Steering Committee

Buzz Aldrin

Dr. Buzz Aldrin is one of the first two humans to have walked on the surface of the Moon as part of the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969.  Since retiring from NASA, the U.S. Air Force and his position as Commander of the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Dr. Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in human space exploration. He has also become a key advocate for the humans-to-Mars movement and a respected author on science-related issues.

James Burk
Washington State

James Burk is Executive Director of the Mars Society since December 2021 and is a founding member of the Mars Society, having led our Seattle chapter since 1998.  James was Commander of Transatlantic MDRS Crew 261 in May 2023.  He previously served as our Director of Information Technology since 2011, building and maintaining our online web and social media presences and leading many of our digital initiatives including MarsVR.com and Marspedia.org.

Formerly with Microsoft, James has worked for over 25 years as a software engineer and technical project manager and still consults on those types of projects.  He has been a staunch advocate of humans to Mars and a human return to the Moon throughout his life, and often works professionally as a space advocate for other groups in addition to the Mars Society, most recently with Space Northwest in the Seattle area.

Ilaria Cinelli

Dr. Ilaria Cinelli has a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Pisa (Italy) and a structured Ph.D. in neural engineering from the National University of Ireland Galway (Republic of Ireland). Ilaria has completed the Space Studies Program of the International Space University at TU Delft (The Netherlands), and now she is a post-doctoral researcher at Tufts University, working in collaboration with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), and with the Center of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.  She is also associate Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association, President-Elect of the Aerospace Human Factors Association and Member-at-Large of the Life Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Branch. The Mars Society selected her as crew member of MDRS crews 158, 172, 185, and 196 during which she was assigned of the role of Commander and awarded with the Emerging Space Leader Scholarship.

Jonathan Clarke

Dr. Jonathan Clarke is Director of Field Research with Mars Society Australia. A Canberra-based geologist with experience in the mineral and petroleum industry, academia and government surveys, Dr. Clarke currently works for Geoscience Australia.  He has worked in every state of Australia, mostly in the arid interior. In addition, he has practiced geology in New Zealand, the Philippines and the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, one of the most Mars-like areas on Earth. Dr. Clarke led the Jarntimarra-1 expedition and took part in Expedition One in Utah in 2003 and Expedition Two in Arkaroola in 2004.

Phillippe Clermont

Philippe Clermont, Ph.D. computer science, started as a researcher for French MoD in the 90th, specialized in high performance computing. He created a startup in this field in France, the development of which required relocation to California. He has been then, IT director for a French bank, venture capitalist and then participated to the space strategy of French MoD at DGA. Since 2010, he manages an advisory company dedicated to funding and development of deep-tech startups. Since 2021, he is also vice-president at HyPr Space, a French startup developing innovative hybrid propulsion rocket engines. Philippe has been a passionate of Mars since a teenager, when the first image of a Mars landscape came to earth (Viking 1). He is a member of Association Planete Mars (France’s Mars Society chapter) since 2004, board director since 2017, and president since 2018.

Carie Fay

Carie Fay is the Administrative Director and Treasurer of the Mars Society, and handles our membership logistics, among many other duties. She also works as an Executive Administrator at Pioneer Astronautics, where she is responsible for most of the operations of the company. As a result, she works closely with Dr. Robert Zubrin on both Pioneer and The Mars Society. She has been a lead organizer and volunteer coordinator for our past six conventions, including the 2020 Virtual Convention where she took a more visible role and participated in the interview of Elon Musk. Ms. Fay also edited and designed the cover for Robert Zubrin’s Mars Direct short form volume.

Bishop James Heiser

Bishop James Heiser was ordained into the ministry in 1996 and has actively worked in central Texas since 1998.  In 2006 he was called to serve in his current capacity as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America.  His other responsibilities include holding the office of President of the Center for the Study of Lutheran Orthodoxy and Dean of Missions of The Augustana Ministerium.  A founding member of the Mars Society and a member of the organization’s Board of Directors, Bishop Heiser has presented essays to numerous Mars Society conventions and published a new book in 2010 called Civilization and the New Frontier: Reflections on Virtue and the Settlement of a New World.

Jürgen Herholz

Jürgen Herholz was formerly a senior space engineer and project manager, during which time he focused on European manned space programs, including Spacelab, Eureca, Hermes and Columbus. Prior to that, Mr. Herholz was involved in aircraft and scientific satellite projects, as well as system engineering and contractor management.

Bruce Mackenzie

Bruce Mackenzie is co-founder of the Mars Homestead Project, which aims to start the settlement of space with a Mars base built from local materials.  He originated the concept for brick masonry structures for Mars featured as ”Underhill” in Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Mr. Mackenzie has also worked on orbital transport using tethers , leading to space manufacturing.  As a staff member at Draper Laboratory, he worked on launcher guidance and GPS receivers. He became active in NSS through the Boston L5 Society and is also involved with the SSI, Planetary Society, ISU and MIT – SEDS.

