Mars Society Australia
Mars Society Australia (MSA) is an Australian space advocacy organisation, which was formed in 1998. Its goals are to:
- Undertake broad public outreach to instill the vision of pioneering Mars.
- Support government funded Mars exploration programs around the world.
- Conduct Mars exploration on a private basis.
- Encourage Australian participation by the education, industrial and government sectors as well as on the individual level.
MSA was formed after the foundation of the US Mars Society in 1998. It was incorporated as a non-profit association in Western Australia in 2001, and is run by an elected board. Though financially and legally independent, it is closely affiliated with Mars societies around the world. It has active branches in each Australian state. It has formed collaborative partnerships with a number of organisations in Australia, including Trinity College in Perth, and Strathmore Secondary College's Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC) in Melbourne.
The Mars Society internationally has pioneered a field of study known as Mars analogue research. This seeks to investigate technologies, exploration strategies and human factors issues involved in the future human exploration of Mars by undertaking realistic earth based simulations. In doing so, it seeks to highlight gaps in the existing body of knowledge, and encourage further research by the wider scientific community. MSA has run a number of Mars analogue research projects taking advantage of internationally recognised Mars analogue locations in outback Australia. The Society's vision is to position Australia for participation in the eventual establishment of a human presence on Mars. MSA has published widely in conference proceedings and peer reviewed Australian and international journals, including the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, and the American Astronautical Society's science and technology series.
Project MarsSkin aims to design, produce and test analogue mechanical counter pressure (MCP) space suits which, will behave in a near identical fashion to the real MCP suits which may one day be worn on Mars. The intention is produce suits which may be used in Mars analogue research projects undertaken in Australia and internationally. Three generations of suits have so far been constructed and tested on expeditions in central Australia and Utah.
The Starchaser Marsupial Rover is an experimental vehicle investigating design and operational concepts for future human Mars surface exploration rovers. It will be used to undertake human factors research, thus will seek to realistically simulate the spatial and operational characteristics of such vehicles, with air locks, work, living and storage spaces. Based in Fremantle, Western Australia, the vehicle is being constructed on the chassis of a Forward Control Landrover. The project received an initial seed grant from the US Mars Society, but has been primarily funded through the generous support of Starchaser Industries.
- To provide planetary scientists access to a ‘Mars like’ region enabling opportunities to conduct research and training for planetary geologists and astro-biologists in field exploration and their related methodologies;
- To provide geologists, biologists, psychologists, physiologists, engineers, designers and horticulturalists a ‘test bed’ to research ideas, methodologies and equipment that can operate within the constraints of a base on Mars;
- To empirically test of the design advantages of using bent biconic lifting body shapes as a design basis for Mars bases. In particular, internal utility and accessibility of working spaces, and the mobility of the modules when wheels are attached;
- To trial and demonstrate technologies suitable for environmental low impact self-sustaining mobile structures; and
- To provide an inspirational public outreach vehicle encouraging planetary exploration and the education of public groups and school students into the science and technology of living on another planet.
MSA has run or participated in a serious of scientific expeditions to Mars analogue locations. Jarntimarra, held in 2001 surveyed Mars analogue sites throughout outback South Australia and the southern Northern Territory, assessing their value as possible locations for future Mars analogue research activities. Expedition One in 2003 was a joint 1 month expedition undertaken with the Mars Society Canada to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. Research projects were completed in the fields of psychology, biology, geology and engineering. Expedition Two to Arkaroola in South Australia in 2004 was a follow up mission involving similar research.
MSA also runs regular outreach events, including an annual conference AMEC (Australian Mars Exploration Conference).