We're very pleased to announce that the Mars Society's official Facebook page has just reached *10,000* 'Likes', showing the broad and growing support for our organization's mission to advocate for Mars exploration and humans-to-Mars planning and research.
Thanks to everyone who has visited our page and signed on as a supporter! On to 20,000!
The Mars Society will be convening the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention in League City, Texas (outside Houston near NASA’s Johnson Space Center) on August 7-10, 2014. The four-day event will bring together key experts, scientists, government policymakers and aerospace executives to discuss the latest news on Mars exploration and planning for a humans-to-Mars mission in the coming decade.
Monday, June 30th at 5:00 pm MDT marks the official deadline for two important points of this year's Mars Society Convention: 1) Submitting an abstract for consideration on matters associated with the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, and 2) Signing up for early registration for the convention, which provides a discounted rate for purchasing tickets for the Houston-based conference.
Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin has challenged Ad Astra President & CEO Dr. Franklin Chang Diaz to a debate at the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention, which will be held in Ad Astra’s hometown of Houston, Texas August 7-10, 2014. The proposed debate proposition is: Resolved “Electric Propulsion in an Enabling Technology for Human Mars Exploration,” with Dr. Chang Diaz representing the affirmative side and Dr. Zubrin the negative side.
Commenting on the challenge, Dr. Zubrin said, “This debate is critically necessary. Dr. Chang Diaz has been actively propagandizing an argument combining three claims. First, that cosmic radiation hazards dictate that current day propulsion, which enables six month transits from Earth to Mars, is too slow to enable
human mission to Mars. Second, that therefore much faster forms of interplanetary propulsion are necessary before we dare undertake human Mars exploration missions. Third, that his VASIMR propulsion system would uniquely enable such quick trips.
“In fact, all three of these points are false. First, the roughly 60 Rem cosmic ray dose that would be received by astronauts over the course of a round-trip Mars mission using 6 month transits involves about a 1 percent risk of cancer later in life, and has already been experienced by half a dozen cosmonauts and astronauts who have conducted extended stays on the ISS or Mir without any radiological causalities. Second, it is thus the case that interplanetary transits faster than six months are not necessary or even desirable, because the six month transit to Mars also provides the crew with a two-year free return trajectory, which would be lost if a faster outbound transit were attempted. Therefore if a superior propulsion system, like nuclear thermal rockets, were available that could, in principle, speed up the transit, competent mission planners would use it to increase the payload, and thus the redundancy of mission critical systems, while keeping the transit time the same, as this would do far more to increase both the safety and capability of the mission. Thirdly, it is simply not true that Dr. Chang Diaz’s VASIMR drive or any other electric propulsion system is capable of enabling the quick trips that Dr. Chang Diaz promises. Such claims are based on assuming nuclear electric power systems with 10,000 times the power and 1/100th the mass per unit power as any that have ever been built. In reality, using realistic numbers, electric propulsion systems would require much longer transit times to the Red Planet than what we can already do today.
“So Dr. Chang Diaz’s argument for the critical necessity of his technology is false end-to-end, and simply amounts to a claim that the nation cannot attempt its program unless it funds his program. Furthermore, by making a false argument for the critical role of high power electric propulsion in enabling Mars missions, the Chang Diaz line serves not only as a rationale for avoiding the challenge of Mars, but also provides justification undertaking irrelevant activities, such as the proposed mission to use a large electric propulsion system to tow a 500 ton boulder from interplanetary space into lunar orbit. This exercise threatens to divert NASA’s human spaceflight program from other objectives, thereby delaying human exploration of Mars (or the Moon or the Near Earth asteroids) for another decade, while the taxi meter on the parked human spaceflight program continues to run at a cost of many billions of dollars per year.
“So Dr. Chang Diaz either needs to come forth and publicly defend his assertions or else clearly disavow them. We have challenged him to come and debate twice before at other locations, and he did not appear. Now our conference is being held in his hometown of Houston, so there is no excuse for him not to show up.”
Dr. Zubrin’s challenge was sent to Dr. Chang Diaz on June 13th. In the 13 days since, Dr. Chang Diaz has not replied. According to Dr. Zubrin, if Dr. Chang Diaz does not appear at the Houston convention, he will be forced to accept an empty chair as Dr. Chang Diaz’s representative and conduct the debate on that basis.
Dr. Zubrin’s letter to Dr. Chang Diaz containing the challenge and proposed terms of the debate is presented below.
June 13, 2014
As you probably know, the Mars Society is holding its annual convention this year in Houston, at the South Shore Harbour Resort, not far from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, August 7-10.
I would like to invite you to debate on the following question: "Electric Propulsion is an Enabling Technology for Human Mars Exploration."
I suggest a true formal debate, one on one. You for affirmative, me for negative. Each side would have 20 minutes to present an opening statement, affirmative then negative. This would be followed by a 10 minute rebuttal by each side, affirmative then negative.
The debate would then be opened for 30 minutes of questions from the audience, which could be directed to either panelist, for a one minute answer and then a one minute response from the other.
I believe that this would be an excellent way to bring to light all sides of this issue and the broader challenges facing human Mars exploration in general.
The debate could be on August 7, 8, or 10 during the day or on August 7 or 8 as an evening event.
