Humans to Mars Summit kicks off with plans, education, Buzz Aldrin
WASHINGTON — For the fifth year in a row, the space advocacy group Explore Mars, Inc., is hosting the Humans to Mars (H2M) Summit. It is a three-day gathering from May 9–11, 2017, at George Washington University discussing sending humans to the Red Planet.
Talking about progress
The unified message from NASA was Mars is the agency’s “horizon goal”. The agency said it has support for this mission from Congress and the President and the mission will be international in nature. The space agency also aims to use a flexible mission architecture to take advantage of new developments in science, propulsion, commercial activities, and other technologies.
Additionally, scientists from Europe, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates talked about their upcoming robotic missions. Former Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin also offered up his vision for reducing the costs and complications of “getting your ass to Mars”.
Over the next two days, H2M also will discuss future plans for Mars exploration; commercial, news media, and Hollywood perspectives on Mars; making Mars exploration affordable; science on Mars; and other topics in support of this long-term effort.
Words of caution
Overall, the attendees were enthusiastic about the prospects for humans on Mars, although some speakers sounded cautionary notes of realism.
For instance, engineers can’t yet build life-support systems that last multiple years unsupplied. Moreover, no hardware larger than 2,200 pounds (one metric ton) has ever landed on the Martian surface. However, many proposed crewed landers would be around 44,000 pounds (20 metric tons).
Another concern will be finding qualified people to design, build, and fly the complex hardware. Day one included an animated discussion about the challenges of expanding science, technology, engineering, and math education.
A panel discussion about the space supply chain addressed opportunities small businesses could pursue to get in on a mission to Mars. Over the next two days, discussions will include risk management on a Mars mission as well as addressing sex and gender issues.
The summit aims to be thorough, forward-thinking, and concentrated on the subject of getting people to Mars by the 2030s.
“This is the single most noble and exciting challenge in human history, getting humans to Mars,” Aldrin said. “We are closer to Mars than we have ever been. But let’s make sure we develop a sustainable plan.”
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.