Origin of the Mars Society

The Mars Society has been founded in 1998 by Dr. Robert Zubrin, an experienced and longterm space engineer, with the goal to revive public awareness of the importance and perspectives of Mars exploration and manned missions to Mars in particular, and to gain public and political support for this goal. Subsequenly branches of the Mars Society, called “chapters”, were founded in rapid sequence all over the world, sharing these objectives.

With this in mind, the Mars Society branches participating to this common European Webportal wish to provide, through this webportal, the public the information needed to understand the objectives, background and scope of manned and unmanned Mars exploration.

The Mars Society is convinced, that a manned Mars mission is politically and economically only possible when planned and performed in a relatively short timeframe at affordable cost. In 1996 Dr. Zubrin published such a manned Mars mission concept in his well known  book The Case for Mars. He advertised a so-called Mars Direct concept which, in contrast to the NASA Plans at this time, would allow at affordable cost reaching Mars within 10 to 12 years using to a large extent available technologies and operations concepts and thus avoiding the development of completely new technologies and operations scenarios, as foressen in the NASA concept. Wernher von Braun and his team had already demonstrated in the 60s with the APOLLO program, that the development of a complex system and a first manned mission to the moon in is possible within 10 years.

Why Mars ?

  • Scientific interest: by finding -or not- past or present life on Mars, one will be able to draw conclusions on the origin of life on Earth and / or in the universe
  • Eternal human curiosity: Are we alone or not in the universe?
  • Similarity with Earth: Mars is the closest planet to Earth with similar conditions for life
  • Mars can be reached from Earth in a relatively short time

Why Manned Missions to Mars?

Automatic unmanned Mars probes orbiting Mars or landing on Mars provide many data allowing to understand the geological composition and status of Mars. However, so far it was not possible to collect sufficient data to be able to draw conclusions on past, present or future life on Mars

  • The collection and evaluation of samples on Mars by robots is limited to relatively small areas suitable for wheeled vehicles
  • Samples can be collected only from the ground or few centimers and, lateron, several decimeters under the Mars surface. Life may be present, however, deeper down under the surface, protected from radiation and extreme temperature variations
  • Robots have a very limited “scientific autonomy” and need to be commanded from earth. With travel times of the signals from and commands to Mars of more than 40 minutes, and the limited power available for the robotic operations, the no. of scientific samples and their evaluation for scientific suitability is very low

With Man-on-Mars this situation would dramatically improve

  • Man can decide on site on the suitability of taking samples, make quick evaluations of samples and decide on the next step to be taken, similar to scientific research on earth
  • Man can drill or dig into the Mars ground and find appropriate locations much faster and more efficiently than any robot
  • Large areas can be explored due to transport means, which are foreseen in all manned Mars mission scenarios

Colonisation of Mars?

Maybe man may even colonize Mars one day

  • Mars offers 1/3 of the gravity of Earth
  • Mars offers resources allowing, on long term, to establish conditions for an autonomous human life on Mars
  • Protection against radiation is possible

Initially man would live in closed habitats protecting against the near-vacuum on Mars and the radiation from the sun and outer space. Others see the possibility to “terraform” Mars and arrive one day -maybe in hundreds of years- at establishing an atmosphere on Mars suitable for man, and create an environment with free flowing water and even lakes, plants and animals.

History of Mars exploration

The APOLLO Program demonstrated that missions to other planets are feasible from scratch within a 10 years period. The emphasis of Mars exploration was afterwards directed towards unmanned Mars probes, which provided already a very good understanding of the Mars geology and atmosphere. Manned missions were limited to the near earth orbit with space stations circulating Earth. The abandoning of manned interplanetary missions, as was the APOLLO mission, was mainly based on political decisions and not on consideration of technical feasibility.

Manned Mars mission scenarios were furtheron conceived and defined but came to a near complete standstill in 1995 following the rejection of a NASA proposal by the US congress for a first manned Mars mission, mainly for its exorbitant cost for a long-term development program with completely new technologies and operations concepts, disregarding proven APOLLO experience and technologies.

Mars Society Undertakings

Each national branch of the Mars Society defines its own specific areas of activity, amongst them

  • Information to the public through national Mars Society websites and to the  media on the scientific goals and value of Mars exploration, the role of man in the Mars exploration, past and planned manned and unmanned Mars exploration missions, perspectives of human settlement on Mars
  • Provision of access to existing information on Mars exploration projects
  • Organization of international contests such as the Mars Rover Contest
  • Organization and conduct of international Mars Society Conferences
  • The establishment and operation of so-called “Mars Analog Stations” allowing performing simulation on earth of a large variety of activities and operations in preparation of unmanned and manned Mars missions
  • Conduct of Mars exploration projects such as the Marsballoon project ARCHIMEDES, Mars rovers, space suits
  • Field tests in environments simulating Mars concitions
  • Participation in and organisation of symposia
  • Presentations in schools and in public