it is a new year, and time to start a new cycle of meetings!
The meeting is on Sunday, Jan 28th at 6PM, at Norma’s Cafe in Plano, near Rt. 75 and 15th street.
We have a new year of activities, including the upcoming Dallas Science Fair judging, and longer term planning for Moon Day, and of course, URC.
This is in many way, will be a year of transitions. I wanted to pass on a thought I had:
We noted with sadness the passing of John Young, Apollo 16 moon walker, on Jan 5 of this year. This leaves only 5 moon walkers left (Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11, Alan Bean of Apollo 12, Dave Scott of Apollo 15, Charlie Duke of Apollo 16, and Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17), less than half the original 12, and now no crew has both Moon walkers left. John Young also orbited the moon in Apollo 10, meaning that with his passing there are only two of the three original ‘double moon shot’ astronauts. What this means is that the Apollo generation, the one that inspired so many (including me) and left such giant footsteps to follow, is fading into history.
Replacing them is a new generation of explorers, progressing forwards without the huge scrutiny, public fascination, or giant (and fickle) government budgets, but whose progress and impact promises to be a steadier, more lasting one. The same month that John Young passes looks to be the first engine test, and very soon after that, the first launch, of the Falcon Heavy.
The largest rocket in terms of payload since the Saturn V, its launch will herald an era where the US has the heavy lift capability needed for manned space exploration. Only, totally unlike the Saturn V, the Falcon 9 Heavy is a privately funded rocket, developed in a fraction of the time, cost, and manpower of its historical ancestor. Behind it is the New Glenn and New Shepherd from Blue Origin, and the NASA SLS. The first deep space mission for the Falcon 9 Heavy is already booked – a manned mission to fly by the moon, paid for by private individuals. Blue Origin’s New Shepherd looks to be ready for manned test flights in a year or two, and SpaceX and Boeing look ready to put astronauts back into space with American hardware by 2019. A small New Zealand company, Rocket Lab, just put their first rocket into orbit In other words, space exploration is shifting to many private firms that will soon make space travel far more numerous and cheaper than the giant government programs of before could ever make possible.
It may not seem like it today, but I think we are on the cusp of a new age of space exploration, bigger and faster than the Apollo that awed me as a child.
We are wrapping up 2017, and looking forward to a new 2018. After many years of relatively slow progress in Space exploration, I feel that the wheels of progress are beginning to turn faster.
Looking back, we have two rovers still working on Mars (Opportunity and Curiosity), we had Cassini’s dramatic end to an incredible mission, and ongoing discoveries from Jupiter, and even beyond the solar system with Voyager.
SpaceX has increased its operational tempo to the point that the launching and recovering – and even re-using – of rockets has become almost routine – including a launch to the ISS of a recycled dragon capsule. Both Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin did more test flights of their tourist sub orbital rockets. The SLS continues development, and mission plans for more deep space missions are in the final evaluation stages at NASA. We have a new national Space Council established in 2017, and a new NASA administrator (maybe… he’s still awaiting confirmation) – Rep Bridenstine. While he holds views on Global Warming that are controversial, he is a strong proponent of private space initiatives and is considered friendly to the cause of deep space exploration. Lastly, we had an official announcement from the White House that the US will have a goal of manned deep space exploration by returning to the Moon. While this is not Mars direct, it is more progress than endlessly circling the Earth.
Looking forward, 2018 looks to be a watershed year with the (finally!) launch of the Falcon 9 Heavy, the largest lift capacity since the Saturn V, possibly in January. A crewed dragon is expected to launch to the ISS in 2018, bringing the US back to being able to launch our own astronauts into space rather than relying on the Russians. Scheduled for the fourth quarter (so it could slide into 2019) is a flight by two private individuals to fly by the moon. This is an interesting development where private funding is enabling a dramatically more rapid, and cheaper, approach to space exploration than a traditional government contracting approach, or even commercial contracting by the government. As launch costs continue to drop dramatically, will private enterprise overtake government agencies as the primary explorers of deep space?
In the Mars Society and our local chapter, we’ve seen this growing excitement. As public interest in Mars and space exploration increases local museums have invited us to 4 local events, versus the two in 2016. Our relationship with the Frontiers of Flight museum has deepened, and we were invited for the first time by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. We continued our judging at the Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair, and we were invited by the NSS to speak at the Texas Regional Space Development Conference. All of these were exciting events, and we appreciate our local partners in the community for giving us these opportunities. I also want to thank all of our members who volunteered their time and effort that made these events happen.
