Catholic University / Washington, D.C. / Aug. 13-16, 2015

News & Announcements

  • India’s Growing Space Program to be Examined at 2015 Mars Society Convention

    Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, Acting Director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, will give a talk about the fast-paced growth of India’s space program at the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention, August 13-16, 2015, at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He will review Indian plans for robotic and human exploration of space, space security and possible U.S.-Indian space cooperation. 

    Prior to joining the Atlantic Council, Dr. Gopalaswamy managed the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament and International Security at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he oversaw developing projects on space security and South Asia. He has held research appointments with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Cornell University's Judith Reppy Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. 

    Dr. Gopalaswamy holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering with a specialization in numerical acoustics from Trinity College, Dublin. In addition to his studies abroad, he has previously worked at the Indian Space Research Organization's High Altitude Test Facilities and the EADS Astrium GmbH division in Germany. 

    For more information about the 2015 Mars Society convention, including registration details and a list of confirmed plenary speakers and panelists, please click here.

    Posted by M Stoltz
  • Misdirection on Mars (Op-Ed)
    By Dr. Robert Zubrin, 05.04.15

    In the history of warfare, it has sometimes been the practice of armies to dress themselves in the uniforms of their adversaries and then commit atrocities in order to discredit the other side. Alternatively, such falsely uniformed war criminals have placed themselves among opposing forces, so that, posing as friends, they could misdirect them to their doom.

    It is in this tradition that O. Glenn Smith and Paul Spudis, two die-hard opponents of Mars exploration, recently chose to costume themselves as advocates in their Commentary “Mars for Only $1.5 Trillion” [March 9, page 19], which is designed to make a feasible enterprise appear utterly unfeasible.

    The mission plan claimed to be necessary by Smith and Spudis starts with the nonsensical idea that someone would use a monstrosity the size of the International Space Station for a disposable Mars mission transit vehicle, and continues with the conceit of saddling each and every Mars mission with the full development and several decades-long manufacturing, launch and on-orbit assembly program of the ISS. On the basis of this, they calculate that a “ballpark cost for the first human Mars mission in 2035 would total $230 billion” and “if we send nine crews to Mars, the total bill would be in the neighborhood of $1.5 trillion.”

    To get a grasp of how absurd these estimates are, one need only point out that current and recent NASA budgets have been around $18 billion, including a human spaceflight budget of about $4 billion. So what Smith and Spudis are claiming is that sending nine flights to Mars would cost NASA’s full budget for the next 80 years, or the entirety of its human spaceflight budget for 375 years. 

    To read the full article, please click here.
    Posted May 4, 2015, 10:46 PM by M Stoltz
  • Invalid Claims Made for “What Happens to Your Brain on the Way to Mars” Publication


    By Dr. Robert Zubrin, President, The Mars Society 

    In a paper entitled “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars” published on May 2nd in the open-access journal Science Advances, a group of radiation researchers claimed that their recent work causing memory loss to mice by administering very large doses of galactic cosmic ray (GCR)-like high energy radiation has serious implications for human Mars exploration. According to the authors, similar effects might severely impact astronauts going to the Red Planet, thereby placing the feasibility of such enterprises in serious question. 

    In fact, however, the study has no relevance for human Mars exploration, as the irradiation doses inflicted on the researchers’ unfortunate subjects has no relationship to what would be experienced by astronauts on their way to Mars. The principle difference is that the rate that the dose was administered to the

    mice under study was 4 million times faster than that which would be dealt to travelers in interplanetary space. In addition, the total cumulative dose delivered to the mice inside of 30 seconds was about 50% greater than the GCR dose that astronauts would receive over the course of a 2.5 year Mars mission.

    The key numbers in question are as follows: In the mouse experiment, the victims were given a dose of 30 rads (0.3 Gray) at a rate of 100 rads per minute. On a Mars mission, astronauts would receive a dose of 1 rad per month during the 6 month outbound and return transfers, and about 0.5 rad per month during 18 months on Mars, for a total of 21 Rads. ( 1 Gray = 100 rads = 100 cGray. For GCR 1 Gray =6 Sieverts = 600 rem. Space dose  rates can be found in “The Cosmic Ray Radiation Dose in Interplanetary Space – Present Day and Worst-Case Evaluations” R.A. Mewaldt, et al, 2005.)

