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Voorpagina > Over ons > Mars: Living Planet - conference June 2nd 2001
Mars: Living Planet - conference June 2nd 2001

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Mars - Living Planet, the first symposium organised by the Dutch chapter of the Mars Society, is considered by both organising committee and visitors to be a tremendous success. Around 150 people gathered in the Auditorium of Delft University of Technology on June 2nd 2001. Visitors came from all over the country and also from Belgium and even further away.

Erwin Kroll, the Dutch National weatherman, started the series of lectures with a Martian weather report. In essence, he stated, the atmospheric patterns on Mars are not that much different from those on Earth or even from the air circulation around a stove in winter. The daily difference in temperature on Mars, however, is much bigger than on most places on our own world. As a result storms can be fiercefull on the Red Planet, as Kroll pointed out by showing some beautifull satelite images. 

Mauro Messerotti gave a further introduction to the Red Planet, by means of his animations and stills. Highlight of his talk was a movie previously shown on Italian television, which was accompanied by music generated by the conversion of the used digital Elevation Models. Messerotti also offered a peak in the kitchen by simulating a rendering session. Messerotti uses VistaPro software and Viking data, unlike Kees Veenenbos, whose renderings, made with Terragen and Global Surveyor data, were shown during breaks.

John Karemaker, researcher at the University of Amsterdam, gave an in-debt and somewhat disquieting account of all hazards long distance Space travellers are confronted with: radiation, loss of bone-mass, changes in blood pressure and volume of the heart, lack of medical support, environmental and psychological problems. Parabolic flights ("vomit-comets") and head down tilted bed rests are techniques to study the effects of micro-gravity without leaving Earth; also possible remedies can be tested this way. The only real solution, it seems, is in creating artificial gravity, like the tether-system proposed by Robert Zubrin, who spoke later in the day.

The lunch break was spent by most participants networking, checking out the stalls run by different organisations and of course by enjoying a good lunch.

Afterwards attention focussed on the European efforts to study Mars. Don McCoy, responsible for the assembly, integration and verification of Mars Express, Europe's first interplanetary probe, spoke about the general objectives of the project and the techniques used to achieve them. The ESA-spacecraft, scheduled for launch on June 1st 2003, has a wide variety of instruments on board, such as a High Resolution Stereo Camera, an Infrared and Visible Spectrometer and a Sub-surface Sounding Radar/Altimeter.

Mars Express also carries a British lander, the four leaf clover-shaped Beagle 2, that should touch down in Isidis Planitia to look for signs of water and life. Con McCarthy, principal system engineer for the Beagle 2, spoke about the experiments to be carried out on board that little spacecraft. The most noticeable instrument aboard the Beagle 2 is a mole, designed to take samples from nearby rocks. An interesting detail is that the little tool that will grind into the rocks to collect the samples has been designed by a dentist in Hong Kong. 

The third ESA-speaker, Didier Schmitt, head of the organization's Life Sciences Unit, talked about the European plans for planetary research beyond 2003. Those ideas, though still in a schematic phase, are quite ambitious and include a sample return mission and even research in preparation for a manned mission to Mars.

Robert Zubrin's speech was structured around Mars Direct, his proposal for a cost-effective manned Mars mission, which in his opinion could take humans to Mars as early as 2008. In fact, he said, planning a project like this within a decade is the only way to ever get to Mars, as political and public support for a "parallel universe"-approach, like NASA proposed under George Bush 1, could never last for the complete thirty years needed to reach the goal.

Mars Direct implies a dramatic cost reduction by using off-the-shelf technology and, like Lewis and Clarke long ago in the American west, using local resources ("live of the land"). Four astronauts would travel to Mars in a tuna can shaped habitat, a precursor of which is currently used for experiments in the Canadian Arctic. A strong feature in the plan is the four level redundancy: if the Earth Return Vehicle malfunctions, there are four possible back-up scenario's. Protection against solar flares would be provided by a storm-shelter surrounded by 12 centimetres of food and water, although solar physicist Messerotti expressed some concern whether those would be sufficient during all solar eruptions.