Susan Holden Martin
New Hampshire

Susan Holden Martin is a lifetime member of the Mars Society. She holds an MBA in Human Resources Management with a minor in Leadership and a doctorate in law. A trained mediator, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Community Dispute Settlement Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In addition to her mediation work, Susan teaches business and project management courses at the University of New Hampshire College of Professional Studies and various other colleges, and frequently serves as an aerospace public relations and media consultant.

Within the Mars Society, Susan currently serves on the Steering Committee and, for many years, served as a member of the Mars Desert Research Station’s Management Team. Since 2007, she has held multiple other roles, including EU-Interact Station Manager for the Flashline Mars Arctic Station, Director of Strategic Planning, Director of Public Relations/Media, and founding Editor-in-Chief of The Mars Quarterly, the organization’s former flagship publication. Susan’s passion for space science was inspired by her family’s scientific legacy, including that of her late uncle, Robert Leonard (Lockheed Martin/Hubble Space Telescope), and her great uncle, the late Doyle Northrup, Ph.D. (MIT). Susan can be reached at susanm@marssociety.org.

Anthony Muscatello

Dr. Anthony (“Tony”) Muscatello has over 30 years’ experience in advanced chemical research, most recently in ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization) for Mars exploration.  He is a former Los Alamos National Laboratory staff member and worked for Rockwell International before that. At Pioneer Astronautics, Dr. Muscatello served as a member of teams working on the Mars Methanol In-Situ Propellant Production (MMISPP), Mars Aromatics, Hydrocarbon, and Olefin Synthesis System (MAHOSS), Nitrous Oxide Based Oxygen Supply System (NOBOSS), and the Carbon Monoxide Metal Oxide Reduction System (COMORS) (oxygen extraction from lunar and martian regolith) research projects.  He was Principal Investigator on the NASA Phase II SBIR Methane to Aromatics on Mars (METAMARS) project.  Dr. Muscatello joined NASA in the fall of 2007 and is continuing his work in ISRU in the RESOLVE project, which is designed to locate water on the Moon.  He is also a founding member of the Mars Society and coordinated Mars Analog research Mission Support from 2000 to 2007.

Kent Nebergall (Chairperson)

Kent Nebergall became involved with the Mars Society in 2004, when he won the Mars Society’s Kepler Prize to design the Mars Direct Earth Return Vehicle.  He has given several convention tract talks each year ever since, focusing on new inventions for space settlement, along with gaining a systematic and historical understanding the human need and ability to do so. Kent is a business analyst in the Chicago suburbs, where he’s worked in over 20 industries.  He is also a volunteer speaker for NASA, the Mars Society, and several other space advocacy groups.  Kent served as astronomer for MDRS Crew 32, commander of Crew 124, and has helped with the new MDRS greenhouse project.

Lucinda Offer
United Kingdom

Lucinda Offer is a life-time member of the Mars Society and has been familiar with Dr. Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan since NASA’s adaption in 1989.  She began her activist role on the Political Task Force raising awareness within the organization.  As a member of the political web team and a regional coordinator for the east coast, Ms. Offer helped members write and meet with their local representatives.  She continued her advocacy in 2004 at the first Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) Blitz for the Moon, Mars and Beyond Initiative in Washington DC.  Since then, she has participated in and led four lobbying efforts, her last being in July of 2009.  Shortly after her first SEA Blitz, she was appointed to the Mars Society’s Steering Committee and asked to serve as Director of Public Relations.  In 2006, she earned her teaching credentials in Geoscience and served as a secondary education teacher in San Jose, California.  Then in November 2009, she accepted the position of Executive Director for the Mars Society.  Her goal for the organization was to set the course for Mars through collaboration, outreach events and digital branding.

She became a NASA Associate at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA with Dr. Chris McKay as her Supervisor at the Space and Earth Science Laboratory.  She supported teachers as part of the NASA Spaceward Bound Team through four international field expeditions to the Mojave, U.A.E., Australia and New Zealand.  During a temporary hiatus with the Mars Society in June 2012, she served as a senior staff member for International Development until re-assuming the role of Executive Director in August 2015 until December 2021.  She lives in and works from Oxfordshire, England and concurrently serves as the Geophysics Lead, Education and Outreach Officer for the Royal Astronomical Society in London.

Joseph E. Palaia IV

Joe Palaia is an entrepreneur and an engineer with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering. He is Vice President of the 4Frontiers Corporation and Manager of NewSpace Center, LLC, has served in lead roles in two comprehensive Mars settlement design efforts and has co-authored technical papers on the topics of Mars surface nuclear power plant design, Mars settlement architecture, space economics and the economics of energy on Mars. He served as executive officer and engineer for the Mars Society’s 2009 FMARS expedition and has been appointed the Field Season Director and Crew Commander for the next FMARS expedition.

