Martian Near Miss
August 14-17th there was a convention in Eugene that I’d like to have attended. It was a gathering of the Mars Society, an organization founded by Robert Zubrin in 1998 to advocate for human exploration of the red planet so prominent in the news and sky these days. 300 of its 6,000 members turned out to hear Zubrin and 100 other speakers. The highlights included reports on Mars analog research stations in the Arctic (Canada and Iceland), Utah and Australia, where support systems and social factors crucial to living on Mars are being evaluated. In addition, preliminary research was reported on airplanes and space elevators akin to those described in Kim Robinson’s fictional Red Mars!
An incentive was offered, The Keplar Prize, to spur design of an earth return vehicle, and a NASA prototype for drilling to find life below the Martian surface was described. There was even a rock group, The Extremophiles, with a CD somehow involving time-delayed harmony. Ambitious plans were laid to lobby congressmen, especially in the wake of the critical report from the Columbia shuttle investigators, for a visionary plan to build the necessary assets for exploring Mars.
The Mars Society web page (www.marssociety.org) provides links to all sorts of Mars-related internet sites. A particularly timely site presents new sharp photos of the red planet from Hubble telescope (www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mars_hubble_030827. html).
Last month Cathy Koehler reviewed Higher Than Everest, a book describing some Martian features written by our June 11th speaker, UW professor Paul Hodge. The Mars Society meeting marked the debut of a somewhat similar book, written by William Hartmann, recipient of the first Carl Sagan Medal for Public Communication of Planetary Science from the American Astronomical Society.
It’s entitled A Traveler’s Guide to Mars. Hartmann is a scientist-artist who has participated in several space missions, currently Mars Global Surveyor, and he makes extensive use of the information and photos from these missions. I’ve just learned that a copy I reserved at the King County Library is being held for me to pick up the next time I go across the Sound (KRLS also had it on order). While Hodge described high spots throughout the whole solar system, Hartmann concentrated on the 30 sights on Mars that shouldn’t be missed. Like Frommer’s guidebooks, it’s a $19 paperback suitable for reading on the plane (or space ship).
Either book should provide a tantalizing preview of the landscape which will some day be trod by explorers from earth if Robert Zubrin and others from the Mars
Society prevail over the less-visionary powers that be. Personally, I’m glad I spent the time horseback riding with my grand-daughter, rather than participating in the Martian madness at Eugene, but I look forward to hearing from people who did attend when classes resume at UW. Bill O’Neill (email@example.com)