While we were homeless for much of 2017 as our old haunt at the Spaghetti Warehouse closed, we found a new home right next door at Norma’s.
Nationally, we had another great conference in Los Angeles, with increasing attendance and an increasing number of small businesses showing interest in the convention and Mars and Space exploration. I enjoyed presenting two presentations at the convention, and there were a lot of dynamic talks and side discussions.
Last, but not least, the University Rover Challenge continues to grow, with a record breaking 2017 year, and now over 90 teams applying for 2018. We need more volunteers!.
This coming year is going to be even more exciting than the last!
We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America’s story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time. Getting to Mars will require continued cooperation between government and private innovators, and we’re already well on our way. Within the next two years, private companies will for the first time send astronauts to the International Space Station.
The next step is to reach beyond the bounds of Earth’s orbit. I’m excited to announce that we are working with our commercial partners to build new habitats that can sustain and transport astronauts on long-duration missions in deep space. These missions will teach us how humans can live far from Earth — something we’ll need for the long journey to Mars.
Moreover, the President announced the intention to work with commercial partners in order to develop key components. The Dallas Mars Society is excited and proud to hear the President actively encouraging the goals most important to our organization.
Below is some additional information on the announcement and Mars.
* The Dallas Mars Society does not endorse any political candidate or party.
I was thrilled to see the following notice in the AIAA (American institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics daily news summary for September 13:
Clinton: I Support Human Exploration Of Mars.
Space News (9/13, Subscription Publication) reports that “in a response to a questionnaire on science policy topics released Sept. 13 by ScienceDebate.org,” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said that she supports a manned mission to Mars, and quotes Clinton as saying, “A goal of my administration will be to…advance our ability to make human exploration of Mars a reality.” Space News notes that Clinton “broadly endorsed” NASA’s efforts, and said she would ensure NASA “has the leadership, funding and operational flexibility” to work with industry. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “did not formally support a human Mars exploration program” in his response, but said that the federal government “should encourage innovation in the areas of space exploration.”
While the Mars Society is a non-partisan organization, the fact that a major party candidate is explicitly talking about sending humans to Mars is not only exciting in and of itself, but a sea change from the situation only a few years ago. As recently as a couple of election cycles back a Mars Society member got to ask the presidential candidates of one party during the primary season about sending humans to Mars and it was dismissed as a crank question. Our older members may remember a time back in the 70’s when a leading senator (who later became Vice President) led the charge to cancel the human space program in its entirety by cancelling the Space Shuttle, calling it a ‘senseless extravagance’. Now a vigorous space program and sending humans to Mars is becoming bi-partisan national policy. Politicians as odd a set of bedfellows as Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have both advocated more spending on space exploration. While we are not there yet – the distance we have come is incredible. In no small part this change is due to the dedicated activities of the Mars Society and our like minded sister organizations – that means all of us. I look forward to the future.
Looking back, 2015 was an incredible year for Space and Mars. I think that one day people will look back at the current time in the 2010’s as exciting for Space as the 1960’s – but this time the development is deliberate and for the long haul. Heavy lift launchers (yes, plural) are being developed, manned spacecraft (also plural) are nearing flight, re-usable boosters (also plural) were launched and recovered, and discoveries were made across the solar system from Mars to Pluto.
SpaceX went from a loss to an incredible return to flight, all within a span of 6 months, ending with a historic return to base of a perfectly re-usable first stage. I think this is the space travel equivalent of the computer chip and the steamship in terms of cost reduction – an innovation that will change the economics of space flight from the realm of government programs to ordinary commerce.
I’ve been in the aerospace business for decades and seen many ideas of recoverable boosters come and go, and listened to how SpaceX’s ideas were “clever PowerPoint presentations that couldn’t be done” – but there it is sitting quietly on back on the pad in Florida! Unlike previous attempts at re-usability, such as the Space Shuttle, that required fleets of ships and armies of technicians to virtually rebuild the craft – and the engines – after each flight, the Falcon 9 booster was reportedly ready to fuel up and go again. This could get interesting.
