January Minutes

There were 7 members in attendance at the meeting.

Kurt reported that the Mars Science Laboratory planned for launch this year has been rescheduled to 2011 due to technical issues. More on the rover and the change in launch date: JPL NASA

The group also discussed NASA’s announcement on January 15th, 2009 of the determination of the existence of methane in Mars’s atmosphere. The press release can be found at UTA’s website. –Dr. Tyson’s website– The Dallas Mars society is planning to set up a table at this event. Mark and Kurt and are creating flyers to hand out at the table.


The Dallas Mars Society is working jointly with the National Space Society (NSS) Dallas chapter to build a walk-in space station with a gallery of exhibits in the library of a local middle school. The space station will be open to the students during one week in March. Construction of the space station began on January 24th. Construction of the space station will continue on Sat Feb 7th with final construction to occur in March. The school is expecting to reuse and expand on the space station in coming years. The school is expecting to loan out the space station to other schools throughout the year. NSS has made arrangements for Marianne Dyson, award-winning author and former NASA flight controller, to speak to the students during the space station’s opening week in March.

The Dallas Mars Society is also contributing as members of the technical team supporting the Tethered Experiment for Mars interplanetary Operations Cubed (TEMPO^3) project. A description of the project can be found on the Mars Society webpage at TEMPO3. The purpose of the TEMPO^3 mission is to demonstrate the generation of artificial gravity using a CubeSat satellite. The technical team is planning to develop the preliminary design by end of February. A design review is expected to be held in March. The technical team is still open for volunteers. If you would like to participate, please contact Kurt Chankaya for more info.


On Thursday, January 15, 2009, NASA announced that a team led by Dr. Michael Mumma of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has conclusively determined the existence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. This discovery could have far reaching implications concerning our understanding of Mars and possibly the nature of life in the universe. Because methane cannot remain in the Martian atmosphere for a long duration of time, methane must be continually replenished. This likely means that Mars either has yet to be discovered volcanic activity or it harbors life below its surface.

In a NASA press release, Dr. Mumma stated “…we do not have enough information to tell whether biology or geology — or both — is producing the methane on Mars, but it does tell us the planet is still alive, at least in a geologic sense. It is as if Mars is challenging us, saying, ‘hey, find out what this means.’ ”

“This discovery is significant whether it is biological or geological in nature,” said Chris Carberry, the Executive Director of The Mars Society. “While we have been building up a significant amount of evidence that Mars is not a dead planet, this evidence strongly supports that theory. The Mars Society sends our wholehearted congratulations to Dr. Mumma and his team for this truly historic discovery.”

“This discovery is of extraordinary importance,” said Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin. “NASA has either found life, or it has found a hydrothermal system which could well support life. It shows that Mars is warm and wet underground, and a place where life could not only have originated in the past, but still persist today. If we are going to know the truth about the place of life in the universe – a question that has held the attention of thinking men and women for centuries- we need to send human explorers to Mars to see what is there.

“The Obama administration is trying to develop a program to stimulate the economy. What better way to do it than by launching another Apollo program, mobilizing the nation’s talent and industry to reach for Mars in the quest for truth.”