On December 11, 1999 the Mars Society's Board of Directors voted unanimously to pass a new set of by-laws governing the operation of the Society.
The new by-laws established a number of democratic institutions. These include:
- The General Assembly, where any Mars Society member can put forth ideas for action for deliberation by the Society as a whole. The General Assembly customarily takes place at the Society's annual convention in August,
- Chapters, whose leadership is elected by their members,
- A Chapters Council, composed of representatives elected from the Chapters, and
- A Steering Committee, most of whose members are elected by the membership at large.
I. Principles Purpose, Goals, and Creed.
A. Purpose: The purpose of the Mars Society is to further the exploration and settlement of the planet Mars through;
Broad public outreach to instill the vision of pioneering the Red Planet,
Mobilizing support for ever more aggressive government funded Mars exploration programs around the world, and
Conducting Mars exploration on a private basis.
B. Goals: The goals of the Mars Society are to:
Expand knowledge of Mars as rapidly as possible through both robotic and human exploration, and
To establish a permanent human presence on Mars at the earliest possible date.
C. Creed: The Creed of the Mars Society is stated in its Founding Declaration.
Collectively, the purpose, goals, and creed of the Mars Society comprise its principles.
A. Requirements: Anyone can be a member of the Mars Society who supports its principles and projects and who pays the required annual dues.
B. Rights: Members of the Mars Society have the right to participate in Mars Society events, task forces, chapters, and projects, to receive membership benefits, and to vote for candidates for leadership of Mars Society Chapters, Task Forces, the Chapters Council, the Steering Committee, and directly in the General Assembly which takes place at the annual Convention every year.
III. General Assembly
The General Assembly of the Mars Society takes place every year at its annual convention. All members of the Mars Society in good standing are entitled to speak at the General Assembly to propose or comment on initiatives, projects, or campaigns to be undertaken by the Society as a whole.
Chapters are local groups of Mars Society members who have come together to further the principles, campaigns, and projects of the Mars Society in their area. Chapters are formed by the application of an interested individual to the Board, which may choose to designate a person as an initial chapter contact. Once formed, chapters may choose their own leadership by majority vote.
Chapter finances are separate from those of the Mars Society as a whole, and chapters are responsible for them. Chapters may choose to initiate and conduct projects of their own with funds raised locally. All local Mars Society projects should be consistent with the Society's principles. It is expected that 10% of all funds raised by chapters for local projects be passed on the headquarters to support Mars Society general activities.
Local chapters within the United States are expected to take direction for political campaigns from the Steering Committee. Local chapters representing nations outside of the United States may choose to develop political campaigns of their own, consistent with the overall aims and objectives of the Mars Society.
Any chapter or regional grouping of chapters with 10 or more active members can select one person as its delegate to the Chapters Council.
V. Task Forces
Task Forces are groups of Mars Society members drawn together to accomplish some task without regard to regional location. Task Forces may be formed by initiative of the Board, the Steering Committee, the Chapters Council, Individual Chapters, or members at large. Task Forces created by some organized body of Mars Society members may have their leadership appointed by that body, or may be allowed to elect their own leaders. Chapters formed by membership at large may elect their own leadership.
VI. Chapters Council
The Chapters Council is formed by delegates elected by chapters or by Board-designated regional groupings of chapters comprising 10 or more active members. The Chapters Council elects its own chairman. The purpose of the Chapters Council is to adjudicate disputes within and between chapters, to provide a voice for the chapters to the Steering Committee and the Board, to insure propagation of useful experience between chapters, and to make sure that chapters are mobilized to support national or international campaigns and projects initiated by the Steering Committee and the Board.
The Chapters Council shall develop its own regulations for governance of its day-to-day activity, consistent with these by-laws of the organization as a whole. The initial set of such regulations shall be the Provisional Members Council (PMC) Recommendation for Permanent Council By-Laws, presented to the Board on Nov. 14, 1999, with the modification that international chapters shall be included, and that representation shall be based upon one delegate per chapter or regional group of chapters comprising 10 or more members. (Note: The PMC modified the chapters council by-laws to conform with the boards request.)
VII. Steering Committee
The Steering Committee of the Mars Society is charged with the duty of determining the policy, campaigns and projects of the Mars Society.
The Steering Committee or relevant subsections of it shall be consulted by the Board whenever possible on beginning all major Society initiatives, campaigns, or projects.
The Steering Committee will consist of between 24 and 30 people. Up to 26 seats shall be appointed by the Board and 4-10 seats shall be elected at large as follows:
No less than two months prior to the time of the annual convention in odd-numbered years, an announcement (including eligibility, and voting procedure) will be sent out to the membership notifying them of the number of seats on the Steering Committee that are open and any member in good standing (current on dues) may place his/her name in nomination. 5 signatures or equivalent letter or email from current members is required to be placed on the ballot. Members will have 3 weeks to submit their name to the Chair of the Steering Committee for inclusion on the ballot.
Five weeks prior to the time of the annual convention in odd-numbered years an invitation to vote will be sent out to all members in good standing. Each member will be allowed to submit one ballot and vote for no more than 4-10 candidates, depending on the number of seats available on the Steering Committee that year. Ballots must be submitted no later than 2 weeks prior to the annual convention. The 4-10 candidates with the highest number of votes will be deemed the winners and be made members of the Steering Committee for the following two years.
The two year term will begin September 1, in the year of the election and terminate on August 31, 2 years later.
VIII. Board of Directors
The Board of the Mars Society is responsible for the integrity of the organization and its finances. The Board shall consist of more than 3 and no more than 12 people. Membership in the Board is by election of the Board. It shall require a vote of 2/3 of the Board to add or remove anyone from the Board. The Board elects the President of the Society by majority vote on a yearly basis. If it chooses to do so, the Board, by acting within 30 days of any executive decision of the President, can overrule the President.
The Board is responsible for the enforcement of these by-laws, and may amend these by-laws by a 2/3 vote. The Board may, by majority vote and for proper cause, remove anyone from membership in the Steering Committee, Chapters Council, Chapter or Task Force leadership, or in the Mars Society itself. Any Board member can call a Board telecon meeting by requesting one of the President. Ten days notice shall be given all Board members prior to the conduct of such a meeting. The Board may also appoint people to the Steering Committee to fill vacancies that may develop between elections.
The President is a member of the Board, elected by the Board to be the Society's chief executive officer and spokesperson. The President has authority over all spending decisions, including hiring, firing and contracting of services, but may delegate authority in these areas to employees or others as required. The President may act in place of the Board in all matters. However, any presidential decision taken unilaterally is subject to being overruled by the Board should it act to do so within 30 days of the President's action.