What do you say? Are you in?
The 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention will be held at the South Shore Harbour Resort, League City, Texas, just outside Houston near the NASA Johnson Space Center, August 7-10, 2014. Online registration is now open. In addition to the Zubrin-Chang Diaz debate, the conference will also feature plenary talks by many prominent speakers, as well as the final face-off competition of the International Inspiration Mars Student Design Contest for proposed designs for a two-person human Mars flyby mission to be conducted in the near future. Those wishing to present papers at the conference should submit 300 word abstracts by 5:00 pm MDT, June 30, 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please note that discount advanced registration for the conference expires June 30, 2014. For further information about the Mars Society, please visit our website.
V. Levin, a former NASA scientist and engineer and Principle Investigator for
the 1976 Mars Viking lander mission’s Labeled Release (LR) life detection experiment,
will give a plenary talk at the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention,
scheduled for August 7-10 in League City, Texas near NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
primary investigator of Viking’s LR experiment, Dr. Levin viewed the
life-detecting test as a success, citing positive results at both Viking
landing sites. A consensus in the scientific community did not, however, accept
the results as proof of life on Mars. After years of additional research, Dr.
Levin concluded in 1997 that the LR experiment had in fact detected life on the
to Dr. Levin’s extensive role in Viking, he was also a Team Member on the
Goddard Space Flight Center’s IRIS Experiment flown aboard Mars Mariner 9 in
1971 to study the atmosphere of Mars. He worked as a member of the Scientific
Instrument Team for NASA’s experiment on the ill-fated Russian ’96 Mars Mission
and serves as a scientific adviser of the International Committee Against Mars
attended John Hopkins University, receiving a B.E. degree in Civil Engineering
in 1947, a M.S. degree in Sanitary Engineering in 1948 and a Ph.D. degree in
Environmental Engineering in 1963. In 1967, Dr. Levin founded Biospherics
Research Inc. (now Spherix Inc.), where he served as President and CEO until
2003 and Chairman of the Board until 2007.
For full details about the 2014 International Mars Society Convention, please click here.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is a hot topic in the media these days. He recently unveiled a manned version of his successful Dragon spacecraft. He’s talking about retrieving the first stage of his Falcon 9 rocket, a feat that has never been accomplished.
Last night (June 18), Musk spoke on CNBC because his company was named #1 to the cable network’s second annual Disrupter 50 list. You can watch portions of the interview here and we’ve isolated the space-related parts below based on the transcript from CNBC (which does not exactly match Musk’s words, but is pretty close.)
And Musk is still a big fan of Mars exploration, as he says in the interview he hopes to see people walk on the planet in 10-12 years.
The Mars Society’s Youth Rover Challenge (YRC), a multi-tier
robotics competition that challenges elementary and high school aged students
to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education by
building a LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 rover and completing a series of
tasks in a home-made
Mars terrain, recently wrapped up a successful inaugural year with
three teams claiming first-place victories in their specific regions.
The Mars Society is pleased to announce the winning participants: The
Cadets, a high school team from Benedictine Military School in Savannah,
Georgia that won first place in the South East Varsity region, The Robohawks,
an elementary school team from Abraham Joshua Heschel Day School in Northridge,
California, which captured the West Junior Varsity region, and The Chaos Terriers, a team
from Litchfield, Michigan which managed to take the North East Junior Varsity
The LEGO rovers being used for YRC are pre-designed to complete
specific experiments similar to what Mars rovers regularly accomplish today on
the surface of the Red Planet. The student contest is operated on-site at
build-it-yourself sandboxes, simulating a rocky Mars-like surface environment, with field tasks being videotaped and forwarded to YRC management for review and
The concept for YRC was created last summer as a precursor to the Mars
Society’s University Rover Challenge held annually in the Utah desert.
Officially announced at the 2013 International Mars Society Convention in
Boulder, YRC organizers reached out to dozens of schools and organizations to
recruit students interested in STEM education.
By January 2014, 22 teams had registered for the new competition. Eventually
only 11 teams were able to successfully acquire the LEGO kits needed to build
the robot model created for the challenge and the sandbox designed to replicate
the surface of Mars. Of these remaining teams, six submitted videos before the
February 2014 deadline.
“On behalf of the Mars Society, I would like to thank all of the
student teams that successfully competed and entered videos for judging in this
year’s competition, as well as the schools and parents that provided support
and funding for these young scientists. We view the inaugural year of YRC as a
great success and look forward to expanding the number of participating teams
in the years to come,” said YRC Director Chuck McMurray.
Dr. Patricia Craig, a research
scientist in NASA’s postdoctoral fellowship program at the Johnson Space Center,
will give a plenary talk about her latest research on the aqueous and geological history of the Red
Planet, at the 17th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for
August 7-10 in League City, Texas (just outside Houston).
Dr. Craig graduated from Florida
Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Space Sciences in 2008. Her
interest in Mars peaked during her internship at the University of Arkansas’
Center for Space & Planetary Science in 2006. She eventually entered the
graduate program there in 2008 and completed her Ph.D. in Space & Planetary
Sciences in 2012.
For more information about the 2014 International Mars Society Convention, including registration details, please click here.