Mars Society brings space closer to home

Linda Saholt

News Review Correspondent

Mars Society brings space closer to homeThere’s a new club in town, one that welcomes both the scientifically minded and the amateur space enthusiast — a local chapter of the international nonprofit organization, the Mars Society, which was founded in 1998.

The very first Ridgecrest meeting was Feb. 23. While lightly attended, the meeting drew a good variety of people interested in the Red Planet.

Headed by Gary Hareland, the new chapter aims to provoke some fascinating discussions regarding the direction in which space exploration is heading. Membership is open to anyone interested in Mars.

The Mars Society maintains an area in the Utah desert where teams of volunteers can live for a time in a specially designed habitat resembling a Mars base and explore the desert while wearing pressure suits and testing the feasibility of humans actually living on Mars. The Mars Desert Research Station has its own website at http://mdrs.marssociety.org.

Another station is located in the Australian outback. Two more are planned for the Artic and Iceland.

“Mars is only 60 miles from us,” said Hareland, referring to the unique landscape of Death Valley. “There are currently exobiologists studying extreme life forms in Death Valley.” Indeed, MarsFest 2013 is set for March 1-3 in Death Valley National Park. See related information below.

Hareland showed a movie, “The Mars Underground,” which explained the society’s purpose in advocating human exploration of the Red Planet.

Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society, is shown presenting arguments that Mars exploration is possible with our current technology, at a fraction of NASA’s price estimate.

“This is the new frontier, to determine whether or not mankind is destined to live among the stars,” said Zubrin.

“We will eventually break through the forces of inertia that are holding us back.”

Hareland raised the possibility of future directions for the new chapter. These include speakers at meetings and club field trips to the Mars-like landscapes of Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley, as well as to locations where movies about Mars have been filmed.

For more information about the Mars Society, see www.marssociety.org.

For the next meeting, Hareland would like interested in feedback from attendees about their vision for the new chapter.

The date of that meeting will be announced when plans are firm.

Story First Published: 2013-02-27