDRS site is also home to human crews conducting mission simulations that test a broad range of Mars exploration topics. URC rovers are designed and built to one day assist astronauts on the Red Planet. The URC has a record 31 teams this year!  Click here for more information on how you can join the URC.

YRC2The Youth Rover Challenge (YRC) is a multi-tier robotics education development program that is hosted, sponsored and operated by The Mars Society. The program commenced on August 6th, 2013 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the landing of NASA’s Curiosity Rover. YRC is a STEM related educational effort that is designed for schools and organizations with students or members in grades 5-12 to have the chance to build and compete at a global level with a LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 based robotic rover and competition arena intended to simulate the surface of Mars. The YRC has 26 teams registered for this year’s competition. For more information visit the Youth Rover site or email Deputy Director Chuck McMurray.

 

The Education Forum continues its outreach efforts by hosting speaking engagements in person or via the web.  If you would like to schedule an event for your class, troop, astronomy club, or other organization, please contact Education Director Nicole Willett.  The talks range from 30 minutes to an hour.  The purpose is to educate the public to our place in the universe and the importance of the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars.  To see a list of previous events and accompanying images please click here.

Join The Mars Society Today and Help Play a Role in

Humanity’s Next Step into the Solar System!

All Mars Society members receive:

+ An official membership card

+ Regular Mars Society email updates & announcements

+ The Mars Quarterly online magazine

+ An opportunity to participate in local Mars Society chapter events & activities

+ A special invitation & discount to the International Mars Society Convention

+ Special access to exclusive online chats, webinars & discussions with leading Mars experts

Join The Mars Society NOW!

[Images: The Mars Society, Youtube, Inspiration Mars]

Understanding the Risks: Radiation Exposure During Interplanetary Travel (Issue #26)

Guest blog by Kathryn Sharp

RadiationRecent years have seen an exciting uptick in the number of humans-to-Mars mission plans, from manned fly-bys to permanent settlements. Each lays out its own priorities and objectives, suggesting creative solutions to challenges common to all of them. One important challenge each mission will face is the danger of space radiation exposure over the course of lengthy interplanetary travel.

There are two major types of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing. Many forms of nonionizing radiation will sound familiar: your car radio, cell phone, microwave, all of which operate at frequencies low enough that their energy isn’t sufficient to damage human DNA. These are therefore not considered to be carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. On the other hand, ionizing radiation carries energy high enough to break chemical bonds and damage DNA, which in turn increases the risk of developing cancer. Some examples include medical X-rays and CT scans, which, when used infrequently, do not significantly increase cancer risk, and radioactivity remaining from the era of atmospheric nuclear testing.

Insp mars shipOf course, these are only man-made sources of radiation. The sun showers the Earth every moment with both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Thankfully, our protective atmosphere and magnetosphere shield us from a majority of the harmful radiation, with only some UV rays reaching the surface. Beyond our atmosphere however, solar energetic particles (SEPs), ejected from the sun by solar flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) from interstellar space blast through our solar system unmitigated.

In space, astronauts face much higher radiation exposure from these sources than we do down here on the surface. On average, an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS) will receive as much radiation in one six-month stay as they would in twenty years back home on Earth. As humans venture beyond low-Earth orbit and the sheltering bands of Earth’s magnetic field, their lives will depend on proper shielding in their spacecraft.

ss-121109-mars-curiosity-tease.photoblog900In 2011, when the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover launched from Cape Canaveral it carried with it a small instrument for measuring space radiation in a shielded environment similar to that of a manned mission. Based on the measurements of the unit called the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD), Marsonauts would receive a dose equivalent of roughly 0.6 Sieverts (Sv) in 360 days of travel to-and-from Mars, not counting any radiation received while operating on the surface of Mars itself. This dose is akin to receiving 1 to 2 abdominal CT scans each week over the course of a year.

Currently, NASA limits the cumulative lifetime dose for its astronauts at 1 Sievert. This dose is associated with a roughly 5% increase in lifetime cancer risk. For reference, the current lifetime risk of dying of cancer for someone in the US is around 20%, so a dose of 1 Sv would raise this risk from 20 to 25%. While 0.6 Sieverts is a large dose of radiation in a relatively short period, clearly it is within established limits and should not halt further development of manned missions to Mars.

