Mars Society

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"The Purpose of the Mars Society: To further the goal of the exploration and settlement of the Red Planet. This will be accomplished by:

  • Public outreach fostering Mars pioneers
  • Worldwide support for government-funded Mars research and exploration
  • Private-enterprise Mars exploration and settlement

Starting small, with hitchhiker payloads on government-funded missions, The Mars Society intends to use the credibility such activities engenders to mobilize larger resources, further enabling private robotic missions and ultimately human exploration and settlement of Mars.

The Founding Declaration

In August 1998 the Founding Declaration of the Mars Society was ratified by the 700 attendees of the founding convention at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.

The full wording of the declaration is found here

Seven powerful reasons for going to Mars are described.

  1. We must go for the knowledge of Mars
  2. We must go for the knowledge of Earth
  3. We must go for the challenge
  4. We must go for the youth
  5. We must go for the opportunity
  6. We must go for our humanity
  7. We must go for the future

The Founding Declaration concludes with:

"Believing therefore that the exploration and settlement of Mars is one of the greatest human endeavors possible in our time, we have gathered to found this Mars Society, understanding that even the best ideas for human action are never inevitable, but must be planned, advocated, and achieved by hard work. We call upon all other individuals and organizations of like-minded people to join with us in furthering this great enterprise. No nobler cause has ever been. We shall not rest until it succeeds."

Mars Analog Research Stations

In its first decade the Mars Society established two research stations - the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) and the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS).

FMARS is located on Devon Island, a Mars analogue environment and polar desert, approximately 100 miles northeast of the hamlet of Resolute in Nunavut, Canada. The station overlooks the Haughton impact crater, a 23 kilometer diameter crater formed  nearly 40 million years ago. The station helps develop the capabilities needed on Mars to allow productive field research during the long months of a human sojourn. The facility has evolved through time to achieve increasing levels of realism and fidelity with the ultimate goal of supporting the actual training of Mars-bound astronauts. The FMARS website documents the use of the site by a number of international crews.

MDRS in the Utah desert near Hanksville, UT was established by the Mars Society in 2001 to better educate researchers, students and the general public about how humans can survive on the Red Planet. As of 2018 nearly 200 crews of six-person teams have lived in two week field visits at MDRS to simulate life on the Martian surface. Researchers and students alike have explored the Mars-like red sandstone terrain in the area surrounding the station in full “spacesuits”, maintained the station’s systems, grown plants in the GreenHab to support themselves, and even recycled their waste water. Detailed crew reports and videos are found on the MDRS web site.

The University Rover Challenge Series

In the society's second decade it has sponsored a rover design/build/test competition among college student teams from around the world. These rovers are designed to work with and support human explorers on the surface of Mars, and each year the testing requirements are enhanced to more realistically develop and demonstrate this coupling between rovers and humans. 84 teams of college students representing 13 countries are set to take on the 2019 University Rover Challenge. Teams will spend the academic year designing and fabricating prototype next-generation rovers that could one day support astronauts on the surface of Mars. The next major milestone for teams is the Preliminary Design Review, which requires teams to submit a report to judges by November 30. A System Acceptance Review milestone in March will down-select to the top 36 teams who will compete from May 30 - June 1, 2019 at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah. The URC website has photos and reports from previous competitions. The evolving design criteria are also evident.

Outreach Activities

The Annual International Mars Society Convention

The four-day International Mars Society Convention brings together leading scientists, engineers, aerospace industry representatives, government policymakers and journalists to talk about the latest scientific discoveries, technological advances and political-economic developments that could help pave the way for a human mission to the planet Mars. The speakers schedule for each of the past conventions is available in the article on Mars Society Conventions Chronology.

MarsPapers - The official library of the Mars Society

MarsPapers is the Mars Society archive of over 600 Mars related papers and presentations. All documents in this archive are available in PDF format for viewing in your browser or they may be downloaded for off-line reading. Many of the papers appearing in this archive have been published in book form. While most of the documents in this archive have been presented at the Mars Society annual Convention, everyone with a Mars related paper is encouraged to submit it for inclusion in MarsPapers where it is available for public reading.

The Mars Society - YouTube

This YouTube site contains approximately 500 videos of plenary and technical presentations made at the annual International Mars Society Conventions from 2010 to 2018. It also includes MDRS crew videos prepared as a summary of crew activities at the end of their two week stay in Utah and videos of selected projects.


The Mars Society is building a new open-source Virtual Reality platform — called “MarsVR.” The MarsVR Program is a multi-phase effort designed to pioneer the emerging field of CrowdExploration, which we define as the partnership between the first astronauts on Mars and the VR experts and enthusiasts back on Earth. We aim to establish the capability of using Virtual Reality to assist with the initial human exploration of landing sites. Phase I of the Mars VR Program will focus on designing training simulations for use at the Mars Desert Research Station by developing 3-D models of the MDRS facilities and the surrounding terrain and providing direct assistance in the training of MDRS crew members. We will also open-source The key elements of the platform will be open-sourced so that the general public can freely make use of it to experience the exploration of Mars.

The MDRS Robotic Observatory

The Mars Society has created a state-of-the-art MDRS Robotic Observatory that can be used remotely by astronomy enthusiasts from around the world. All observations are completed online.  The scheduled Crew Astronomer sets up the images he/she would like to photograph via the Internet at any time of the day or night and the telescope takes the images on the next clear evening. There are two telescopes in the observatory mounted tandem to each other.  A large 14-inch, Celestron EdgeHD, Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector is used with standardized photometric filters for research work, and a small 70mm refractor for wide-angle astrophotography.  The system is controlled through Skynet which robotically manages the software for telescopes worldwide. 

Contest and challenges

2004 Why Mars? Essay contest

2019 Mars colony design contest

2020 Mars city-State design contest

See also