Monthly Meeting this Sunday, June 24


With the last day of June falling on a Saturday, we have an early meeting this month. The next meeting will be on Sunday, June 24, 6:30 PM, Spaghetti Warehouse, in Plano, off of rt 75 and 15th street – same as always!

This is the last meeting before Moon day, so we will discuss the details of our preparations. The rover design is coming along well, and we look forward to hearing the latest from Tom on the preparations there. We are also building a Mars-scape for the rover to go over – this should have a lot of appeal to kids of all ages with our rover eye view remote control.

We will hear an update from Kris on the Mars papers, for which she has been making great progress. And we can give a report on the University Rover Competition, which was a great success and great fun. (stay tuned – we volunteered our group to help out with an event at next year’s URC!)

And of course, we need to plan in earnest for our annual T-shirt sales.

Speaking of getting close on the calendar, the national Mars Society Convention is coming soon – August 3-5 in Pasadena, CA. I hope for a good turnout from our Dallas area (especially for help at the T-shirt table!). Remember that MSL is going to land at 10:31PM local time (give or take) Sunday August 5th, so be sure to consider staying over a day so you can stay and experience the first signals from MSL together. Being right next to JPL just when MSL is landing, the speaker list is, no exaggerating, the best I have ever seen for the convention.

See you next Sunday,


2012 University Rover Challenge


Kris and I came back from helping out with the 6th Mars Society University Rover Competition and it was a great success and a fantastic adventure. It is hard to describe in words just what an experience it was.

Like Mars, the contest, held miles off-road in the desert of Utah, is an isolated location, with harsh weather, including extremes of heat (hot, instead of the cold of Mars), dryness, dust, and high winds (VERY high winds! – we had winds of ~60mph that collapsed our contest tents!). Five teams came from around the world, bringing the fruit of their labors, with many hundreds – thousands – of hours of hard work behind each rover. And they discovered, as real life Mars rovers do, that the harsh environment of the field is not like the lab. Parts that were securely glued together melted apart in the heat. Dust and sand got into parts. Climbing over rocks broke apart carefully designed and painstakingly manufactured suspensions. Cameras and radio links that worked fine in the lab failed in the field. Missing or broken parts had to be fixed overnight with grueling multiple hour trips the the nearest city (which Hanksville does not count as! more like a wide spot in the road…). Rovers suffered vibration and buffeting from the rigors of travel – albeit in the back of a u-haul trailer bouncing down a dirt road instead of on top of a rocket.

Each rover had to weigh in, and perform 4 simple tasks – tasks any human, even in a spacesuit, could do in a few minutes. (Seeing the struggles of the rovers to do this really drove home the advantages of manned exploration over robotics. ) One involved going up to a simple panel, reading the instructions, flipping appropriate switches and taking a voltage level from a solar panel, then cleaning the panel of accumulated dirt, and repeating the process. Simple, right? Only one team managed…..

Remember that the teams operating this rovers do so ‘blind’ – with no line of sight to the rovers, and no visual queues other than the camera feeds from the rover itself. Getting all those coms and devices to work in the desert proved quite a challenge.

Beyond the actual contest, we had an adventure of our own. Kris was selected to be a judge, we got to sleep in the hab (!!), see dinosaur bones being dug out of the ground, visited a fossilized seashell bed, a sunset so incredible I can not describe it except to say ‘doh! we forgot the cameras!’, and drink (eat?) the unforgettable chocolate milkshakes in Hanksville, as well as meeting other dedicated volunteers and professors, viewing a desert sky filled with stars, and seeing the excitement the students had of competing in one of the toughest college contests there is.

We definitely have to go back next year….(we volunteered the group to help out with a new event!)

We’ll have more details (and maybe a slide show) next meeting….


Link to Mars Society Announcement

Minutes for our May 2012 meeting

Seven members attended this May. We had a great meeting which opened with excited and lively discussions of SpaceX successful mission to the International Space Station. Congratulations SpaceX!

Thanks to Tom and Mark for bringing in a new remote control rover and camera. We had a great time experimenting with the rover and planning exhibits with the rover for Moon day and other chapter events.

We also discussed t-shirts for the upcoming Mars Society Convention. Thanks Mark for your creative work on the t-shirt design, it looked great!

We also talked about the university rover competition at MDRS. Kurt and Kris are planning to help out with the competition at MDRS this year.

We also discussed the upcoming Dallas Museum of Nature and Science Discovery days. Curtis mentioned NSS is planning a table at this event.

Last we discussed the AIAA awards banquet on June 7th at the Crowne Plaza. Mr. Ralph Heath is the distinguished speaker for the event. Mr. Heath recently retired from Lockheed as the executive vice president of the Aeronautics Business area.