Although this dose falls within NASA’s established limit, developers of any future crewed Mars mission shoulder the responsibility of sheltering its astronauts and reducing their exposure to the lowest levels possible. How can we limit the radiation dose to Marsonauts in an efficient and cost-effective way?

victoria2_opportunityThree major factors limit a person’s exposure to radiation: time, distance, and shielding. Limiting the time astronauts are exposed to space radiation is a surefire way to reduce their dose. However, the only way to reduce the time of exposure is to speed up the spacecraft: no easy feat. Existing spacecraft rely on heavy fuels, which in turn lead to heavier payloads, resulting in slower speeds and higher costs. Conceptual space vehicles that rely on other sources of energy, such as nuclear power, are on the drawing board, but waiting through the long development period for such technologies will only further delay a crewed mission.

Because the source of solar energetic particles, the sun, is a fixed source, and because galactic cosmic rays are pervasive throughout the solar system, we cannot significantly increase the distance between the astronauts and the source of the radiation. At this time, the most convincing method of reducing exposure is effective shielding. Unfortunately, different materials are necessary to shield against different types of radiation. For example, high-energy gamma rays require very dense, thick materials, such as lead, to shield, whereas neutrons are best-shielded by hydrogen-rich materials such as concrete. These are both heavy materials that will add significant mass to the payload, requiring more fuel and incidentally, more money.

Current radiation shielding plans minimize the amount of these materials by allowing for a narrow shelter in the center of the spacecraft to be used during large SEP-producing events such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections. The measurements taken by the RAD aboard Curiosity confirmed that this type of arrangement would be sufficient to shield the majority of SEPs, but astronauts would still be vulnerable to, and receive the majority of their dose from, galactic cosmic rays. This constant stream of heavy, high energy particles presents the biggest shielding challenge.

Several mitigation strategies are being considered to reduce the dose from GCRs. We could utilize existing resources aboard the ship, such as the crew’s water or fuel supply, as shielding agents. Water is an excellent shield for GCRs, but it is heavy. A water shield around the crew’s living quarters would need to be several meters thick, and could add hundreds of tons to the payload. This is an insurmountable weight for current mission designs, and would send launch costs skyrocketing.

Alternatively, we could construct the spacecraft from light, hydrogen-rich plastics such as polyethylene rather than the aluminum shell that the ISS employs. This could reduce both the payload weight and cost, but further research is necessary in order to improve the strength and heat tolerance of these materials.  Another theoretical strategy would be to generate a small magnetic field to deflect incoming radiation much the same way Earth’s magnetic field functions. Generating a magnetic field requires energy however, and generating one large enough to shield an entire spacecraft would require considerable energy: a precious commodity when you are 35 million miles from home.

a Mission to Mars Pic 06While all possible ways of limiting radiation exposure ought to be explored, it is important to keep these risks in context. In his book, The Case for Mars, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin puts these concerns in perspective: “While such doses are not to be recommended to the general public, they represent a small fraction of the total risk of not only space travel, but such common recreations such as mountain climbing or sailboarding. Radiation hazards are not a showstopper for a piloted Mars mission.”

As Zubrin’s statement suggests, we must bear in mind that a manned Mars mission is not a routine endeavor, it is an extraordinary one. Every extraordinary mission in the history of mankind has involved significant risk, and with it, the potential for remarkable reward. We can and should do our best to limit these risks, but must understand that we cannot eliminate them.

 

[Images: publicdomainpictures.net, Inspiration Mars, NASA]

The Many Plans for Mars (Issue #25)

By:  Nicole Willett

Mars in space (NASA-Christine Daniloff-MIT News)A lot of media coverage has occurred over the past several months regarding sending humans to Mars.  Many people get the proposed missions mixed up and sometimes facts are falsely reported.  This blog is an attempt to focus on a few of the organizations/companies that have serious Mars proposals underway.  The Mars Society feels strongly that sending humans to Mars is a top priority for our civilization and we wish good luck to all missions that are being proposed.

