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

News & Announcements

  • Mars One to Debate MIT Critics at Mars Society Convention
    The Mars Society is pleased to announce that a formal debate will be held at its 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. August 13-16, 2015 on the proposition: “Is Mars One Feasible?”
    Leading the affirmative team will be Mars One President Bas Lansdorp. The negative proposition will be argued by Sydney Do and Andrew Owens, two
    members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology team that 
    published a headline-making critique of the Mars One plan late last year.
    At a public event on the evening of Thursday, August 13th, the two sides will have it out. The debate will begin with the negative team speaking for 20 minutes, followed by the affirmative team for 20 minutes. Then each side will have 10 minutes for rebuttal, after which there will be 30 minutes for questions from the audience, which may be directed to either side for a two minute answer, to be rebutted by the other with equal time.
    Is Mars One feasible? Come and hear both sides and decide for yourself!

    Call for Papers/Early Registration
    There will be dozens of speakers at the 2015 Mars Society conference. If you would like to be one of them, please send an abstract of no more than 300 words to The deadline for abstracts is June 30th at 5:00 pm MDT. Talks on all matters (science, engineering, politics, economics, public policy, etc.) associated with the exploration and settlement of Mars will be considered. 
    Registration for the 2015 conference is available at Discount early registration ends (today) June 30th at 5:00 pm MDT, so register now!
    Posted Jun 30, 2015, 7:56 AM by M Stoltz
  • ONE DAY LEFT for Early Registration & Abstract Submission for Mars Society Convention
    The Mars Society will be holding the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention on August 13-16, 2015 at the Catholic University of America in
    Washington, D.C. Dozens of leading scientists, policymakers, journalists and space advocates will be discussing the latest news about Mars exploration and the planning for a human mission to the Red Planet.
    Those interested in attending should take advantage of the EARLY REGISTRATION TICKET DISCOUNT available until Tuesday, June 30th at 5:00 pm MDT and sign up to attend the Mars Society convention this summer. Online registration is available at 
    the Mars Society web site. There are special rates for Mars Society members. In many cases, you can save money by joining our organization today.
    In addition, Tuesday, June 30th is also the DEADLINE FOR SUBMITTING ABSTRACT PAPERS for consideration for the 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. For full details, please 
    click here.

    Learn more about Mars and ongoing efforts to encourage human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet by joining us this August in Washington, D.C.!

    Posted Jun 29, 2015, 1:53 PM by M Stoltz
  • NASA Researcher to Speak about Martian Surface Chemistry at 2015 Mars Society Convention

    Dr. Jennifer Stern, a NASA space scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, will give a plenary talk about the chemical make-up of the Martian

    surface and the potential for life on the Red Planet at the 18th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for August 13-16, 2015 at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. 

    Dr. Stern specializes in the study of the atmosphere and surface of Mars and instrument development for geo-chemical measurements on planetary surfaces. She is a member of the science team for the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Rover Curiosity and also a team member on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite, one of the 10 instruments on Curiosity, which uses mass and laser spectrometry to measure the chemical composition of the Red Planet’s atmosphere and surface. 

    Dr. Stern has a B.A. in Geology-Biology from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from Florida State University, where she developed analytical techniques for isotope and trace metal analysis of environmental waters in order to trace the impacts of agriculture in the Florida Everglades and methane emissions from landfills. She decided to apply her interest in geochemistry to astrobiology as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Goddard Space Flight Center, where she studied how organic molecules can be formed by non-biological processes occurring in meteorites and at hydro-thermal vents. 

    Today, in parallel with her participation on the Curiosity team conducting experiments on Mars, Dr. Stern participates in field expeditions to places where geo-chemical processes similar to those that may have occurred on Mars are recorded in Earth’s rock record, such as Greenland, Svalbard and southern Mexico. 

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

    Posted Jun 24, 2015, 6:25 PM by M Stoltz
  • What Does the Mars Society Do?
    By Nicole Willett
    Red Planet Pen Blog, Issue #33

    The latest episode of Neil DeGrasse-Tyson’s Star Talk, featuring, Bill Nye, President of The Planetary Society, Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, and
    Astrophysicist, Dr. Michael Shara, was chock full of great information and insight.  While watching, my heart ached for our civilization to understand the importance of a manned mission to Mars.  Charles Bolden stated NASA’s plan is to be on Mars around 2030 with the current budget of half of one percent of the US budget, we believe with more resources and cooperation from various countries and private organizations we could be on Mars sooner and possibly cheaper.  A major reason for needing a human touch on Mars is for exactly what Bill Nye stated which is that a human scientist could do in one minute the job that a robot does in a week, it’s about a ratio of 1:10,000.  The problem was stated clearly by Dr. Michael Shara, “Frankly, we are not as brave as we should be.” These statements are extraordinarily important to be shared with the public.  We are 
    not as brave or as curious as we should be. Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of The Mars Society and one of the bravest men I have ever known, says we could be on Mars in ten years with the proper funding.

