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San DIego
Chapter Spreads The Word

by Dave Rankin


The San Diego Chapter of the Mars Society continued
its aggressive outreach and education program the
first weekend in August in an appearance at the
Comic-Con International Popular Arts Convention
attended by over 60,000 people. The following
weekend, the fledgling chapter received the
Outstanding Volunteer award at the Mars Society
Convention for its work as the first chapter to
operate as Mission Support for the Mars Desert
Research Station.
In the outreach effort at the Comic-Con, the
San Diego Chapter told the story of the Mars Society
through a photographic display table, personal
interaction, flyers, and two panel discussions.
The display table was set up in the Exhibitor‚s Hall
where people attending the convention passed by. The
centerpiece of the display was a large backdrop of
photographs set atop the table.
Starting on the left the backdrop showed
photographs and information of Mars obtained by the
satellites currently in orbit around the Red Planet.
The center of the display had photographs of Mars
Society projects, including Mars Direct, the Mars
Balloon, the Pressurized Rover Project, Euro-Mars, and
multiple images of F-Mars and MDRS. The right wing of
the display told about the San Diego Chapter‚s
involvement with MDRS, our Mission Support, as well as
our chapter‚s meetings and monthly Mars Movie Nights.
The table also had our orange Mars Society
informational flyers, our red Comic-Con flyers, a copy
of Robert Zubrin‚s book, „The Case For Mars,‰ other
books on Mars, a Mars globe, and merchandise from our
chapter‚s web store.
Chapter members staffed the table for all five days
of the Convention and were able to speak with many
passers-by and pass out 600 informational flyers. The
response of the vast majority of people who stopped to
talk was positive. They were keenly interested in the
Mars Society‚s Analog Research Stations and some even
wanted to know how to sign up for the crews.
Even though our table was set up in the middle
of a comic book convention and surrounded by people in
fantasy and science fiction costumes, there were only
a handful of „meta-physicists‰ and Face on Mars
believers. Instead, the level of conversation was
pretty high and people were well informed about space
Some of the people who stopped already knew
about the Mars Society and were able to explain our
photographs to their friends. Several said they had
seen our panel discussion at the previous year‚s
Comic-Con and had come to the convention to see us
again. This year, instead of just one panel
discussion, we gave them two.
Friday‚s 90-minute discussion on the Mars Analog
Research Stations had an audience of 104 people and
was presented exclusively by members of the San Diego
chapter. Dave Rankin moderated the panel and made
introductions after a 12-minute PowerPoint
presentation that introduced The Mars Society and the
San Diego Chapter.
Gerry Williams then narrated a short 10-minute film
he shot at MDRS and spoke about his experiences at the
habitat. Jonathan Butler, who talked about designing
a biology experiment that was performed at the
habitat, followed Williams. Shannon Rupert Robles,
who was an MDRS crew member for two weeks, then talked
about conducting the biology experiment at the habitat
and explained a little of the experiment‚s findings.
After taking a handful of questions on the likelihood
of life on Mars, including one from a former JPL
scientist, she then gave another PowerPoint
presentation on her stint as a member of Crew Four at
The discussion then shifted to an explanation of
Mission Support, with Rankin introducing the segment,
followed by John Stone, who discussed the topic in
some more detail and related his personal experiences
in a way that helped to recruit some new chapter
After these presentations, the audience peppered the
panel with questions about the Mars Society, the
analog research stations, and the future of Mars
Sunday‚s panel, Visions of Mars: Past, Present and
Future was attended by 179 people. The panel included
only one of our chapter members, Dave Rankin, who
again moderated the discussion. The panelists
included science fiction authors Larry Niven and Kevin
Anderson, John Carter McKnight, futurist and writer of
the online column, „The Space Faring Web,‰ Jim Benson,
founder of SpaceDev, a space exploration company, and
Dr. Michael Caplinger, of Malin Space Science Systems.
The 90-minute session kicked off with Rankin
introducing the panel and narrating a shorter version
of Friday‚s PowerPoint presentation about The Mars
Society and the San Diego Chapter. The presentation
also touched on past misconceptions of Mars in science
and fiction, and highlighted our current knowledge of
the planet.
McKnight led off the guest panelists with his
PowerPoint talk on the influence of Edgar Rice
Burroughs and the American West on the approach to
Mars exploration. He concluded that, for better or
worse, the concept of the West is changing from an
exploitative model to a protective model and that this
change will affect our approach to exploring Mars and
our reasons for going there.
The two science fiction authors spoke next. Anderson
focused his remarks on writing science fiction and
spoke about how Mars, and the film, "The War of the
Worlds," ensnared him into becoming a science fiction
writer. Niven took the center of the program and
speculated on different approaches humans might take
to get to Mars and the reasons why we would go there.
Dr. Caplinger, who is project scientist for the Mars
Orbital Camera (aboard the Mars Global Surveyor
spacecraft) gave an entertaining and informative talk
on the state of Mars today, including the confirming
evidence from Odyssey of large amounts of water on
Mars. Caplinger tied our current knowledge of Mars,
and our space-faring capabilities, to the challenges
that lie ahead of us in sending humans to Mars.
Finally, Benson, finished up the formal presentations
with a rousing speech on his vision of how humans can
get into space, make money up there, and stay there.
The panelists then took questions from the audience
until time ran out.
Rich Loesch videotaped both panel discussions
and Gerry Williams is editing them onto VHS tapes,
which will be available from our chapter library.
To show our appreciation to the guest panelists, we
took them to lunch at the San Diego Yacht Club
immediately after the discussion. We also gave each
of them a Certificate of Appreciation signed by all
the chapter members, and a mug from our San Diego
chapter web store. The mugs were adorned with a
picture of Mars and inscribed with our chapter‚s
motto: „Mars: It‚s Not Just For Robots.‰
Shannon Rupert Robles and Jonathan Butler, attended
the Mars Society‚s Convention in Colorado on the
following weekend. They both spoke in a panel
discussion with Steve McDaniel on prospecting for
water. They discussed their biology experiment, which
tested the McDaniel‚s hypothesis, during the
Rupert Robles appeared on two other panels at
the Convention. She sat on the mission commander‚s
panel because the commander of MDRS‚s Crew 4 was
absent from the Convention. She also appeared with
her crew mates on a panel which discussed the Aonia
Mission. That mission was an overnight excursion by
MDRS Crew 4 in a simulated pressurized rover. The
rover, actually her SUV, was dubbed "Aonia" for the
In addition to appearing on panels, Rupert-Robles and
Butler accepted the Outstanding Volunteer Award on
behalf of the San Diego Chapter at the Convention.
For more information on the San Diego Chapter,
including a special report and photographs of its
Comic-Con outreach, or to purchase chapter
merchandise, go to
To contact the San Diego chapter send an email to A San Diego chapter
member will reply to your email.



For questions, comments or suggestions regarding the Red Planet Satellite Report please contact Richard Trombly. The Red Planet Satellite Report is a publication of the Mars Society Chapter's Council, copyright 2001. All Rights Reserved.

General queries should be directed to
Copyright 2001 The Mars Society. All rights reserved.