The Case for Mars 2In 1990 Dr. Robert Zubrin, President and founder of The Mars Society, and David Baker proposed a mission called Mars Direct to NASA.  Zubrin later published his book titled The Case for Mars, where he expanded on the details of the mission.  The mission involves a series of launches.  First, a spacecraft lands on Mars first without human occupants.  This craft is the Earth Return Vehicle (ERV) and it will act a fuel manufacturing station in order to provide fuel for the future human explorers to return to Earth.  The Habitat Unit (HU) will arrive with a crew of 4 humans approximately 26 Top_Bannermonths later.   There will be many ERV’s and HU’s sent to the Red Planet in succession.  An ERV will be fueled and ready at all times and the HU’s will be interconnected in order for a larger and larger living space to be available for the increasing number of human occupants.  Human exploration and settlement of Mars is the mission of The Mars Society.  Zubrin states, “The time has come for humanity to journey to the planet Mars.  We’re ready.  Though Mars is distant, we are far better prepared today to send humans to the Red Planet than we were to travel to the Moon at the commencement of the space age. Given the will, we could have our first crews on Mars within a decade.”

 

SpaceXSpaceX is a company founded by Elon Musk.  He was the recipient of the 2012 Mars Pioneer Award at the 15th Annual Mars Society Convention.  SpaceX is the first privately owned company to launch cargo to the International Space Station using the Falcon 9 rocket.  They have also had a successful test flight of the Grasshopper rocket which launched vertically approximately 800 feet, moved horizontally about 300 feet and then landed safely by descending vertically.  Musk has a goal of enabling thousands of humans to go to Mars for permanent settlement.   His vision is to first send a small crew of about ten humans to Mars, utilizing reusable Falcon Heavy rockets.  He plans on continuing to send more and more humans to settle on Mars with the hope that his first Martian colony has a population of about 80,000 people.

Insp marsInspiration Mars was founded by Dennis Tito.  He is the first private citizen to pay to be taken to the International Space Station.  His company recently released their design report which outlines their plans and their timeline for the mission.  The highlights of the mission are as follows:  a two person, 501 day unprecedented human flyby mission to the Red Planet to launch during the launch window in January 2018.  The justification for a flyby versus landing on the surface is that it is much less technologically daunting and the risk is much lower for the human explorers.  Inspiration Mars believes that this historic event will pave the way for future Marsonauts to land on the surface at a later date.

mars-oneMars One is headed by Bas Lansdorp.  This is a non-profit organization that plans on launching a four person capsule to land on Mars in 2022.  There will be several steps in this process.  In 2016 a supply mission will be sent ahead, in 2018 a rover will explore the terrain, and in 2021 rovers will assemble habitats and life support systems.  By 2022 the four person crew will land on the surface of the planet, followed every two years by four person crews.  Mars One hopes that this will be the beginning of the first permanent human settlement on Mars.

Mars Society Logo (High quality)No matter which mission succeeds, keep the following in mind:

[From The Mars Society’s Founding Declaration]

The reasons for going to Mars are powerful.

We must go for the knowledge of Mars. Our robotic probes have revealed that Mars was once a warm and wet planet, suitable for hosting life’s origin. But did it? A search for fossils on the Martian surface or microbes in groundwater below could provide the answer. If found, they would show that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth, and, by implication, reveal a universe that is filled with life and probably intelligence as well. From the point of view learning our true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus.

We must go for the knowledge of Earth. As we begin the twenty-first century, we have evidence that we are changing the Earth’s atmosphere and environment in significant ways. It has become a critical matter for us better to understand all aspects of our environment. In this project, comparative planetology is a very powerful tool, a fact already shown by the role Venusian atmospheric studies played in our discovery of the potential threat of global warming by greenhouse gases. Mars, the planet most like Earth, will have even more to teach us about our home world. The knowledge we gain could be key to our survival.

We must go for the challenge. Civilizations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The time is past for human societies to use war as a driving stress for technological progress. As the world moves towards unity, we must join together, not in mutual passivity, but in common enterprise, facing outward to embrace a greater and nobler challenge than that which we previously posed to each other. Pioneering Mars will provide such a challenge. Furthermore, a cooperative international exploration of Mars would serve as an example of how the same joint-action could work on Earth in other ventures.

We must go for the youth. The spirit of youth demands adventure. A humans-to-Mars program would challenge young people everywhere to develop their minds to participate in the pioneering of a new world. If a Mars program were to inspire just a single extra percent of today’s youth to scientific educations, the net result would be tens of millions more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors. These people will make innovations that create new industries, find new medical cures, increase income, and benefit the world in innumerable ways to provide a return that will utterly dwarf the expenditures of the Mars program.