    Aren’t you curious? Is curiosity lost to our civilization for the most part?  Some days I think it is.  I often get asked this question, “What does The Mars Society do?”  This question sometimes frustratingly comes from a place of condescension and rarely a place of curiosity.  I have to remind myself that the work we are doing here is to take humans to another planet, an event that would change human history and that most people unfortunately have no concept of why it is so important. The short answer is:  We are an advocacy group to promote the human exploration and settlement of Mars.  Our goal is to educate the public through our Education Department, bring like-minded people together at chapter meetings and our annual conventions, and promote a human mission to Mars via projects and competitions.  Sounds simple right?  Well, not really. You see, people really like the societal pleasures of who is who, who is wearing who, what team are you for, what kind of car do you drive, what do you do for a living???? On and on this goes.  Meanwhile, billions of people are left uninformed of what is really important: Curiosity, knowledge, and exploration.  Instilling curiosity, providing access to true knowledge of scientific facts, and the goal of Mars exploration by humans, is an important part of what we are trying to accomplish.

    To read the full blog, please click here.
    [Image: NASA]
    Posted Jun 19, 2015, 12:13 AM by M Stoltz
  • NASA Scientist to Give Update on Mars 2020 Rover at 2015 Mars Society Convention in Washington, D.C.
    Dr. Deborah Bass, Deputy Project Scientist for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, will discuss the planned exploration mission at the 18th Annual International Mars
    Society Convention, scheduled for August 13-16, 2015 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
    Dr. Bass also serves as Section Manager for Mission Systems Engineering at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where she and her team focus on making spacecraft, software and processes easier to operate. In addition, she has conducted independent research on the Martian water cycle, focusing on surface-atmosphere interactions.
    While a post-doc at the Southwest Research Institute (in San Antonio), Dr. Bass was involved with the ill-fated Mars Polar Lander and also the highly successful Cassini mission. When Dr. Bass joined JPL in 2001, she acted as the Science Operations System Engineer and later Deputy Science Team Chief for the Mars Exploration Rovers Mission. After MERs’ primary missions, Dr. Bass moved to the Phoenix Mars Lander Project where she was appointed Deputy Project Scientist. 
    Dr. Bass received her bachelor's degree in Geology from the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D. in Planetary Geology from UCLA.

    For more information about the 2015 International Mars Society Convention, including registration details, sponsorship opportunities and a list of confirmed plenary speakers and panelists, please click here.
    Posted Jun 13, 2015, 5:58 AM by M Stoltz
  • MDRS Research in Utah Leads to Vast Dinosaur Fossil Find
    Mars Society Announcement, 06.05.15

    The Mars Society learned last week that the dinosaur fossil discovery made by the organization in Lith Canyon during Mars Desert Research
    Station (MDRS) Crew 1 in 2002 and amplified by further data gathered from subsequent crews by MDRS Director Shannon Rupert, has, upon investigation by professional paleontologists, now led to one of the largest dinosaur fossil finds in history. Huge quantities of fossils of Jurassic dinosaurs, including Apatosaurus (aka Brontosaurus), Diplodocus, Allosaurus and many other species have been unearthed in the area. According to Dr. Scott Williams of the Burpee Museum of Natural History, who is leading the dig, the find is "as significant as Dinosaur National Monument."

    The initial discovery was made on February 9, 2002, by an EVA team consisting of Dr. Robert Zubrin, Jennifer Heldmann, Heather Chluda and Steve McDaniel on the MDRS Crew 1’s first long distance motorized exploratory excursion. The team had traveled several kilometers north of the MDRS hab, making a number of stops. Dr. Zubrin’s log book for the day, published that same evening, says what happened next.

    “We continued north another 2.5 kilometers and came to a hill too steep for the ATVs. I decided to climb it, though, to get the view of the region to the west. We hiked up and were rewarded not merely with an impressive view, but with the sight of a fair-sized canyon and a passable ATV route to get there.