Kay Radzik

Kay Radzik was born in Japan and is an Architect from Reno, Nevada. She is a member of American Institute of Architects, the Mars Society, and the Planetary Society; is a regular judge in the yearly International University Rover Challenge; and is on the Management Team of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) located in the middle of the Utah desert. She has long been an advocate of human settlement on Mars and is currently a Round 3 Candidate with Mars One – one of the “Mars 100”. Kay feels that sending humans to Mars is a phenomenal undertaking by all standards and presents very real risks and challenges, and her goal is to make this everyone’s mission.

Victor Román

Victor Román is a journalist and science communicator. He has been writing for more than 5 years about space, innovation, technology and its impact on society, and about science in general. His articles have appeared in digital media in the United States, Spain and Latin America. Victor is the current President of the Peruvian Association of Journalists and Science Communicators (APCiencia), an organization he founded together with a group of Peruvian science communicators. He is also the presenter of the TV program “Hackeando la Ciencia” in Perú.

Shannon Rupert

Dr. Shannon Rupert is an ecologist with two decades of experience in Mars Analog studies. Formerly a professor of biology and environmental science, she is currently director at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. She is an expert in planetary mission simulations and field exploration. Her current research includes the microbial ecology of planetary analogs and the patterns of chemical signatures in dinosaur bone of the Morrison Formation. She is a collaborator on many other science investigations. Shannon holds a Ph.D. in Biology (social ecology of acequias) from the University of New Mexico, a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences (plant ecology) from California State University, San Marcos, a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from the University of California, San Diego, and an Associate’s degree in Biology from San Diego Miramar College.

Peter H. Smith

Dr. Peter Smith is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tuscon.  He also works as Project Manager and co-Principal Investigator of the HiRISE high resolution telescope that is currently orbiting Mars and sending back detailed photographs of the Martian surface.  He was also the Principal Investigator for NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft, which successfully landed on Mars’ northern polar region in 2008.

Michael Stoltz

Michael Stoltz serves as the Mars Society’s Director of Media & Public Relations, which includes supervising media visits to the organization’s two analog stations (MDRS & FMARS) and the group’s social media outreach. He has a professional background in non-profit fundraising, communications, strategic planning, and government relations.

While living in Israel for 14 years, Michael served as a communications aide in the Israeli Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office and was also involved in global resource development for one of Israel’s largest public colleges. In addition, he represented the Mars Society in Israel for a number of years.

Based in the Chicago area, Michael is a long-time advocate of human Mars exploration, has a deep interest in astrobiology, interstellar travel, and the search for exo-planets, and is one of the co-founders of Mars Society Chicago. He has a B.A. degree in History from Creighton University and a M.A. degree in Near Eastern Studies from New York University.

Edward Barrington Stott

Attributing his life-long fascination with the cosmos to an early avidity for science fiction, Barry Stott founded the Rocket Society at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire before going on to Yale, then doing his Masters in Communications at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Soloing at 16, Mr. Stott has been a pilot for more than fifty years, and in addition to owning several aircraft charter firms, he has founded a variety of small high-tech companies, including Trash Engineering and Stellar Door.  He is a lifetime member of the Mars Society and, through his family foundation, has been a significant financial contributor to a variety of Mars Society programs.

Chris Vancil
Washington State

Chris Vancil is a founder and co-organizer of Mars Society Seattle and is also a founding member of the Mars Society.  In addition he has been a strong advocate for the robotic and human exploration of the planet Mars from the days of NASA’s Viking landers in the mid-1970s.

Nicole Willett

Nicole Willett is an educator who holds a BS in Biology and a Graduate Certificate in Astronomy. She served as Mars Society Education Director from 2012-20 and has been a long-time advocate of humans to Mars since reading the November 1988 National Geographic article entitled, Mission to Mars.  Soon after she discovered Dr. Robert Zubrin’s work on Mars Direct. Since then, Nicole has worked tirelessly to promote science and space education. Throughout her career she has been involved in outreach such as, implementing humans to Mars projects in schools, worldwide Mars educational classes, maintaining the Mars Society’s educational website, writing regular articles for the Mars Society’s blog, The Red Planet Pen, and contributing articles to many online magazines.

Robert Zubrin

Dr. Robert Zubrin is the founder and President of the Mars Society, as well as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.  He is also President of Pioneer Astronautics, an aerospace R&D company located in Lakewood, Colorado.  Formerly a Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, he holds a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington.  A respected author and a renown expert on Mars and human space travel, Dr. Zubrin has testified in recent years before several congressional committees and in 2009 spoke in front of the Augustine Commission on the future of America’s human space flight program.