We must go for the opportunity. The settling of the Martian New World is an opportunity for a noble experiment in which humanity has another chance to shed old baggage and begin the world anew; carrying forward as much of the best of our heritage as possible and leaving the worst behind. Such chances do not come often, and are not to be disdained lightly.

We must go for our humanity. Human beings are more than merely another kind of animal, -we are life’s messenger. Alone of the creatures of the Earth, we have the ability to continue the work of creation by bringing life to Mars, and Mars to life. In doing so, we shall make a profound statement as to the precious worth of the human race and every member of it.

We must go for the future. Mars is not just a scientific curiosity; it is a world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined, possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but technological society. It is a New World, filled with history waiting to be made by a new and youthful branch of human civilization that is waiting to be born. We must go to Mars to make that potential a reality. We must go, not for us, but for a people who are yet to be. We must do it for the Martians.

At The Mars Society we believe that the exploration and settlement of Mars is one of the greatest human endeavors possible in our time, with the understanding that even the best ideas for human action are never inevitable, but must be planned, advocated, and achieved by hard work. We call upon all other individuals and organizations of like-minded people to join with us in furthering this great enterprise. No nobler cause has ever been. We shall not rest until it succeeds.

[Image Credit: The Mars Society, SpaceX, Inspiration Mars, Mars One]

Rovers and Spaceships Everywhere! (Issue #23)

Rover and Engineering Design Competitions- Levels:  5th grade thru Undergraduate

By: Nicole Willett, Chuck McMurray and The Mars Society

The Mars Society is host to three (3) design challenges.  They range in age from middle school thru college level.  The middle and high school level challenge was launched at the 16th Annual Mars Society Convention this past August.  It is called the Youth Rover Challenge.  One of the undergraduate challenges is called the University Rover Challenge and it has had several very successful seasons so far.  The final challenge was also launched at the convention in August.  It is an international student design competition.

YRC2The Youth Rover Challenge (YRC) is a multi-tier robotics education development program that is hosted, sponsored and operated by The Mars Society. The program commenced on August 6th, 2013 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the landing of NASA’s Curiosity Rover.

YRC is a STEM related educational effort that is designed for schools and organizations with students or members in grades 5-12 to have the chance to build and compete at a global level with a LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 based robotic rover and competition arena intended to simulate the surface of Mars. The sandbox where the robotic rover operates is intended to be replicated so participants can operate the competition locally at your school, home or club. The Rover built for the competition is pre-designed to accomplish specific experiments (tasks) similar to what Mars Rovers accomplish today on the surface of Mars and other harsh environments on remote places on Earth. The competition is operated on-site at your self-built sandbox and the final operation of the field tasks are then videotaped and sent to each teams personalized YRC site for submission. Teams that have submitted videos that show the final operation of the rover completing the tasks under a time limit are then ranked against other teams.  The YRC is designed to prepare students for the University Rover Challenge that has operated successfully for the last 7 years directed by The Mars Society.

The University Rover Challenge (URC) is the world’s premier robotics competition for college students.  The URC has officially kicked off its 2014 competition.  This competition challenges students to design and build the next generation of Mars rovers which will one day work alongside astronauts on the Red Planet.

URC2Teams spend the academic year designing, building and testing their robotic creations. They will compete at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in the remote, barren desert of southern Utah in late May, 2014. The challenge features multiple tasks, including an Equipment Servicing Task that incorporates inflatable structures, and a more aggressive incarnation of the popular Terrain Traversing Task.

URC is unique in the challenges that it presents to students. Interdisciplinary teams will tackle robotics, engineering and field science domains, while gaining real-world systems engineering and project management experience.  University teams interested in participating can view the URC2014 rules online. The official registration process will open in early November; however teams are encouraged to begin their work now.

The Mars Society recently announced the launch of an International Engineering Competition for student teams to propose design concepts for the architecture of the Inspiration Mars mission. The contest is open to university engineering student teams from anywhere in the world.

Insp marsInspiration Mars Executive Director Dennis Tito and Program Manager Taber MacCallum were present for the announcement. “Inspiration Mars is looking for the most creative ideas from engineers all over the world,” said Tito. “Furthermore, we want to engage the explorers of tomorrow with a real and exciting mission, and demonstrate what a powerful force space exploration can be in inspiring young people to develop their talent. This contest will accomplish both of those objectives.”