NASA demonstrated what they do better than anyone – jaw dropping execution of deep space exploration – with flybys of both Ceres and Pluto – both dethroned planets. (Ceres used to be the ninth planet in old 19th century school books before Pluto was discovered). Pluto was amazingly complex for a “frozen world”, and the data gathered during the brief New Horizons flyby will take months to download.
And then in an unexpected turn, Congress even gave NASA $1.3 billion more than requested, to a total of $19.3 billion.
Closer to our hearts, liquid water was confirmed below the surface of Mars – close enough to the surface be observed from space. Given that no natural body of water on Earth is devoid of life, this raises some exciting possibilities. As we learn more about how widespread easily accessible water is on Mars, the more NASA is moving to in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) using groundwater directly rather than the use of hydrogen brought from Earth combined with the Martian atmosphere, the process Bob Zubrin first brought up in The Case for Mars – a change that uses the recent discovery of water on Mars to simplify mission architecture and vehicle size.
Lastly, the Mars Curse was broken! At last, a big budget, top notch, well done, popular movie about Mars exploration, “The Martian“, came to theaters to positive reviews and box office. And it even was realistic – no aliens, zombies, or chattering monkeys (Robinson Crusoe on Mars anyone?).
There were some disappointments – the delay of InSight due to a leak in its drill cover from the planned 2016 launch is a big one.
If there were no failures, we wouldn’t be trying hard enough.
Next Year promises to keep the pace moving forward: Juno will orbit Jupiter – the first deep space probe without nuclear power, the Falcon 9 Heavy is expected to make it to flight, and ExoMars will (hopefully) launch to Mars. We’ll see if SpaceX will re-fly a returned booster, and we will be very close to the first manned launch form US soil in a long time – SpaceX’s dragon is expected to fly manned in early 2017.
We’re seeing a growing consensus that manned Mars missions are not only the logical ultimate destination of America’s space program, but a realistic near term one, and one we need to start preparing for… now! We could have at least four orbit capable US made manned space vehicles (Orion, Dragon, Dream Chaser, and the CTS-100) coming online, a continuous manned presence on the ISS, two heavy lift launchers (SLS and Falcon 9 Heavy) in development, several man-rated US designed rocket engines in production or development (as opposed to zero for the last few decades), instrumentation for the Mars 2020 lander – which will be part of the Mars Sample Return, as well as a Europa orbiter in development. Curiosity, Opportunity , MRO, and all of its friends are still on station and in operation. What will the find in 2016?
It is a good time for space…..
Closer to home, the National Mars Society had a great convention in DC, and seems to have settled on the location (the National Catholic University) as we will have it there next year – I think the first time we will ‘double up’ on locations. The date will be later in the year in order to better suit students (and bring cooler weather!). It was a great convention, with top-line speakers and debates ranging from Mars One to Viking data results. It was good to see April and the crowd from McClellan again!
Our Moon (Mars) Day exhibit was another popular hit with another record attendance – and we expect 2016 to be even more so. Looking forward to working all the ideas to make it even better.
The University Rover Challenge had another record setting year, with 40 teams registering and over 20 showing up. This year we have over 60! URC is expanding across the globe, and for the first time we will split the competition into two classes to handle the crowd. We need more volunteers not only to go to Hanksville but to help during the year (hint hint!).
The Dallas Regional Science and Engineering Fair was fantastic, as it always is, and we had a first group outing to see the Martian together. Overall, it was an active and productive year!
Besides all the ideas for group outings, we may bring in more ‘outside’ speakers to our meetings – don’t miss this January’s meeting (Jan 31) for a discussion on ‘Hilton Hotels in Space’.
May this year be even better than the last!
Webmaster’s note: I also updated the theme of the website and improved the commenting system with Disqus. – Greg
Yes, it is a long month, and the last Sunday lands right on the last day of the month, so it is a bit later in the month than usual, but we have our usual monthly meeting this Sunday, Aug 31, at 6:30PM, at the Spaghetti Warehouse, off of 15th street and Rt 75 in Plano.
Same bat time, same bat location…..
The convention was awesome! We had a noticeably, and substantially, larger, younger, and more energetic crowd than my last convention (two years ago). We had many youths and younger folks from April’s college, the student design competition, and the Mars One Colonist finalists. People came from all over the world, with the strongest attendance of Europeans and Asians I have ever seen at the Mars Society. This is becoming a World Endeavor!
