The Association of Mars Explorers is to hold its second biennial dinner during the week of March 26th to coincide with the 2006 Astrobiology Science Conference in Washington D.C.

The evening will pay tribute to the Association’s latest Honorary Life Members, Professor Steve Squyres, principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Missions Spirit and Opportunity and Dr. Agustin Chicarro, project scientist for the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission. It will also mark the formal handing over of the Presidency of the Association from University of Florida scientist Dr. Andrew Schuerger to Dr. Penelope Boston, who will hold the office until the next dinner in 2008. Dr. Boston is Director of the Cave and Karst Studies Program and Associate Professor in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Dept at New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology in Socorro, New Mexico and has a passion for human exploration, being one of the co-founders of the Case for Mars project during her student days and a widely published author on Mars and space related research areas.

Says Andrew Schuerger, “The Association of Mars Explorers will greatly benefit from the extensive background and the broad enthusiasm that Penny Boston will bring to our Mars exploration efforts. She will also take us into the new realm of subsurface explorations on Mars, something that should bring in many new ideas for the organization. It will be a pleasure handing over the reins to her in 2006.”

Penny Boston says that she looks forward to the challenges of the next two years and applauds the choice of the two Life Members to be honoured this year. “Steve Sqyures and Agustin Chicarro have both made an outstanding contribution to Mars exploration and their selection as the two newest Life Members of the Association of Mars Explorers reflects our international membership and links.”

The Association of Mars Explorers or ‘The Mars Club’ was created in 2002 as an international forum for future explorers of the Red Planet. Its members must have ‘led or taken part in scientific exploration on Mars or in Mars analog environments’, meaning Mars-like environments here on Earth such as the polar regions or deserts. There are currently over eighty members based right around the globe, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Australia and they include scientists, engineers, writers and artists among their ranks.

The Association of Mars Explorers started the tradition of awarding Honorary Life Memberships in 2004, beginning with scientist and explorer William Hartmann, author of A Travelers Guide to Mars and followed by Professor Squyres and Dr. Chicarro in 2006.

Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, Steve Squyres is known internationally for his role with MER and his popular book Roving Mars but is also a co-investigator on the 2003 Mars Express and 2005 Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter missions, a member of the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer Flight Investigation Team for the Mars Odyssey mission, and a member of the imaging team for the Cassini to Saturn. Squyres will review Mars exploration accomplishments over the past two years during the dinner.

“I’m pleased and honored by this award and delighted to speak at the dinner,” says Squyres.

Agustin Chicarro monitored the design and development of the scientific instruments that flew on Mars Express and has a PhD in ‘compressive tectonics of Mars’ from the University of Paris in Orsay. He then spent three years at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, where he conducted research on the geology of Mars, the Moon and Mercury. After continuing research in Madrid and teaching at universities in Taipei, Taiwan for three more years, Chicarro joined ESTEC, where he studied proposals for future missions to Mars and the Moon before becoming Mars Express Project Scientist. He will speak about the ESA’s Mars program at the dinner.

He says, “I am deeply honoured to receive this international award and become an honorary lifetime member of the Association of Mars Explorers, as such a prestigious organisation is charting the future exploration of Mars by humankind, thanks to the tremendous expertise and dedication of its members. It is particularly rewarding to receive this distinction together with my friend Steve Squyres, with whom I worked years ago on a potential joint NASA/ESA mission to Mars that is yet to take place, in recognition of the ongoing worldwide exploration of the red planet.”

Andrew Schuerger, who has worked on Advanced Life Support (ALS) systems for space exploration and Mars astrobiology projects during his career as a scientist, says that the success of Squyres and Chicarro’s missions has laid the groundwork for future human Mars missions.

“AME is a professional group of scientists and explorers who wish to promote the long-term human exploration of Mars. We salute the work of people such as Steve Sqyures and Agustin Chicarro, as they have demonstrated the importance of continuing to robotically explore the mysteries of Mars, which will eventually pave the way for human missions, hopefully within our lifetime.”

Details of the Association and its biennial dinners can be found at

Media wishing to interview Dr. Andrew Schuerger, Dr. Penelope Boston, Professor Steve Sqyures or Dr. Agustin Chicarro in connection with the dinner should contact Prof. Charles Cockell at an provide details of media accreditation.

The Association of Mars Explorers was founded in 2002 as a forum for expeditioners and explorers interested in exploring the frontiers of Mars, including the deserts, mountains, poles and caves. It also included within its remit those who have explored Mars analog environments, which could include analog environments on the moon.