Insp mars shipThe requirement is to design a two-person Mars flyby mission for 2018 as cheaply, safely and simply as possible. All other design variables are open.  Alumni, professors and other university staff may participate as well, but the teams must be predominantly composed of and led by students. All competition presentations must be completed exclusively by students. Teams will be required to submit their design reports in writing by March 15, 2014. From there, a down-select will occur with the top 10 finalist teams invited to present and defend their designs before a panel of six judges chosen (two each) by the Mars Society, Inspiration Mars and NASA. The presentations will take place during a public event at NASA Ames Research Center in April 2014.

Designs will be evaluated using a scoring system, allocating a maximum of 30 points for cost, 30 points for technical quality of the design, 20 points for operational simplicity and 20 points for schedule with a maximum total of 100 points. The first place team will receive a prize of $10,000, an all-expenses paid trip to the 2014 International Mars Society Convention and a trophy to be presented by Dennis Tito at that event. Prizes of $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 will also be awarded for second through fifth place.  All designs submitted will be published, and Inspiration Mars will be given non-exclusive rights to make use of any ideas contained therein.

Commenting on the contest, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “The Mars Society is delighted to lead this effort. This contest will provide an opportunity for legions of young engineers to directly contribute their talent to this breakthrough project to open the space frontier.”

For more information on any of the above competitions email us at info@marssociety.org.

[Images: Chuck McMurray, The Mars Society, Inspiration Mars]

Humans to Mars (Issue #17)

by: Nicole Willett

An enormous amount of coverage regarding a human mission to Mars has recently inundated our televisions and the Internet.  Some people are skeptical and others are on board and ready for humanity to take that step.  Many organizations are planning a human mission to Mars.  SpaceX founder Elon Musk has been quoted as saying he wants to “die on Mars”, and his company is currently developing the Falcon Heavy rocket which is designed to carry payloads large enough for a humans to Mars mission.  Another organization called Mars One has started taking applications for their humans to Mars mission using a reality show format.  They have received 78,000 applications in two weeks.  The interest, leaning toward obsession, with settling the Red Planet is coming to a peak the size of Olympus Mons.

The most feasible plan to date is Inspiration Mars, a non-profit organization founded by millionaire Dennis Tito.  His plan is to send two people, preferably a married couple, on a 500 day mission to get within 100 miles of the Red Planet and return to Earth.  This is a fly-by mission, which will pave the way for future human missions to the surface of Mars and eventual settlement of the planet.  Tito wants to have a human flyby in 2018, five years from now.  This is an ambitious mission with clear goals and a clear timeline which is what we have been missing since Apollo.   In reference to NASA’s 2030-something date to go to Mars, Tito stated, “I can’t wait until 2030. That’s too long of a time to maintain enthusiasm,” he said. “I think if we’re going to fly to Mars, we have to do it with a short sprint to show we can do it, and then we can take the time necessary to do the whole enchilada, which is boots on the ground.”

 On May 8th in Washington, D.C. there was a Humans to Mars Summit to discuss these issues.  The list of speakers was long and included Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, Chris McKay, NASA Ames, and Buzz Aldrin, Apollo XI.  Subjects discussed were:  Human and robotic precursor missions, Humans to Mars: Science and Engineering, Living on Mars: Biomedical Challenges, Habitation & Life Support/Mobility & Space Suits and many more.  The occurrence of this event at this time is very telling of the direction we humans are going in.  That direction is Mars.

inspiration 2

Buzz Aldrin, who spoke at the Humans to Mars Summit, has recently written a book entitled, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration.  This book discusses in detail Aldrin’s vision and ideas for the future of Mars human exploration and settlement.  Aldrin speaks out as a very important and influential voice in the human quest to push the boundaries of our capabilities in the solar system.  In his book he plots out his vision of putting humans on Mars by 2035 as well as for settling the Red Planet.  As one of the first two men on the moon, it is vitally important to be aware of and to support his vision for human exploration and settlement of Mars.  After all, he is a very courageous and forward thinking human to have risked his life to expand the human presence in the solar system.  For that we owe him our gratitude.mission-to-mars-cover-2 blog 17

There are several major reasons for humans to go to Mars.  The following are excerpts from the Mars Society’s Founding Declaration, outlining the long-held beliefs of the organization’s founders, its membership and supporters in general.

