The Mars Society seeks to educate the public, media and government about the importance of space exploration and the necessity of a strong and sustainable Mars exploration program, including a humans-to-Mars mission in the coming decade.  To that end, the organization regularly posts various announcements, releases and articles about ongoing Mars exploration and research, as well as Mars Society news and activities.  We welcome any feedback regarding this effort.  Thank you!   

Mars Society Facebook Page Tops 10,000 "Likes"

posted by M Stoltz   [ updated ]

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!

Don't Forget the June 30th Deadline -- 2014 Mars Society Convention Abstract Submission & Early Registration

posted Jun 30, 2014, 7:40 AM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 30, 2014, 7:41 AM ]

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.

Zubrin Challenges Chang Diaz to Debate at Mars Society Convention in Houston

posted Jun 26, 2014, 1:34 PM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 26, 2014, 1:35 PM ]

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
Dear Franklin,
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  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.


NASA Viking Scientist Dr. Gil Levin to Address 2014 Mars Society Convention

posted Jun 24, 2014, 7:58 PM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 24, 2014, 7:59 PM ]

Dr. Gilbert 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. 

As the 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 Red Planet. 

In addition 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 Sample Return. 

Dr. Levin 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: ‘I’m Hopeful That The First People Can Be Taken To Mars in 10, 12 Years’

posted Jun 18, 2014, 9:25 PM by M Stoltz

By Elizabeth Howell
Universe Today, 06.18.14

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.

To read the full article, please click here.

Youth Rover Challenge (YRC) Comes to a Close After Successful Inaugural Year

posted Jun 11, 2014, 7:43 PM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 11, 2014, 7:45 PM ]

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 region. 

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 judging. 

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. 

A report about the 2014 YRC contest will be presented by Mr. McMurray at the 2014 International Mars Society Convention in Houston. To learn more about YRC, please click here. 

NASA Scientist Patricia Craig to Discuss Mars History at Mars Society Convention

posted Jun 5, 2014, 7:37 PM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 5, 2014, 7:39 PM ]

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. 

Winning Student Team of 2014 University Rover Challenge

posted Jun 2, 2014, 10:06 AM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 2, 2014, 10:07 AM ]

Congratulations to Team Hyperion, the student team from the Białystok University of Technology (Poland) that won the 2014 University Rover Challenge in Utah. To learn more about the 2014 URC competition, please click here.

Image: Politechnika Białostocka

University Rover Challenge (URC) Crowns Its First Back-to-Back Champion

posted Jun 1, 2014, 8:29 AM by M Stoltz   [ updated Jun 1, 2014, 8:30 AM ]

From an initial field of 31, 23 rovers from six countries descended upon the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in remote southern Utah for the 2014 University Rover Challenge (URC). Over the course of a grueling three day competition, student teams and their robotic creations had to complete a series of complex tasks in a Mars-like setting, providing a glimpse at the technology that could one day support future astronauts on the Red Planet. 
In the end, Team Hyperion from the Bialystok University of Technology (Poland) walked away with the top spot, earning a total of 368 points (out of 500 possible). The
victory was the second consecutive for the Hyperion team. Their rover impressed judges and left the competition behind, in large part due to its overall reliability which scored high marks in each event.
The Mars Rover Design Team from the Missouri University of Science & Technology (USA) took second place with 342 points, while the Legendary Rover Team from Rzeszow University of Technology (Poland) finished close behind in third place with 338 points.
The BYU Mars Rover Team from Brigham Young University (USA) came in fourth place and also received the first ever Judges’ Award for the Most Innovative Design. This was awarded in recognition of the team’s novel suspension system that utilized custom Kevlar suspension springs.
“Each of the teams on the podium demonstrated remarkable ingenuity, skill and teamwork,” said Kevin Sloan, Director of URC. “Their passion for their work was evident in their rovers and was emblematic of the passion all of the teams had on display this year.”
URC is the world’s premier robotics competition for college students, placing them in a stunning and expansive setting faced with myriad challenges that span multiple fields of study. URC is hosted by the Mars Society, the world’s largest space advocacy group dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the Red Planet, and is sponsored by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE RAS) and the Louis L. Stott Foundation.
URC 2014 had the largest field of student teams of any previous competition, more than doubling last year’s record of ten teams. Through eight years of the event, URC has engaged 100 teams and more than 1,000 students from across the globe. URC was founded on the principle of challenging ambitious students with ambitious goals and providing students with a world class project experience in a unique environment.

NASA SLS Program Manager Todd May to Address 2014 International Mars Society Convention

posted May 27, 2014, 9:32 PM by M Stoltz

Todd May, Manager of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center, will serve as a plenary speaker at the 17th Annual

International Mars Society Convention, August 7-10 in League City, Texas (near NASA’s Johnson Space Center). In this role, Mr. May supervises a nationwide team developing America’s next heavy-lift vehicle for deep-space exploration and science. 

Prior to his work with SLS, Mr. May oversaw or helped manage numerous robotic and human spaceflight efforts, including: The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Lunar Crater Observation Sensing Satellite, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, new propulsion technologies, the International Space Station’s airlock, the Gravity Probe B, and the Discovery and New Frontiers Program Office, which developed low-cost missions to encounter comets and asteroids, return scientific samples from deep space and explore Pluto for the first time. 

Mr. May earned a bachelor’s degree in materials engineering from Auburn University and has completed all coursework for a doctorate in materials science. His many awards include NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal, the Senior Executive Presidential Rank Award, and NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal. He recently accepted the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation’s Stellar Award in recognition of the Space Launch System team’s many accomplishments.

For more details about the 2014 International Mars Society Convention, please click here.

[Image: NASA]

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