    So to the canyon we went. This was a wonderful place, with a steep little gorge that exposed millions of years of banded sediments to easy view. I climbed
    around the rim and had a 
    Eureka moment when I found some bits of petrified wood. These however were made irrelevant within minutes by Heather who found a small mountain made of the stuff – in several varieties no less. But then I found something which really made my day – a bone of stone. It’s the size of a coffee mug, and the indentation for the joint is clearly visible. The material I found it in was Jurassic, so my guess is that it’s a dinosaur.”

    The crew also discovered endolithic microorganisms in the canyon and therefore named it “Lith Canyon.”

    Under the leadership of Ms. Rupert, the MDRS Remote Science team has been recording GPS coordinates of additional fossil finds by MDRS crews on subsequent EVAs and forwarding them to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for distribution to the scientific community for several years. Starting in the fall, this activity will become more systematic, with direct coordination of MDRS field exploration and reportage with Dr. Williams and his group to insure proper follow up of all discoveries.

    While we do not expect to find dinosaur fossils on Mars, the search for fossils left behind by simpler organisms, such as stromatolites, which may have evolved and lived on the surface during the Red Planet’s early warm and wet history, will be a critical part of the science program of the first human missions to Mars. Thus the MDRS field paleontological exploration effort will serve both as a direct analog to learn how to explore on Mars, while playing a significant role in furthering important scientific research on Earth.

    Commenting on the development, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said; “This discovery really shows how important it is to send human explorers to Mars. We traveled out 5 kilometers that day, a distance that it took the MER rovers several years to traverse, climbed a hill that no rover could climb to obtain a view that allowed us to discover the canyon, then made a spontaneous un-rover-committee-like decision to go into the canyon, then climbed down a descent
    into it that no rover could manage, and then explored the canyon, using perceptive and intuitive abilities natural to humans but far beyond the capacities of any robotic rover to discover both endoliths and dinosaur fossils. You could have landed scores of rovers in that desert and never made either of those discoveries. Furthermore, now that professional paleontologists are on the scene, those finds are being followed up in a way that is light years beyond the capabilities tele-operated rovers.

    “It was great for me to revisit Lith Canyon, seeing the wild scene of our first exploration now being worked over by a paleontological camp. In 20 or 30 years, it will probably look like Dinosaur National Monument, complete with visitor center, souvenir shop, and cafeteria. I can imagine the same succession occurring on Mars. First an astronaut on an early expedition will make and mark a suspected find. Then teams of professional paleontologists and geologists from a Mars base established nearby will come and work the site over, making dramatic discoveries that will change our understanding of the potential prevalence and diversity of life in the universe. Then, the day will come when the place is turned into an exhibit, and Martian kids from New Plymouth will come out on classroom field trips to gawk at the displays in the visitor center of Stromatolite National Park, while some of the teenagers slink off to make out in the broom closet. Life goes on.

    “Bully for Brontosaurus!”

    [Images: Upper right: Dr. R.Zubrin with dinosaur fossil during EVA in 2002, Center left: Two MDRS crew members in Lith Canyon. Lower right: Two MDRS explorers climbing up into Lith Canyon.]
    Posted Jun 5, 2015, 12:54 PM by M Stoltz
  • Polish, American Teams Lead the Field at 2015 University Rover Challenge

    The 2015 University Rover Challenge (URC) concluded Saturday at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah with the excitement that accompanies more than 200 students and nearly two dozen rovers.  After competing in four rover operations tasks and a presentation task, the podium was rounded out by two Polish teams and an American team.  The prestigious URC title left in the hands of the Legendary Rover Team from Rzeszow University of Technology in Poland, who scored an impressive 460 points (out of 500).

    BYU Mars Rover from Brigham Young University (USA) captured second place with 371 points, and Project Scorpio from Wroclaw University of Technology (Poland) finished in third place with 364 points.  Polish and American teams captured the top six spots, and eight of the top ten.

    Now in its ninth year, URC has seen tremendous growth in participation.  A record 44 teams began this journey last December.  After a two-stage down-selection process, 23 teams were invited to the URC Finals in Utah at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS).  Teams are tasked with designing and building the next generation of Mars Rovers that could one day support astronauts exploring the surface of Mars.

    To read the full URC report, please click here.

    [Image: Winners of 2015 URC]

    Posted Jun 3, 2015, 8:37 AM 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.

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.