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Mars conference slated for October

Astronauts, scientists and others interested in the human exploration of Mars will convene October 1-3 at MIT for "Mars Week," a student-run conference.

The conference, designed as an inspirational event that will educate and excite people about Mars exploration, will feature speakers representing an array of interests in Mars and space science.

Among those scheduled to speak are Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin (ScD 1963); veteran space shuttle astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz (ScD 1977); Professor Maria Zuber of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; and Robert Zubrin, Mars Society president and author of The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet.

The three-day event was planned by members of the "ThinkMars" initiative, a team of students from MIT, Harvard and other New England colleges, and is being presented in cooperation with the Mars Society, NASA Academy Alumni Association, National Space Society, and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (aero/astro).

ThinkMars was created last year to participate in NASA's "NASA Means Business" competition, and the student group was subsequently selected by the judges to develop a comprehensive business plan for a mission to Mars. That business plan went on to become a semifinalist in MIT's $50K Business Plan Competition.

The team, which works via the Internet, is using NASA's technical mission plan (the NASA Design Reference Mission) as the basis for a business plan that focuses on the financial, political and logistical aspects of human exploration of Mars. Team members hope to launch the company that organizes the first mission.

"We weren't around for the first Moon walk, so this is our way of contributing to space exploration," said ThinkMars founder Justin Talbot-Stern, a graduate student in aero/astro. "To us, it's not just a competition anymore, it's real life."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 22, 1999.

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