“The time has come for humanity to journey to the planet Mars.

We’re ready.  Though Mars is distant, we are far better prepared today to send humans to the Red Planet than we were to travel to the Moon at the commencement of the space age.  Given the will, we could have our first crews on Mars within a decade.

The reasons for going to Mars are powerful.

We must go for the knowledge of Mars. Our robotic probes have revealed that Mars was once a warm and wet planet, suitable for hosting life’s origin. But did it? A search for fossils on the Martian surface or microbes in groundwater below could provide the answer. If found, they would show that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth, and, by implication, reveal a universe that is filled with life and probably intelligence as well. From the point of view learning our true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus.

We must go for the knowledge of Earth. As we begin the twenty-first century, we have evidence that we are changing the Earth’s atmosphere and environment in significant ways. It has become a critical matter for us better to understand all aspects of our environment. Mars, the planet most like Earth, will have even more to teach us about our home world. The knowledge we gain could be key to our survival.

We must go for the challenge. Civilizations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The time is past for human societies to use war as a driving stress for technological progress. As the world moves towards unity, we must join together in common enterprise, facing outward to embrace a greater and nobler challenge than that which we previously posed to each other.

We must go for the youth. The spirit of youth demands adventure. A humans-to-Mars program would challenge young people everywhere to develop their minds to participate in the pioneering of a new world [and promote the passion for STEM related subjects.] The net result would be tens of millions more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors. These people benefit the world in innumerable ways to provide a return that will utterly dwarf the expenditures of the Mars program.

We must go for the opportunity. The settling of the Martian New World is an opportunity for a noble experiment in which humanity has another chance to shed old baggage and begin the world anew; carrying forward as much of the best of our heritage as possible and leaving the worst behind. Such chances do not come often, and are not to be disdained lightly.

We must go for our humanity. Human beings are more than merely another kind of animal, -we are life’s messenger. Alone of the creatures of the Earth, we have the ability to continue the work of creation by bringing life to Mars, and Mars to life. In doing so, we shall make a profound statement as to the precious worth of the human race and every member of it.

The Case for Mars 2We must go for the future. Mars is not just a scientific curiosity; it is a world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined, possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but technological society. It is a New World, filled with history waiting to be made by a new and youthful branch of human civilization that is waiting to be born. We must go to Mars to make that potential a reality. We must go, not for us, but for a people who are yet to be. We must do it for the Martians.

“Believing therefore that the exploration and settlement of Mars is one of the greatest human endeavors possible in our time, we have gathered to found this Mars Society, understanding that even the best ideas for human action are never inevitable, but must be planned, advocated, and achieved by hard work. We call upon all other individuals and organizations of like-minded people to join with us in furthering this great enterprise. No nobler cause has ever been. We shall not rest until it succeeds.”

Those powerful words have inspired millions of people.  However, some critics of a human mission to the Red Planet have said that it is too dangerous, and we do not have the technology.  These things are untrue, and the dangers are overstated.  If Columbus and Magellan listened to their critics, think of how the beginning of globalization would have stalled and how that would have negatively affected the future of humanity. Cartographers would put dragons on the maps before Columbus and Magellan made their incredible journeys.  It is time for us to leave low-Earth orbit and take the dragons off the map.  We need to come together as fearless forward thinkers with the innate desire to become a two-planet space faring civilization.  
Others say we must take care of the Earth first.  To that I say if we wait around for the overfed, over-medicated and under-educated sociologically immature Earthlings to take care of the Earth first, then we will surely die here without accomplishing the goal of becoming a space faring civilization. This mission must happen, for all of us.  
Lastly there are critics who raise concerns for the loss of human life.  As Dr. Zubrin has said, and this is my favorite quote, “All people die, it is a matter of what you do with your life before you die.”  To me that is the answer to all of the fears and anxieties.  What are we going to do with our lives?  Stay a one (dying) planet species and live in fear?  Or will we put aside our fear and reach out to Mars, step foot on the beautiful coral colored soil, settle and become an interplanetary species we were meant to be?   That insatiable desire for us Martians at the Mars Society and all over the world may even be ingrained in our DNA.  For these and many other reasons we must go! ~On To Mars!
[Images: BBC, Inspiration Mars, Aldrin, Zubrin]