Toronto Chapter
The Mars Society

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The Mars Society of Canada

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Chapter Chronicle

The Toronto Chapter has been continually active since its formation on March 11, 1999, by founder and initial President Margarita Marinova. Two weeks after it's birth, the Chapter hosted its first free public lecture. Dr. Chris McKay of NASA's Ames Research Center spoke on the subject of "Bringing Mars to Life" -- the past, present and future possibilities for life on Mars, terraforming and our ethical responsibilities. This first lecture was a phenomenal success, with nearly 150 individuals attending.

Margarita, Rocky, Carmen, TonyMeeting almost weekly for the next three months, the Toronto Chapter explored various ideas for public outreach. A Web site was produced, pamphlets were made, a T-shirt slogan and logo were designed, and enthusiam abounded. The Chapter members gradually formed a tight-knit group of dedicated individuals. In this infancy, fund-raising opportunities, ideas for contests, and an educational package for teachers to teach in their classrooms were all discussed, the seeds of many of our current efforts. Also during the time, two big events were being planned: the next free public lecture, and a booth at the Universe '99 astronomical conference.

The second public lecture, by Dr. Christian Sallaberger of the Canadian Space Agency, focused on Canada's role in space exploration. Sallaberger is the Manager of the CSA's new Space Exploration office, and the intent is for Canada to expand its role in international missions to solar system bodies such as Mars. On June 10th, 1999, Dr. Sallaberger spoke before an audience of about 60 individuals.

After this event, the Toronto Chapter reformed with a looser, round-table structure of five individuals as co-chairs. These were: Jeff Cadieux, treasurer and Events Officer; Ennio Cellucci, Webmaster; Carmen, Media Kit Compiler; Robert Gerard, Education Officer; and Rocky Persaud, First Contact and Communications Officer. Other members attended infrequently, but remained an integral part of the Toronto Chapter.

TO-Mars booth displayFrom July 2nd to the 5th, the Toronto Chapter hosted a booth at the Universe '99 astronomical conference. With over 800 people visiting exhibits, listening to speakers, and participating in teacher's workshops, the Universe '99 conference was a part of the larger "Partners in Astronomy" meeting from July 1st to 7th. This event was hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and the Association of American Variable Star Observers. This event was where the Chapter reached its stride. Public awareness of the Mars Society was raised, many personal contacts were made, "Case for Mars" books and "Mars Direct" videos sold. Featured at the Toronto Chapter's booth was a model of the Mars Arctic Research Station, constructed by Guelph Chapter member Richard Miller.

On July 21st, the Toronto Chapter met with Canadian Chapter President Marc Boucher. He had something significant, something audacious, something daunting to propose--that the Toronto Chapter propose to the Mars Society's Steering Committee and Board of Directors that the 3rd Annual Mars Society Conference be held in Toronto in the year 2000.

All Mars Society brochures bear the legend: "The Earth is the Cradle of mankind, but one does not live in the cradle forever." Boulder was the cradle of the Mars Underground, which has blossomed to become the Mars Society; but it cannot forever dwell in it's own terrestrial cradle. The Toronto Chapter decided to take up the challenge, despite being few in number. With the support of the entire Canadian Chapter, and encouragement from Europe and Japan and elsewhere, the Toronto Chapter council unanimously decided to go for it.

The Chapter council slaved over the bid proposal, because there was only three weeks before it was to be presented at the 2nd Annual Mars Society Conference in Boulder. On Friday, August 13th, 1999, Chapter co-chairs Jeff Cadieux and Rocky Persaud met with three members of the Mars Society Board of Directors, Robert Zubrin, Maggie Zubrin, and Richard Wagner. Several concerns were raised by the Board, but they agreed to give the Chapter a chance to present its proposal before the Steering Committee on Saturday, August 14th, 1999. But the feeling was that the bid would be rejected in favour of a smaller, regional conference for the Toronto Chapter to host.

That Saturday, something changed. Cadieux and Persaud presented the Chapter's bid before the Steering Committee, and with the outspoken and enthusiastic support of Committee member Chris McKay, the rest of the Steering Committee was swayed. The Chapter's bid to host the 3rd Annual Mars Society Conference had been successful.

Since the 2nd Annual Mars Society Conference in Boulder, the Chapter has been hard at work on the logistics for hosting the 3rd Annual Conference in Toronto, making public presentations to groups such as the Hamilton Astronomy Association, and planning its third public lecture by Dr. Pascal Lee. First attempts to book facilities at the University of Toronto were unsuccessful. The Chapter spent most of September and October in negotiations with U of T and Ryerson, as well as various hotels for hosting the Conference banquet. A new Web site was established, with educational materials there published, such as the model kit for the Mars Arctic Research Station. It was in this time period the Chapter reached its maturity.

As of now, the facilities for the Conference have now been officially reserved and the contract signed for August 10th to 13th, 2000 at Ryerson Polytechnic University in the heart of downtown Toronto.

The coming Conference and the MARS base has attracted a lot of interest in the community, not only gaining enough new members to double our size, but also attention from media organizations such as Toronto's City-TV, CTV, Discovery Canada, CBC and various magazines and freelancers. Chapter members are receiving requests for interviews, and one of us, Darlene Lim, has appeared on national broadcasts speaking about the Mars Society, the Conference, and the MARS base.

On October 30th, 1999, the Chapter hosted its 3rd talk at the University of Toronto by Dr. Pascal Lee, entitled "The Mars Arctic Research Station -- Exploring Mars and Canada". The talk was very well received by the audience of over 90 people. Profits from ticket sales were donated to the Mars Society and the MARS base.

The Chapter has produced 150 very popular T-shirts with the slogan "Mars: Object Is Closer Than It Appears". These are being sold very quickly, with nearly 100 purchased or ordered already. If the Canadian MARS scholarship idea is a go (another Toronto initiative), once the Canadian chapter is incorporated the Toronto Chapter will make a large donation of profits from its T-shirt sales to the scholarship fund--otherwise those funds will go directly to the MARS base.

Currently the Toronto Chapter is helping with the design of the Marsville curriculum. Marsville is a project conducted among school children in grades 5 to 8 to imagine and design mock-ups for a colony of 200 settlers on Mars. This year the project will specifically be refocused on the Mars Arctic Research Station, with help from the Toronto Chapter to inject more geology, biology and engineering into the program. Chapter members will serve as mentors to various classrooms particating in Marsville, and will be actively recruiting members from the community, and across Canada. There will be a "link-up" day, where classrooms from all across Canada will gather in central locations in each major Canadian city, and via teleconferencing will link up their habitation modules and rovers. Contact Sheila Rhodes for more information or to become an online mentor.

Also, members of the Chapter are working the design of a rock-sample loading crane for the Mars Arctic Research Station.

In the remaining months preceding the Conference, we may be hosting at least one more public lecture by a Mars/space scientist. Our local outreach activities will continue, with Chapter members having given talks before the North Shore Erie Astronomy Association, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at York University, and other groups. Rocky Persaud and Darlene Lim chaired a panel on Mars Exploration at the Ad Astra 2000 Conference, and our members will likely make an appearance at local conferences and events as they arise.

The Toronto Chapter continues it's efforts, demonstrating the ripple effect from our collective pebbles. We are presently focusing on Marsville and Conference planning activities. Members from the Chapter have formed task teams to handle specific duties for the Conference. The Toronto Chapter has broadly diversified it's Mars-advocacy activities and is looking forward to reaping the benefits in it's second year of activity...

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