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[marssocietynewsletter] Mars Society Convention A Smashing Success

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Mars Society Convention A Smashing Success
August 23, 2004
For further information about the Mars Society, visit our website at 

The 7th International Mars Society convention has been a smashing 
success. Held at the historic Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, IL from 
August 19-22, the convention gathered 400 leading space scientists, 
engineers, government officials, entrepreneurs, activists, authors, 
and artists from many countries, including the USA, Canada, Mexico, 
Venezuela, Britain, Ireland, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, 
Germany, Poland, Japan, China, India, and Australia to discuss ways 
and means of advancing the exploration and settlement. Over 120 
papers were presented, and over $50,000 was raised to further the 
work of the Mars Society. The conference received prominent coverage 
in many important Chicago area media, including The Chicago Tribune, 
the Chicago Sun-Times, the Journal-Herald, NPR Radio, and Fox TV 

Among the highlights of the convention were the opening plenary by 
Mars Society President Robert Zubrin, who explained how a coherent 
joint Moon-Mars system development could enable the exploration of 
both bodies at much lower cost and risk, and shorter schedule than 
the wasteful "first Moon, then Mars" approach being pushed on NASA by 
certain quarters. Zubrin's presentation was followed by Dr. Steven 
Squyres, the Principal Investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover 
mission, which has discovered conclusive evidence for existence of 
large standing bodies of water for long durations of Mars' early 
history, habitable environments in which life could have once 
evolved. Squyres made it clear that he believed that human 
exploration was a necessary follow-up to the robotic exploration of 
Mars. This prompted one reporter to observe: "There are all these 
characters who say that Mars can be explored just with robots. But 
the guy who is actually exploring Mars with robots says we need to 
send people. That says it all."

Squyres was followed by Admiral Craig Steidle, NASA Associate 
Administrator for Exploration Systems, who is leading the space 
agencies efforts to return humans to the Moon and proceed onward to 
Mars. Steidle explained his plan for "spiral development" of the 
necessary systems for human exploration, and emphasized that he hoped 
to work closely with the Mars Society in moving the program forward. 
Steidle reemphasized this latter point in a comment which appeared in 
the Sunday Chicago Tribune August 22, in which he said; "Societies 
like the Mars Society are extremely important to us. They have an 
innovative and thorough process. We hope to continue the journey 

Other exciting plenary talks included Dr. Mike Lembeck, who serves as 
Steidle division chief for requirements development, who explained 
how his group is laying out the roadmap for technology development to 
open the solar system; 
Dr. Bill Clancey, the head of human centered computing at NASA Ames 
Research Center, who presented a talk and video showing research his 
group has done at the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station 
investigating techniques for combined human-robot exploration on 
Dr. Stan Borowski, of the NASA Glenn Research Center, and the space 
agency's top expert on nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) propulsion, who 
explained how NTR technology could enable accelerated cost-effective 
exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond;
Dr. Chris McKay, of NASA Ames Research Center, who explained the 
central significance of the search for life on Mars to resolving the 
question of the diversity and prevalence of life in the universe;
Eric Anderson; President and CEO of Space Adventures Ltd., who 
explained how space tourism could potentially open a market that 
would establish the economic basis for commercially financed space 
Dr. Fred Pohl, a Grandmaster of science fiction (author of many award 
winning works, including "The Space Merchants") who presented a 
science fiction visionary's view of "When will humankind become a 
spacefaring species."
Dr. Scott Horowitz; and astronaut and Shuttle commander, who piloted 
the second Hubble repair mission, who presented an astronaut's view 
of human Mars exploration. 

A major sensation was caused at the convention by the announcement by 
award-winning filmmaker Sam Burbank that he would be making a 
theatrical motion picture based on Robert Zubrin's novel "First 
Landing." Listing the various Hollywood horror pictures or shoot-em-
ups nominally featuring Mars, Burbank drew a sharp distinction 
between those efforts and the kind of movie "First Landing" will 
be. "There never has been a movie actually about the human 
exploration of Mars. This will be the first." Burbank said, 
adding: "It will not be set in the glorious science fiction future, 
but in our own time, and it will show the mission done with all the 
grungy realism of the kind of space travel we can really do. It's not 
going to show the Mars mission as being easy. It's not going to show 
it as being impossible. It's going to show it as being really tough, 
but doable, by a group of people who have what it takes to do it."

If the heavy applause Burbank received wasn't sufficient indication 
of the audience's appreciation of his project, what happened next 
certainly was, as following his remarks, paperback copies of "First 
Landing" were bought up literally by the dozens by conference members 
mobbing the book table.

Another highlight of the conference was the showing of advance clips 
of James Cameron's upcoming 3-D IMAX film "Aliens of the Deep." The 
footage for this movie was taken by Cameron and his team operating in 
a flotilla of submarines operating in conjunction with mobile 
telerobots to explore extremophile lie forms living around 
hydrothermal vents 3000 ft below the Atlantic. Cameron was going to 
show the movie to the conference himself, but a last minute emergency 
called him away. However in his place he sent his co-producer and 
fellow underwater explorer Steve Quayle, who presented the film to 
the conference. The film was quite literally incredible, with the 
explorers discovering at every turn weird creatures that exceed the 
imagination of Hollywood special effects artists. The movie will 
appear in IMAX theaters starting in January 2005, and we give it 
eight hundred thumbs up. No one should miss this film. There never, 
ever, has been anything like it.

There is so much that could be said, and not all can. But one thing 
that cannot escape mention is the joy and excitement brought to the 
convention by the space song contest. This contest, formally known as 
the Second Rouget De Lisle space song competition (so named after the 
musical genius who wrote "La Marseillaise," and thus gave the French 
Revolution its rousing anthem) was conducted over the past year, 
during which over 100 songs celebrating human space exploration were 
submitted. These were downselected to 20 finalists who sang off in 
public competition on the evening of Friday August 20. the audience 
of Mars Society members voted for the top six, who then sang in final 
competition at the Saturday night banquet. These songs were 
outstanding, and it was hard to judge between them. But for the 
record, the winners are:

Gold Medal Category;
1st place; "Thank God Dreams Survive," by Bill, Tina, and Casey 
2nd place; "On to Mars," by Robert McNally

Silver Medal Category
3rd Place; "Lullaby for Mars," by S. Miria Jo
4th Place; "When Mice Become Men," by Janetta Deavers

Bronze Medal Category
5th Place; "Make this World Come Alive," written by Leslie Fish, sung 
by Beatriz Serrato
6th Place; "First Footprint," by Robert McNally.

All 20 of the finalists have been forwarded to Prometheus Music 
(producers of the highly successful "To Touch the Stars" CD which 
featured selections from the previous Rouget de Lisle" song contest) 
for possible inclusion in its next release.

Songs from the first Rouget de Lisle contest have been posted and are 
available for downloading at the "Mars Songs" link at 

By popular demand, there will be a Third Roget de Lisle competition 
for songs celebrating the human exploration of space next year.

Next year's Mars Society convention will be held next August at the 
University of Colorado in  Boulder. The conference plenary hall there 
is known as the Glen Miller ballroom, after the famous musician and 
CU graduate, who was lost over the English channel while traveling to 
lift the spirits of the troops trying to break out of the Normandy 
beachhead during June 1944. It's fitting that his ballroom should 
host the meeting of those seeking to break humanity out of its 
planetary beachhead. And this time the musicians to rouse their 
spirits will be there too.

For further information about the Mars society, visit our website at 


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