The University of Maryland is hosting the 2009 Mars Society Convention in College Park this weekend. The four-day conference — sponsored in part by the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering — features presentations by scientists from the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, roundtable discussions with noted authors on Mars and a tour of the Clark School’s facilities that are dedicated to human space exploration.
As Americans celebrate 100 years of flight on Dec. 17 and await the president’s challenge to return to the moon and beyond, a Purdue University space historian says there couldn’t be a better time to rejuvenate the country’s interest in space travel. “The Apollo missions have a historic and nostalgic allure only,” Michael Smith says. “We have the spectacular photographs and films and memories in popular culture. University students show little interest in returning to the moon again simply to return. Colonizing and mining the moon interest them somewhat. Reaching and exploring and colonizing Mars, perfectly achievable, according to present and possible technologies, fascinates them most.”