Understanding the Mars Society

The Mars Society is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. The Mars Society was founded by Robert Zubrin, an American aerospace engineer, on August 13, 1998.

After earning degrees in mathematics, nuclear engineering and aeronautics, Zubrin worked as an engineer at the Martin Marietta Astronautics company and then at Lockheed Martin, when the two companies merged. Robert Zubrin had written and developed many concepts related to spacecraft propulsion and space exploration. He was even part of the team responsible for developing space exploration strategies at Lockheed Martin. Tired of not seeing things move forward, he decided to found the Mars Society in order to support and encourage the progress of projects focused on the exploration of Mars.

The Mars Society is a worldwide non-profit organization which is divided into “chapters“. Chapters can be considered as the national branches of the organization. They are local groups organized by members. For instance, the Mars Society has chapters in many U.S. states and countries around the world.

The aims of the Mars Society is to demonstrate that the establishment of humans on Mars is achievable through series of technical projects. Therefore the organization oversees several projects:

  • The first and main project of the organization is Mars Direct. It was developed to demonstrate that it’s possible for a manned mission on Mars to be cost effective and to use current technology. Mars Direct is a proposal first developed in a research paper written by Robert Zubrin and David Baker in 1990 and then detailed in Zubrin’s book The Case for Mars in 1996. This project plans to organize a human mission to Mars in two phases. The first phase would be to send an Earth Return Vehicle to Mars with a supply of hydrogen, a chemical plant and a small nuclear reactor. Upon arrival on Mars, chemical reactions will take place to create up to 112 tonnes of methane and oxygen which would be used as the return propellant. The second phase will consist of sending the habitat unit and a crew of at least four people;
  • The organization also oversees the Mars Analog Research Station Program, which develops different types of Mars habitation units, the MarsVR Program and the Mars Gravity Biosatellite, a program designed to develop a satellite that would artificially provide partial gravity;
  • On top of that, the Mars Society organizes conferences and presentations both in educational and in public venues in order to raise awareness among the general public, for the promotion of the organization’s purposes. The Mars Society considers as very important to bring the topic of space exploration to a wider audience. They also made several investment campaigns, as well as campaigns to promote science. Another approach frequently used by the organization is the lobbying to encourage States and space agencies to develop their program towards Mars.

The Founding Declaration of the Mars Society is quite interesting and worthy of analysis. To reinforce the message it wants to spread to the world, the founding declaration used an anaphora to present each new idea.

We must go for the knowledge of Mars“. The first objective lies in the observation and analysis of the red planet to possibly confirm current scientific hypotheses and perhaps to better understand its past life.

We must go for the knowledge of Earth“. The second objective is based on the field of comparative planetology. It’s the idea that knowing Mars better will help us to know the Earth better, in particular regarding to climate change. Mars is the most Earth-like planet in the Solar system and can therefore help us better understand the future of the Earth and the long-term effects resulting from climate change.

We must go for the challenge“. The idea presented is that humanity has always moved forward thanks to the challenges either imposed on it or which it chose to meet. The founding declaration explains that humans must move forward together, guided by the same goal and that in the end humanity must be one.

We must go for the youth“. A human mission to Mars is seen by the Mars Society as a way to inspire the younger generations and to develop their adventurous spirit. This is a unique opportunity to create a new wave of innovation in the fields of industry, medicine, and science in general, that would ultimately benefit all of humanity and give it the means to evolve.

We must go for the opportunity“. This goal is described as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for humanity to leave the worst behind and take the best of our heritage to set up a new “world” on Mars.

We must go for our humanity“. This objective concerns more the subject of religion or spirituality. Humans are considered as the life’s messenger and are considered to be the only creature on planet Earth who can continue the “work of creation by bringing life to Mars“.

We must go for the future“. Mars is described as the place that will welcome a new era of humanity, the technological society and a new branch of human civilization on Mars, the Martians. For the Mars Society, we must advance the Mars exploration program as far as possible to allow future generations to settle there in the best possible conditions.

Thus are described all the reasons why a mission to Mars would be the next fundamental step for mankind.

As of 2020, the Mars Society still actively promotes the exploration of Mars. In his end-of-year message, Robert Zubrin recalls that: “the Mars Society strongly believes that becoming multiplanetary is a critically important goal for our civilization, beginning with the human exploration and settlement of Mars“.