    The 4-million-fold difference in dose rate between the “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars” lab study and spaceflight is of critical importance. It is a well-known finding of both chemical and radiation toxicology that the effects of large doses of toxins delivered suddenly is entirely different from the effect of the same amount of toxin delivered in very small amounts over a long period of time. The difference is that the body’s self-repair systems cannot deal with a sudden dose that they can easily manage if received over an extended period. For example, if an individual were to drink one shot of vodka per second for 100 seconds, he would die. But if the same person drank one shot of vodka a month for 100 months, he would experience no ill effects at all. This is about the same ratio of dose rates as that which separates the invalid work reported in the “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars” paper (1.6 rad per second) from that which would be experienced by astronauts in space (1 rad per month.) 

    It is shocking that the “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars” authors neglected to caveat the significance of their results by admitting these differences. Not only that, they kept the information about actual dose rates employed buried deep within the paper (it can be found in the middle of a text paragraph towards the end entitled “Animals, heavy ion radiation, and tissue harvesting), thereby allowing it to easily be missed by popular science writers duped into reporting the allegedly sensational implications of their irrelevant work. 

    It is true that small amounts of toxins received over a long period can statistically increase a person’s risk of ill effects. However, we already have data that shows that the accumulation of slow rates of cosmic ray radiation received during long duration spaceflight is not a show stopper for human Mars exploration. GCR dose rates in low Earth orbit are about half those in interplanetary space. Thus there are half a dozen cosmonauts and astronauts who have already received Mars mission equivalent GCR doses (Avdeyev, Polyakov, Solovyov, Krikalyov, Foale, Walz, Lucid) during extended space missions without any radiological casualties. Furthermore, since the International Space Station (ISS) is continually manned, while Mars missions are only in space about 40 percent of their mission time, the total GCR dose (measured in person-rems) that the ISS program crews will receive over the next ten years of planned operations is about the same as would be received by a series of five crews of five people each if they were launched to the Red Planet every other year over the same period. Thus, in fact the ISS program has already accepted the same level of GCR risk for its crews as would be faced by an ongoing human Mars exploration program. 

    Galactic cosmic radiation is not a show stopper for human Mars exploration, and should not be used as an excuse for delay.  The space program costs many billions of dollars, which are spent at a real cost to meeting human needs elsewhere. That fact imposes a moral obligation on the program to move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is understandable that radiation researchers should want to justify their funding. But they should not spread misinformation to promote themselves at such extraordinary expense to the public. 

    Robert Zubrin has a doctorate in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington.

    Posted May 4, 2015, 3:31 PM by M Stoltz
  • Associated Press Visits MDRS in Utah
    Remote Utah Outpost Serves as Stand-in for Surface of Mars
    By Brady McCombs, Associated Press, 05.01.15

    HANKSVILLE, Utah (AP) — Four people wearing space helmets and square backpacks emerge from a circular structure resembling a water tank and step onto a reddish, barren landscape.

    One hikes up a hill to take magnetic readings of the ground with a rectangular apparatus that looks like a large leveling tool. Another pushes a wheelbarrow equipped with sensors arrayed in a zig-zag pattern.

    For a group of six Belgian college students, it's just another simulated day on Mars.

    This rocky corner of Utah bears such a resemblance to the red planet that it's become a hot spot for scientists and engineers to run imaginary missions to Earth's neighbor. They've been coming here for more than a decade, hoping their research someday helps put humans on the Martian surface.

    This site and others that allow crews to mimic interplanetary missions are helping to raise buzz about Mars to an all-time high as advancements in science and engineering convince space enthusiasts that the 140-million-mile trip is a realistic possibility in this century.

    The research center is run by the nonprofit Mars Society, an advocacy group that believes getting people to Mars to be the great challenge of our time. The group is not affiliated with NASA or the federal government.

    To read the full article and view the video, please click here.

    Posted May 2, 2015, 7:12 PM by M Stoltz
  • Mars Desert Research Station Crew 153 - Final Mission Report

    The following is the final report of Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Crew 153. A full review of this year's activity at MDRS will be presented at the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention, which will be held August 13-16, 2015 at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC.  

