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Madame Mars is a transmedia production designed to prepare all of us for our futures in space, whether orbiting Earth, returning to the moon, or colonizing Mars – and worlds beyond.
Madame Mars presents a fresh-as-a-springtime-shower look at the ways we will travel to, explore and perhaps put our roots down on another world. Your tax-deductible gift will help us take steps forward to complete our documentary and related educational games and apps, designed to inspire and motivate girls and women in their quests to become the next generation of female space scientists and pioneers.
Will We Act Ethically on Mars?

Interview with Dr. Margaret McLean
photo collage by Jan Millsapps
“The decisions we make and the actions we take will likely have a larger impact on future human generations and potential Martian life forms than they have on us.” - Margaret McLean, Ph.D. 

After reading her op-ed essay, Mars Must Be More Than a ‘Back-up Earth,’  in the San Francisco Chronicle, Madame Mars asked Dr. Margaret McLean if she'd augment some of her ideas and opinions for the Madame Mars online community. Below are Dr. McLean's answers to questions posed by Madame Mars.

Madame Mars: Ethically speaking, do you think those with current plans to send humans to Mars are planning to go there for the right reason(s)? If not, what, in your mind, would be the right reason(s)?

Dr. McLean: Reasons matter greatly as do motives and intentions. Recall the old adage about “doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.” The heavens fascinate most of us and our internal explorer pushes us toward the final frontier of space. America has taken a breather from launching humans into space since 2011 (when the shuttle Atlantis returned home) and are anxious to get back out there—this time to fly beyond the Space Station to Mars. Why? To continue to develop our scientific knowledge of Earth, our solar system, and the cosmos. To seek adventure by pushing beyond the boundaries of Earth. To discover extraterrestrial life forms. To mine precious metals. To create a “back-up Earth.” 

Where we slip from exuberant curiosity into blatant exploitation and threaten irreversible change to other worlds is where I draw the ethical line. 

Why, for example, do we need a “back-up Earth”? An oft-repeated reason for heading to Mars is to escape human-made hazards and environmental degradation. However, it seems to me that rather than saving the human species by rocketing thousands of people to Mars, we should put our best thinking and our best science into a whole Earth rescue project. 

Madame Mars: What is our ethical duty toward any indigenous life we may encounter there (even if microbial)? What, in your opinion, would be the worst way to manage potential “Martians,” if we encounter them? What would be the best way?

Dr. McLean: I am not sure that Martians will take kindly to being managed or that it would be a good idea to try! Seriously, our history of colonization and unreflective manifest destiny should give us great pause. Retrospective reflection on how we have treated our earthly home and its peoples offers us strong, vital lessons about how we ought not to behave on Mars or towards Martians.

If terraforming Mars—that is, altering Mars so that humans can live there—unearths or more accurately “unmars” microbial life, what should we do—watch it, collect it, study it? Think about how we treat microbial life that we find on our home planet. Most often, we kill it before it spoils our food, makes us sick, or kills us. It seems to me that we should respond differently to Martian microbes. 

Seriously regarding the Martian other invites us into a stance of humility, generosity, and respect for what could turn out to be the truly "other" other.

Madame Mars:  Do you think it’s inevitable that our failures to manage our home planet ethically will follow us to Mars?

Dr. McLean: Certainly, our hopes and failures will tag along to Mars. This includes our continuing failure to protect our earthly home from ourselves. SpaceX and Mars One envision more than just footprints in the dust. SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, envisions terraforming Mars into a blue-hued planet capable of supporting generations of human life. Shouldn't we value Mars for its own sake—not merely for what it can provide us?

Madame Mars: Musk/SpaceX (commercial space) and NASA (publicly funded space) are currently the top two contenders for sending the first humans to Mars: which do you think would do a better job understanding and managing our human futures on Mars?

Dr. McLean: In much the same way that they pushed each other in deciphering the human genome, public/private partnerships will rocket us back into space. Like all mature government agencies, NASA moves slowly and deliberately. SpaceX, whose employees sport “Occupy Mars” t-shirts, is the bouncy adolescent imagining tens of thousands of humans living on Mars relatively soon.They will need an assist from NASA to get people there and to keep them alive. Already a NASA-SpaceX partnership to ferry goods to the Space Station is paying off. 

In going to Mars, we need both the exuberance and can-do spirit of youth and the wisdom and knowledge born of experience.
Margaret R. McLean, Ph.D. is associate director, and director of bioethics, at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. A senior lecturer in religious studies and affiliate faculty in bioengineering, she teaches courses on the ethics of health care and biotechnology. She is widely quoted in the media and has written extensively on ethical issues, including the ethics of space exploration and astrobiology.

