Since I was a young child Mars held a special fascination for me. It was so close and yet so faraway. I have never doubted that it once had advanced life and still has remnants of that life now. I am a dedicated member of the Mars Society,Norcal Mars Society National Space Society, Planetary Society, And the SETI Institute. I am a supporter of Explore Mars, Inc. I'm a great admirer of Elon Musk and SpaceX. I have a strong feeling that Space X will send a human to Mars first.
12 Teams Propose Designs for Int'l Gemini Mars Competition
The U.S. human spaceflight space program is currently adrift. It needs a goal, and that goal should be sending human explorers to Mars in our time. In order to help provide such direction and get a serious humans-to-Mars program underway, the Mars Society launched the International Gemini Mars Design Competition in August 2015, which would create a plan for a two-person Mars flyby that could be placed on the desk of the President-elect in November 2016 and completed by the end of his or her second term.
Subsequent to the contest announcement, 19 teams from around the world filed letters of intent to compete. Of these, 12 teams, representing 25 universities from nine countries, including Argentina, Australia, India, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have now filed design reports. To download a complete list of the remaining competitors, please click here.
The Gemini Mars mission has some similarities to the previously proposed Inspiration Mars initiative, but eliminates its principle weakness by avoiding the requirement to use a rarely employed high energy trajectory that imposed excessive technology development, launch capacity and schedule demands on the mission. Instead much easier and more frequently employable low energy trajectories are allowed, with the central goal being to enable a two-person Mars flyby mission that can be launched no later than 2024 as cheaply, safely and simply as possible. All other design variables are open.
The contest was open to teams of engineering students from universities anywhere in the world, with the team offering the best design receiving a $10,000 prize, with awards of $5,000, $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 going to the second, third, fourth, and fifth place contestants, respectively.
The twelve received design proposals will be reviewed by the Mars Society, with a down-select being made to a smaller group of finalists. This final group of competitors will then be invited to present their design proposals in person and in public before a group of judges drawn from NASA, the aerospace industry and the Mars Society at the 19th Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for September 22-25, 2016 at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The winners will be announced at the conference banquet on the evening of Saturday, September 24th.
Commenting on the design contest, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “We are calling this mission Gemini Mars, not just because it will have a crew of two, but because we intend to have it serve to open the way to Mars in the same way that the 1960's Gemini program paved the way to the Moon. This contest will provide an opportunity for young engineers to directly contribute their talent to this breakthrough project to open the space frontier. In addition, it will illustrate what a powerful force space exploration can be in encouraging young people to develop their skills. By doing so, it will help make clear to the political establishment in many countries the vital role that an inspiring space program could play in creating the intellectual capital needed to advance the lives of everyone on our planet. Furthermore, it will show that humans-to-Mars is indeed a challenge of our time; one meant not for the next generation, but for the next administration.”
For further updates about the International Gemini Mars Design Competition and the down-select process, please visitthe Mars Society web site.
Mars Society Veteran Penny Boston Selected as NAI Director
The Mars Society would like to extend its congratulations to Dr. Penelope Boston on her recent selection as the new Director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute (NAI), a California-based body that plays a major role in performing astrobiology research, as well as providing scientific leadership for astrobiology-related space missions.
While a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, [then Ms.] Boston was one of the founders of the Mars Underground and helped organize a series of conferences called ‘The Case for Mars’, both of which served as the inspiration for the eventual establishment of the Mars Society in 1998.
She is recognized as one of the co-founders of the organization and served as a member of the group’s steering committee and board of directors. In addition, Dr. Boston became one of the early researchers at the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) in Canada and the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah. Her long-term support of and commitment to the station crews as a part of the remote science team has paved the way for serious Mars analog research.
“We are very pleased with NASA's decision to have Penny lead its astrobiology institute. Her expertise in extreme environments and the search for extremophiles on Earth has opened many doors for the search for life in our solar system, especially on Mars. We are excited for her taking on this leadership role to forward space exploration and NASA's current program to send humans to the Red Planet,” said Mars Society Executive Director Lucinda Offer.
(CNN) -- By tracking the gravitational pull on spacecraft over Mars, NASA has created one of the most detailed maps yet of the Red Planet's surface, and what lies beneath.
"Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient," Antonio Genova of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said in a statement.
"The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet's gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars."
As well as providing insight for future missions, the gravity map also offers explanations for developments in the planet's past.
"The better resolution of the new map helps interpret how the crust of the planet changed over Mars' history in many regions," Genova said.
Mission to Mars
Interest in the Red Planet is at its highest point in years, with the spectacular success of "The Martian" movie (which was made with NASA cooperation) and the launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter this month.
The ExoMars will seek evidence of methane and other atmospheric gases that could mean there is active biological life on Mars.
Hopes of finding life on the planet were improved substantially last year, when NASA announced the discovery of liquid water on Mars.
"The existence of liquid water, even if it is super salty briny water, gives the possibility that if there's life on Mars, that we have a way to describe how it might survive," John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said at the time.
While current explorations of Mars have been robot and satellite driven, NASA hopes to launch a manned mission to the planet in the near future.
"We are further down the path to sending humans to Mars than at any point in NASA's history," Charles Boden, administrator of the space agency, said in a speech in October last year.
"We have a lot of work to do to get humans to Mars, but we'll get there."
In the short term, this will focus on the development of the Orion capsule and Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket, designed to transport astronauts to deep space destinations. An unmanned test flight of the two components is planned for 2018.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who recently returned to Earth after almost a year in space, was also a key experiment in the viability of future Mars trips. Kelly's extended stay on the International Space Station was designed to test the psychological and physical effects of long-term space travel, as would be required by any journey to Mars.
"If we go to Mars and we land on Mars and we stay on Mars, we can experience Martian gravity and don't have an ultra-long time in microgravity, which I think is helpful," Kelly told CNN's Sanjay Gupta this month.
"I think where we run into issues is flying around Mars and coming back, because then you have guys in space for a year and a half. I wouldn't say you can't but I would say that's pretty significant based on my experience."
The Mars Society, its staff and membership wish to extend their thoughts and prayers with the people of Belgium following today's horrific terror attacks in Brussels.
The two incidents in Belgium hit close to home for part of the Mars Society family, with Crew 166 (Mission to Mars UCL), made up of six Belgian university students, currently stationed at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.
The crew was notified of the attack this morning by MDRS Program Director Shannon Rupert. Commenting on her talk with the Belgian team, Ms. Rupert said, "Our current crew is a group of university students from Belgium. The looks on their faces when I told them their country was under attack will stay with me for a while."
The crew notified MDRS Mission Support later in the day that they would continue with their mission, with one crew member sending the following note: "We are saddened by the terrorist attack in our country, and we are addressing our condolences to all the families of the victims. Despite this attack, we will remain on Mars until the end of our mission."
If you would like to leave a note of condolence for Crew 166 in the coming days, please post a comment on the MDRS Facebook page.
Crew 166 showing solidarity with Belgium while at MDRS