Not much time to blog this since I have to run to the Mars Society Conference banquet in just a few minutes. Day three was good, starting with a somewhat rambling but pretty inspiring speech from Dr. Robert Zubrin on how far we've come, what's left to do (a lot), why we need to support NASA's Vision for Space Exploration (it's finally destination driven!), and why it has to be Mars as the real prize (it's a tough place but it has everything necessary to build a new branch of human civilization).
I was setting up a slide show for the MarsDrive exhibit and unfortunately missed most of Australian astronaut Andy Thomas's talk (STS-114 and five other flights) - too bad, because judging from the few Q&A responses I heard, he was very open and an excellent speaker. Dr. Chris McKay, one of the founders of the "Mars Underground," the predecessor of the Mars Society, spoke next. He's now with NASA Ames and is concerned with astrobiology, but his talk focused on using the Moon (no life expected there) as preparation for Mars exploration. He argued that the Moon will probably not have colonies as Mars ultimately will, but will remain a research site, more like Antarctica, a place where Ph.D. students do thesis research. But this is still a good thing. Once again HobbySpace has excellent summaries of the three morning speeches here.
In the afternoon I caught a couple of good talks by Reagan Walker, American Director for MarsDrive. One was on software/web based communication support for Mars analog research labs, and the other was an overview of MarsDrive and its aims. There was also a good talk on Mars Direct and Orbiter by Cyrus Phillips and Seth Hollingsead, which included live demos of Orbiter that really seemed to impress the audience. Cyrus, Seth, and Rich Wall also had an Orbiter table in the exhibit area and did a lot of "Orbiter evangelism" for all sorts of attendees, including astronaut Andy Thomas. I missed him there too! Seth told me that Andy asked, "where can I get a copy of this thing?" They gave him one. The picture above was posted by Cyrus in the Orbiter forum (Andy is standing in the blue suit).
My presentation went well also (Orbiter simulation of Mars for Less) - I showed 26 PowerPoint slides and 5 minutes of video clips in 30 minutes, and it seemed to be coherent and well received. People tend to be surprised at the technical and visual quality of Orbiter. The slides (PDF of the handout) are available at Andy's site here. To be continued...