Madame Mars welcomes Manuel Tsingaris as consulting editor. Manuel's 20-year editing career has garnered him multiple awards for documentaries, and his clients include PBS, NBC, ABC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Travel Channel, Sony and National Geographic. He will oversee the fine cut of our feature documentary, Madame Mars: Women and the Quest for Worlds Beyond. 

The Madame Mars team welcomes new friends at the Viking Mars Missions Education and Preservation Project, led by Rachel Tillman. If you missed it, please click here to read Rachel's excellent article on The Women of Viking in last winter's newsletter. 
Madame Mars writer-director Jan Millsapps blogs for Arianna Huffington's new site, ThriveGlobal. Read her latest post, Riding Rockets: Your Place in Future Spacein which she critiques current and future space travel opportunities for the average Joes and Janes. 
Since 2011, the Intergalactic Travel Bureau (ITC), headquartered in New York City and London, has offered virtual trips to the Moon, Mars, and points beyond as "popup" experiences in public spaces. Soon they will offer their unique space travel services as “armchair” VR experiences – anyone, anywhere, with a smartphone and VR viewer, and the free VR app from ITC will be able to visit Mars, Earth’s moon and Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Preview of Mars as a VR tourist destination
“This virtual reality app will finally make space vacations accessible to all,” Says Jana Grcevich, ITC's resident astrophysicist.
Guerilla Science, the collective of artists and scientists behind the ITC, is using publicly available scientific data from NASA to create 3D renderings of otherworldly tourist destinations – adding their own twists to personalize the journey. The entire experience is wrapped in a cool retro-styled aesthetic; travel agents – like physicist-turned-operations-manager Olivia Koski (left) – wear pink hats reminiscent of mid-century flight attendants.

Currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money needed to complete their work, the ITC plans to release their custom VR app in September. Contributors to the Kickstarter campaign will get access to the app before it is released to the public, and, depending on the amount contributed, may also receive ITC swag, cardboard VR goggles, custom space travel postcards and posters, or have their name permanently embedded on one of their space travel destinations.
From Wendy Holforty at NASA Ames:
Girl scouts and cookies have long been linked (thin mints – mmm!), but have you heard of “Space Cookies?”
Also known as the Space Cookies VEX Robotics Team, this specialized troop of girls in grades 7-12 design, build and test robots using the VEX EDR platform. In March the team will participate in VEX Robotics Workshop Maze-Solving Bots, designed to introduce girls to robotics, and they will compete in the 3rd Annual All-Girls Showcase at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, CA. In April the team will demonstrate their competition robots during Golden Gate Bridging, when they join more than 6000 girls from across the country to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge as part of the ceremony advancing them from Juniors to Cadettes. Sponsored by NASA and the Girl Scouts of Northern California, the Space Cookies program is designed to encourage girls to study and work in STEM fields. The troop meets at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. 
NASA engineer Wendy Holforty describes how she founded the Space Cookies: "In 2005, I connected with the three local Girl Scouts Councils (now only one council) and we all formed a NASA-Girl Scouts partnership to bring NASA content to the Girl Scouts. Right after that, my supervisor came to me and asked if I’d like to start an all-girl robotics team to compliment the all-boy robotics team that was the only NASA Ames house team at the time. I approached the newly formed partnership and the rest is history, as they say. In November 2005, we started the Space Cookies FRC team (grades 9-12) with 12 girls and a handful of parents to compete in the 2006 competition season." 
 From the Mars Society :
The Mars Society invites your participation in advance of its 20th anniversary convention, to be held September 7-10 at the University of California, Irvine:
  • Propose a presentationEmail your abstract of no more than 300 words by June 30th. Proposed topics can cover all matters associated with Mars exploration and establishing a permanent human presence there. More information, and a list of suggested topics, here.
  • Submit a poster designThe winning design will be used as the main promotional graphic for this year’s gathering. Entrants are asked to incorporate this year’s theme, From Imagination to Reality, into their planned layout. Deadline is Friday, March 31, at 5 p.m. MST
  • For young people: The Student Mars Art (SMArt) Contest invites youth in grades 4-12 from around the world to depict the human future on the planet Mars. Cash prizes of $1,000, $500 and $250, as well as trophies, will be awarded. Artwork should be submitted by May 31, 2017, 5:00 pm MST via a special online form in either PDF or JPEG format.
  • Conference volunteers are also needed: Those volunteering for 10 hours or more will receive free entrance to the daily sessions. For more details, please send email. 

