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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.
This month's newsletter features major Mars news, both fictional and real: water flows on the Martian surface (for real!) and Matt Damon (as astronaut Mark Watney) survives a harrowing solo stint on Mars. You'll read how several Friends of Madame Mars are connected to both events.
When we began work on Madame Mars, Mars was not the hot topic it is now, the idea of sending humans there was not on nearly everybody's radar, and hardly any one was busy preparing the next generation of Martians.
I'm happy to report we are closing in on completion of the Madame Mars documentary. We have a few more interviews to schedule. Meanwhile, our DocFilm interns Sam GershwinSookyong Kwak and Bryan Petrass are amazingly talented and very productive - we are looking at finished scenes now and the entire film will be completed in 2016. Once the documentary is "in the can," we can turn our attention to the online components: STEM/STEAM-specific games and apps designed to educate and inspire not only our future Martians – especially girls and young women – but the Martian lurking inside each of us.
Madame Mars editing interns Sam Gershwin, Sookyong Kwak and Bryan Petrass

Our focus – like everyone else's – is on Mars, but our project has a subtitle as well: "the quest for worlds beyond" extends our reach even farther into the universe. Madame Mars wants to make sure we all go there together. As astronaut Yvonne Cagle says, there's "space for all."
NASA's long-time Mars mantra has sent orbiters, landers and rovers to study any H2O it can find: subsurface polar ice that possibly warms enough on occasion to host microbial life, evidence of large oceans in past Mars epochs, present-day large underground aquifers. and now evidence of flowing water on the Martian surface - as recorded by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Present-day water on Mars is "confirmation of something Donna Shirley has believed for years," writes Tulsa World reporter Mike Averill in his Sept. 30 story about Shirley's time as Manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, begun in 1993. 

Dark streaks called "linea" may indeed be evidence of present-day flowing water

In the article, Shirley describes what she calls "seepage" that she and others at NASA observed on the Mars surface in the late 1990s - based on images from the Global Surveyor. Although they suspected then they'd found flowing water, "We didn’t have the instruments they have on MRO, so they couldn’t detect what it was" she said.
Donna Shirley's story about her work at JPL, in particular the Pathfinder/Sojourner mission, will be featured in the Madame Mars film and educational components.
The search for water on Mars is far older than the space age.

In 1896 Astronomer Percival Lowell founded Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, where he observed what he called "canals" on the planet's surface, and theorized these were built by intelligent beings to route water from polar ice caps to irrigate the desert-like planet. Lowell's claims of intelligent life on the red planet were popular with the general public but were generally dismissed by the scientific community. New York Times writer David W. Dunlap revisits the Lowell story in a Oct. 1 New York Times article: 

"Now that scientists have found evidence of flowing water on Mars, perhaps it’s time to let our imaginations loose again."

The story of Earth's first self-proclaimed Martians, Percival Lowell and his assistant Wrexie Louise Leonard – one of the first women to study Mars through a major telescope – will be a part of the Madame Mars documentary.
The much-anticipated movie has arrived to popular and critical acclaim. Part of the narrative involves an actual Mars artifact - the 1997 Pathfinder lander - that gets a second life when marooned astronaut Mark Watney reboots its radio and camera to signal Earth.
As reported by Robert Z. Perlman on the CreateSpace web site, 20th Century Fox asked Donna Shirley and Rob Manning, who was Pathfinder's chief engineer, to consult about appearance and operation of Pathfinder to insure the movie's authenticity. Production designers built a new working version of Pathfinder to use in the movie.

Photo of the Pathfinder landing craft taken by the Sojourner rover (1997)
Now that the movie is out, others are weighing in. The Guardian asked Mars Society president and aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin to comment on the overall scientific accuracy of "The Martian."

On the plus side, Zubrin praises the movie's use of a gravity-assist trajectory that rescues the mission, based on a similar idea developed by actual JPL employee Michael Minovitch in the sixties. On the minus, Zubrin cites several inaccuracies, including the dust storm, design of the spacecraft, the movie's depiction of micro-gravity, and the methods used to make water and to dispose of human waste.  

Also from Dr. Zubrin's world: Just prior to the movie's release, the Mars Society's Mars Desert Research Station hosted a two-day event for an international group of entertainment and science bloggers. Invited guests experienced this "Mars on Earth" location that has been used to train many analog astronauts. 
The Latest from the Red Planet
Have you seen this? A promotional feature for The Martianthis link lets you put yourself (or your cat) in Watney's place, and customize your Martian message.
Elon Musk raised eyebrows during a recent appearance on the The Late Show With Steven Colbert when he suggested we "speed-terraform" Mars with nuclear explosions. Read the followup in this Daily Mail story.  
The Madame Mars team welcomes the Danville-Alamo-Walnut Creek branch of the AAUW as "Friends of Madame Mars." This relationship was forged when Jan Millsapps and Beth Rogozinski presented a program on Women and Mars at last April's chapter gathering. Thanks to President-Elect Melanie Wade and  board members for joining our mission!
SETI senior scientist Margaret Race and the SETI Institute organized a NASA Workshop on Planetary Protection and Human Missions.The international gathering focused on identifying research and technology gaps for planning future Mars human missions designs. Dr. Race is co-editing the workshop report, to be published this fall. 

Later this month Race will be in Budapest, Hungary, as an invited speaker at a European Astrobiology conference on Missions to Habitable Worlds. The two-day event will focus on astrobiology and relevant aspects of ongoing and planned missions by European scientists and space agencies – including Solar System probes and exoplanet-oriented space telescopes.  
And Race's article on the societal implications of ET discovery and astrobiology was just published as part of a special magazine issue – The Wonder of the Universe in Japanese.

"I never wrote an article that I couldn't read myself when it was published!" she said.

Producer/director/writer/animator Dana Berry has created Destination: Pluto, a web series for CuriosityStream about the New Horizons rendezvous with Pluto – and it has become one of their highest rated offerings. You can watch the series trailer here

CuriosityStream is an online subscription service for science-themed media – go here for a free trial.
Also on CuriosityStream, a new series, Destination Mars, five short films that explore Mars One's human mission to Mars. Watch the trailer here.
Lara Kearney, Deputy Manager, Orion Crew Capsule

The first woman to travel in space, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, was criticized by Soviet space officials after her historic flight in 1963 for not competing all her assigned mission tasks, but some of these required her to use her foot to push a button on the floor of her spacecraft – which she could not reach.

When we interviewed Lara Kearney at Johnston Space Center last spring, we learned how the earlier work she'd done in spacesuit development taught her the importance of designing for EVERYONE. Now deputy manager of NASA’s Orion crew capsule (which will eventually launch humans to Mars), she keeps an eye trained on designing to meet the needs of astronauts both the large and small.

“When it comes to human accommodation, we have a requirement that’s called '5th percentile female to 95th percentile male' – so the spacecraft is being designed and built to accommodate that wide range of anthropometric needs, from reach – to fit in suits – to fit in seats.”

In this 1999 photo, "5%" Lara Kearney wears an engineering development version of a "95%" spacesuit as she prepares for an underwater test run in NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. 
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October 10, 2014 (400kb)
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