Another exciting thing for me were talks describing the coming NASA and private company space hardware – the Space Launch System, larger than the Saturn V, the Orion, following in the footsteps of the Apollo, and the Inspiration Mars closed loop life cycle systems – all are moving into detailed designs, actual hardware, and reality. It is not just pictures and talk. The hardware to send humans to Mars is moving from the drawing boards to the factory floor!
It gave me something to reflect on when I sneaked off for an afternoon (!) to the Houston Space center. The astronaut training floor now has, besides the usual ISS modules, Orion AND SpaceX Dragon training mockups replacing the now retired Shuttle mockups. We are moving to a beyond low earth orbit manned space program! Looking at the old, but still awe inspiring Saturn V, sitting silently on its side. I thought it is time to move on, and create our own history on the shoulders of those who traveled before us.
Oh, and yes, we sold out all of our T-shirts! We got many compliments on Mark’s great artwork. It was fantastic to have so many folks from the local chapter present, see old friends, and see the future unfold.
Many things to talk about, reminisce, and contemplate for next year.
Just saw it on Twitter, so it must be official – 2014 Mars Society Convention will be in Houston. I got the impression there was not an active chapter in Houston, so we might be the closest chapter (not sure about Austin, San Antonio or other Texas cities).
LASP has extended the deadline for including your name and message with the Mars Evolution and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission to September 10, 2013. Sign up and become part of a permanent artifact on the red planet.
Robert Zubrin to Debate ‘Zero Growth’ Ideologue Phil Cafaro on April 15th
“The subject of the debate has everything to do with Mars exploration. ‘Zero Growth’ ideology is antithetical to human expansion into space, and opening the space frontier is completely subversive to Malthusian and related limited resources ideology.” — Dr. Robert Zubrin
Mars Society president and aerospace engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin will debate Dr. Phil Cafaro, a professor of Philosophy at Colorado Christian University (CCU) and president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, who says that we need to stop immigration and impose population control in order to stop global warming. CCU will host the event on Monday, April 15th at 7:00 p.m. in Lakewood, Colorado.
The planned debate, entitled “Are People the Problem?”, was occasioned by an article that Dr. Cafaro wrote in the Denver Post, arguing that immigration contributes to global warming, because by coming to America, immigrants increase their incomes, and thus their carbon footprints. This, says Dr. Cafaro, must be stopped.
Dr. Zubrin then published a rebuttal of this argument in National Review.
Dr. Cafaro’s ideas going beyond immigration are even more remarkable. In his anthology “Life on the Brink” (introduction by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, edited by Dr. Cafaro and Eileen Crist) he states that it is not only necessary to cut off immigration to America, but that the U.S. population needs to be reduced to 100 million people. According to Dr. Cafaro, “The last thing the world needs is hundreds of millions of more Americans.”
In addition, Dr. Cafaro requires that the world population be cut down from its current 7 billion to 2 billion, and recommends using the denial of U.S. foreign aid as a method to coerce Third World countries to accept population reduction. In addition, argues Dr. Cafaro in his included essay entitled “Is humanity a cancer upon the Earth?”, economic growth must be ended.
In the same book, contributing author David Foreman, the founder of Earth First and fellow leader of the “Apply the Brakes” anti-growth organization, objects to feminist interference in the family planning movement on the grounds that some feminists have the temerity to insist that a woman’s right to choose also includes the right to choose to have children. He says they have no such right.
This is going to be a significant debate. Dr. Cafaro’s views bring sharply into focus the anti-human and totalitarian implications of the ‘Zero Growth’ movement. In opposing him, Dr. Zubrin will make the case for human creativity and freedom.
Admission to the debate is free, but advance registration is required. Those wishing to attend may register online.
The Mars Society
Media & Public RelationsLakewood, CO
We will have our March monthly meeting this coming Sunday, March 31st, at 6:30pm at the spaghetti warehouse at 15th street and rt 75 in Plano, Tx. Yes, i know this is Easter Sunday, and i hope that this doesn’t cause any interference.
We have many projects going, and we’ll get an update on:
> a re-cap of the Dallas Science Fair, since many of you were not able to make last month’s meeting when we went over our experience as judges
> planning for the URC
> planning for the convention
-news on the poster competition
-discussion of our T-shirt design and sales.
> Moon day planning
> convention papers
> Zooniverse Mars wind data extraction
> latest Mars news regarding Curiosity, as well as other probes, and the latest news in the Space community.