From Explore Mars:
The annual Humans to Mars summit is a comprehensive Mars exploration conference addressing the major technical, scientific and policy challenges of getting humans to Mars. Registration is open for this year's event, May 9-11 at George Washington University in Washington, D.D. Click here for more info.
From Chabot Space and Science Center:
This summer's space day camp at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA, Mars Adventure: Rescue Mission, allows kids in grades 1-6  to spend a week on Mars. Their mission is to rescue an astronaut stranded on the red planet. Campers will work cooperatively to tackle problems such as traveling in space, landing on Mars, exploring the planet, communication, search and rescue, and returning to Earth. One week sessions begin July 10, 17, 24 and 31.

From David Cox:
Rachel Levin as Valentina Tereshkova. Credit: David Cox
Digital media artist and SF State Professor David Cox staged part three of his rocket opera December 3 at Other Cinema in San Francisco. In it, he offered a musical translation of the Space Race. The third part of the trilogy focused on three female heroes of the early space era: Margaret Hamilton, Valentine Tereshkova and Sally Ride.

From Mars One:
Mars One has released a revised mission roadmap, in which their first unmanned demo mission will be sent to Mars in 2022 (originally planned for 2016), and the first crew will land in 2032 (original target date was 2023). According to Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp, "This pushes the large expenses associated with the mission hardware back in time, making the company cash positive sooner."

Future Martians - a New Human Species?
from NBC news

Artist's impression of how Mars colonists might evolve. Credit: Joseph Ventura

Beefy skeletons, big heads, oversized eyes – and orange skin? For the humans who may eventually settle on Mars, where gravity and sunlight are weaker than on Earth and mutation-causing radiation is more intense, long periods of isolation on the red planet could eventually cause the bodies of Mars colonists to change. NBC's David Freeman speculates on their future physiologies and appearances in his Feb. 28 article.

NASA's New Take on Terraforming: Surrounding Mars With an Artificial Magnetic Shield
from Universe Today

Artist's comparison of Mars, without a magnetic field, and Earth, with one. Credit: NASA

At one time, Mars had a magnetic field which prevented its atmosphere from being stripped away, but it disappeared about 4.2 billion years ago. The Martian atmosphere was slowly lost to space and, as a result, Mars went from being a warmer, wetter environment to the cold, uninhabitable place we know today. On March 1 at the Planetary Science Vision 2050 Workshop, Jim Green, Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, proposed a fix: creating an artificial magnetosphere that would encompass the entire planet, shielding it from solar wind and radiation. Eventually the enhanced atmosphere would encourage the growth of vegetation and would allow water to flow on the Martian surface. 

China Announces It Will Visit Mars by 2020

Artist's depiction of Mars lander and rover leaving Earth. Credit: Reuters/Sastind

In December, China announced long-term space goals, including plans to send a probe and rover to Mars by 2020 to collect samples and return them to Earth. According to newsline, the solar-powered rover would be smaller than Curiosity - weighing about 440 pounds as opposed to the NASA rover's 2,000 pounds. Earlier in 2016 China released plans including visuals, of its Mars technology.

NASA Narrows Landing Sites for Next Rover
From Sky & Telescope

Credit: NASA
Columbia Hills, Jezero Crater, and Northeast Syrtis are the three finalists vying to be the landing site for NASA's 2020 Mars rover. The sites selected include regions where water may have flowed and, just possibly, microbial Martian life might once have flourished. In February, the selection process whittled down the three remaining contenders from eight earlier selections. NASA's goal is to have the site selection finalized two years prior to launch.
Mystery of Mars CO2
from IFL Science

If Mars once had abundant water, as scientists theorize, then there should be evidence of carbon dioxide in rocks on the Martian surface – but Curiosity's examination of an ancient lake bed in Gale Crater found no trace of carbonate minerals, suggesting an absence of carbon dioxide in the planet's ancient atmosphere. 

left: Artist's rendering of past Martian ocean. Credit: NASA

Survival of the Simplest 
from Astrobiology Magazine
Simple microbes may be able to survive the extremely thin air of Mars, a new study finds. Experiments with methanogens, among the simplest and most ancient organisms on Earth, have revealed a surprising resiliency. 

left: Grad students Rebecca Mickol and Navita Sinha load methanogens into a test chamber. Credit: Univ. of Arkansas

Near Miss In Martian Orbit
from Reuters
NASA ordered a rare but necessary maneuver to keep its MAVEN spacecraft from colliding with the Martian moon Phobos on March 6. The successful orbit adjustment enabled MAVEN to miss Phobos by about 2 1/2 minutes. 

left: Photo collage (not to scale) of MAVEN spacecraft approaching Mars moon Phobos. 
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FALL 2016
MARCH 2016

Earlier editions:

October 10, 2014 (400kb)
November 4, 2014 (425kb)
November 25, 2014 (580kb)
December 18, 2014 (843kb)
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