Chris McKay, working at NASA Ames Research Center, talked about "Life on Mars - past and future". According to McKay, there's strong evidence that Mars once was a warm and wet Planet, much like Earth in its early days. Life, either related to terrestrial life forms or representing a true "second genesis" may have flourished there. Research in the Antarctic and other cold and dry locations on Earth may provide clues to how that life might have survived the change in Martian climate.

A question of equal importance is whether it might be possible to restore habitable conditions on the Planet ("give life another half billion years") McKay emphasised that such a terraforming effort would involve two distinct steps: firstly raising the temperature and thickening the carbon dioxide atmosphere by creating a runaway greenhouse effect; secondly the conversion of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere breathable by humans. The first phase is relatively easy and could take just fifty to hundred years; the second phase is much harder and definitely more time consuming: a hundred thousand years should be reckoned with.

The whole series of lectures took more than one hour longer than foreseen but the attention of the audience never wavered. "Mission control", the symposium taskforce of the Dutch chapter, looks back at a very inspiring event, after which organising the 2002 European Mars Society Convention definitely looks feasible.

Special thanks to everybody who helped turning this into a great day, among whom our sponsors: the municipality of Rotterdam, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), TNO Space, Delft University of Technology and Intratuin Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel

Photoalbum

Special thanks to Kees Veenenbos, Thomas Goetals en Raoul Lannoy

Sample return in Newchurch upon Icel
photo: Frans Blok

Blowing up Mars...
photo: Frans Blok

Erwin Kroll, the national weatherman
photo: Frans Blok

Erwin Kroll
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Erwin Kroll
photo: Frans Blok

right to left: Messerotti, Karemaker, McCarthy, McCoy
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Mauro Messerotti
photo: Thomas Goetals

Attentive audience
photo: Frans Blok

Lunch
photo: Frans Blok

Messerotti being interviewed by the Dutch World Service
photo: Kees Veenenbos

The Lunar Explorers
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Your webmaster in the Mars Society-
stand
photo: Thomas Goetals

Zubrin at the Dutch World Service
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Don McCoy
photo: Frans Blok

Con McCarthy
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Con McCarthy
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Didier Schmitt
photo: Raoul Lannoy

Robert Zubrin
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Robert Zubrin and the Battlestar Galactica
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Informal chat wit Mars-celebrity...
photo: Raoul Lannoy

Chris McKay
photo: Kees Veenenbos

left to right: McKay, Mars, Zubrin
photo: Kees Veenenbos

Dinner with speakers, "mission control" en guests
photo: Kees Veenenbos

 

In the news

The symposium caused a wave of attention for Mars in both old and new media.

John Karemaker, one of the speakers, was interviewed in NCRV's "Plein Publiek" on radio AM 747 and Mars Society Netherlands board member Artemis Westenberg appeared in AVRO's "1 in de middag" on radio 1. During the symposium-day most of the speakers were interviewed by the Dutch World Service.

Among the major national and regional newspapers that payed attention to the event were De Volkskrant, the Haagsche Courant and Het Parool. The Haagse Courant borrowed our slogan "Voorwaarts Mars!" (on to Mars) as a headline. Govert Schilling wrote an extensive article for the frontpage of De Volkskrant's science section of June 2nd. Schilling, who in the past often criticized human spaceflight, this time wrote an almost poetic review about Zubrin's and McKay's dreams: "Mars will be a living planet. A dream? Still. But you've got to start somewhere.",

Apart from websites specializing in spaceflight and science, like Astronet and Astronova, also major internet-portals like Planet internet and World Online picked up the story of "Mars - Living Planet"; the latter even published the complete Founding Declaration of the Mars Society.

Another new media that during the weeks before the symposium attracted the attention of the public to the Red Planet were the large masterscreens in the Shopping Gutter, Rotterdam's famous shopping street. Several hundred thousands of shoppers saw an animation composed from renderings by Kees Veenenbos.


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laatste wijziging: 3 augustus 2001
 
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