On the 100th anniversary of the first airborne flight, the Association of Mars Explorers is calling upon the President to set an ambitious goal of landing humans on Mars and establishing a permanent presence there.

The President of the Association for 2002-2004, Charles Cockell, Ph.D. said, “Mars has polar ice caps as big as Antarctica, deserts, canyons and volcanoes higher than Everest. As an environment for human exploration, it has the potential to provide excitement to human explorers for centuries”.

Although the moon will provide us with a foothold for the exploration of space, its environments are no where near as challenging and diverse as those on Mars. Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the Solar System, is two and a half times higher than Everest. The Martian north polar ice cap, made of water ice, is as big as Antarctica and some of the deserts of Mars are larger than the Sahara. For explorers to cross these remote and forbidding landscapes will require extraordinary expeditionary skill, particularly as the atmosphere of Mars is lethal to humans and they will need to be in a pressurized environment at all times.

“Getting to Mars is going to be difficult, but once you are there, the possibilities are endless”, said Cockell, “In a similar way to the draw that the Earth’s polar regions exert on Earth-bound explorers, Mars has a good chance of captivating the human exploration spirit for long enough for us to establish a permanent human presence there. From there the road to the stars is open”

“Many of the frontiers on Earth that drove explorers in the past, such as deserts, mountains and poles have their counterparts on Mars” explained Cockell, who is a scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center and Chair of the Earth and Space Foundation. “As we know these features can inspire and excite explorers for centuries, we’ve got a good historical basis to believe that Mars can inspire and drive the human spirit of exploration for centuries as well, helping us to get a foothold on the planet. The anniversary of the flight of the Wright brothers is a good time to recognize these opportunities and set the agenda to get there”.

The Association of Mars Explorers is a membership organization of explorers of Mars and Mars-analog environments on Earth. Established in 2002, it holds a dinner once every two years and acts as a forum for those interested in the human exploration of the Martian deserts, mountains, caves and poles.

Information on the Association can be obtained at www.mars-club.org

Contact : Charles Cockell (cockell@mars-club.org)