    Final Mission Summary

    Crew 153, Mission to Mars UCL

    We are Crew 153, a team that consists of 6 Belgian students from the UCL, the Catholic University of Louvain. One year ago, we had a dream: having an enjoyable and enriching stay on Mars or rather in the MDRS located in the Utah desert. We postulated and have been chosen a few months ago. And here we are, at the end of April 2015, we’ve completed our dream. What a fantastic experience we live in this small station, both from the relational and scientific points of view.

    The aim of this final report is to develop what we learned during our stay in the MDRS. In the first part of this report, I will try to summarize our organization during the days and how we manage our time to avoid or minimize conflicts within the crew. In the second part, I will focus on the experiments we worked on, the major issues we encountered and the main results we obtained.

    To view the full mission summary, please click here.

    Posted Apr 29, 2015, 5:24 AM by M Stoltz
  • NASA Expert on 3-D Printing, Niki Werkheiser, to Address 2015 Mars Society Convention

    Niki Werkheiser, NASA Project Manager for the In-Space Manufacturing (ISM) Initiative, will speak at the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention,

    August 13-16, at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In this role, Ms. Werkheiser is responsible for developing the technology roadmap and implementation plans which will result in the manufacturing technologies and processes required to enable on-demand, sustainable operations for Exploration Missions to destinations such as Mars. The ISM portfolio includes the 3D Printing in Zero-G Technology Demonstration payload on the International Space Station, which made history by being the first 3D Printer to manufacture parts in space. 

    Previous to this role, Ms. Werkheiser served as the Project Manager for NASA’s Ares Crew Safety and Reliability Office. Ms. Werkheiser spent the majority of her career in NASA’s Space Shuttle and International Space Station Programs Payload Offices where she designed, developed, integrated, and operated multiple NASA payloads. She  works for Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA and is stationed at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.  Ms. Werkheiser’s academic background includes a Master’s degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville with an emphasis in Gravitational and Space Biology, as well as a B.A. in Russian Studies and a B.S. in Biology. 

    For more information about the 2015 Mars Society convention, including registration details and a list of plenary speakers, please click here.

    Posted Apr 26, 2015, 7:40 AM by M Stoltz
  • MDRS Crew 152-B - Final Mission Report
    The following is the final mission report of Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) Crew 152-B. A complete review of this year's activities and research at MDRS
    will be presented at 
    the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention, to be held August 13-16, 2015 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Online registration is now available

    Crew 152-B arrived at MDRS on Saturday, April 4, 2015. We received the handoff from Crew 152A. They oriented us; we settled in and began our Mars simulation on Sunday, April 5, 2015.
    Our crew members are as follows: 
    Liz Painter—Commander
    Melody Flowers—Commander in Training, Astronomer
    David Moran—Executive Officer, Journalist, Health and Safety Officer
    Arwhil St. Thomas—Engineer, Chemist
    Hannah Burgess—Photographer, Biologist
    Crystal Webster—Geologist

    Monday through Friday of our simulation, we followed a daily schedule of breakfast, engineering rounds, EVA, lunch, work on individual projects, dinner, CapCom reports and on various evenings, an astronomy activity.

    Our first day of simulation was spent orientating to the suits, helmets, packs and ATVs. We rode in two directions to view the land for future EVAs that would be beneficial to the crew member’s projects and to take GPS waypoints of these locations.

    To read the full crew report, please click here.

    Posted Apr 24, 2015, 8:15 PM by M Stoltz
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Previous Announcements >>


*Upcoming Events*

18th Annual International 
Mars Society Convention
August 13-16, 2015
Washington D.C.


The Mars Society's One-Year Mars Surface
Simulation Mission in Northern Canada

International Inspiration Mars
Student Design Competition

For final contest results, please click here.

View from MDRS

A crew member exploring the Mars-like
terrain during an EVA near the Mars 
Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah.

A Quote to Remember

"I think NASA should be renamed NAMA. They ought to make [Mars] their one overriding goal and destination."

Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins (discussing the future of the space program)

The Mars Society is an officially registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to responsible and transparent financial management.