The WeMartians Blog

Other items of interest from the fourth planet

October is upon us, Martians!

Thanks to all the Patrons who’ve pledged support already. We’re 87% of the way to our second goal of $150/month in order to upgrade the Podcast’s services and equipment. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

  • Off the Cuff – Faster, Better, Samplier – I spoke for about 20 minutes on the topic of the streamlined, more cost-effective Mars Sample Return architecture laid out by Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA in the review of the Decadal Survey which happened at the end of August.
  • Bonus Content – Episode 29 (Mike Seibert) – All Patrons got an additional 10 minutes of audio from Mike Seibert’s interview. We talked about the Cold Atom Lab, the Curiosity Sampling System, and Mike’s awesome Mars Tartan waistcoat!
  • Bonus Content – Episode 30 (Fred Calef) – All Patrons got an additional 11 minutes of audio from Fred Calef’s interview. We talked about choosing landing sites for missions, including upcoming launches of InSight and Mars2020, and how these locations are put together.
  • REMINDER: Bonus Content RSS Feed Live Now – To make it easier to access all the bonus content, Patrons now get access to a private RSS feed so they can listen to the content in their podcatcher of choice. Simply log in to Patreon and copy the link on the right to your app!

Happy September, Martians!

Thanks to all the Patrons who’ve pledged support already. We’re 66% of the way to our first goal of $150/month in order to upgrade the Podcast’s services and equipment. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

  • Third Quarterly Chat – On Aug 13th, we held the 3rd Quarterly Chat for Lander-level or greater Patrons. We had a great conversation about some of the future episodes, especially looking forward to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy debut.
  • Bonus Content – Episode 28 (Emily Lakdawalla) – All Patrons got to experience an additional 5 minutes of audio from the Emily Lakdawalla interview. I asked Emily a little about the character of the Mars Science Laboratory team (Curiosity Rover) and how its composition compares to smaller missions.
  • REMINDER: Bonus Content RSS Feed Live Now – To make it easier to access all the bonus content, Patrons now get access to a private RSS feed so they can listen to the content in their podcatcher of choice. Simply log in to Patreon and copy the link on the right to your app!

Happy August, Martians!

Thanks to all the Patrons who’ve pledged support already. We’re 55% of the way to our first goal of $150/month in order to upgrade the Podcast’s services and equipment. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

It occurs to me that we missed the June highlights so I’ll include them here, too.

  • Bonus Content – Episode 25 (Abbie Hutty) – All Patrons got to experience an additional 7 minutes of audio from our guest Abbie Hutty. I talked to Abbie about what she thought of Schiaparelli’s crash on to the Martian surface and how it might affect the ExoMars rover.
  • Bonus Content – Episode 26 (Remembering Pathfinder) – Our much-celebrated audio documentary about the NASA Mars Pathfinder mission comes with a huge amount of bonus content. Every Patron gets access to the complete uncut interview with Brian Muirhead, Donna Shirley and Matt Golombek, All told, it’s around 75 minutes of interview audio to get the full story of this amazing mission.
  • Third Quarterly Chat Announced – Lander- and Rover-level patrons get access to a quarterly chat session with me and the rest of their patrons. We announced the third such event, happening August 13.
  • Bonus Content – “Off the Cuff” – Dead Dragon – I shared almost 20 minutes of my thoughts on Elon Musk’s announcement that Red Dragon had been cancelled. Available to all Patrons.
  • Bonus Content RSS Feed Live Now – To make it easier to access all the bonus content, Patrons now get access to a private RSS feed so they can listen to the content in their podcatcher of choice. Simply log in to Patreon and copy the link on the right to your app!

It’s June and we’re off down the path of the next Patreon goal!

Thanks to all the Patrons who’ve pledged support already. We’re 55% of the way to our first goal of $150/month in order to upgrade the Podcast’s services and equipment. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

Read more below for a summary of the Patreon highlights in May.

  • Patreon Goal Discussion – Patrons were invited to see my plans for the next Patreon goal of $150 and join in a discussion about what should be a part of it. This is a listener funded show and so the listeners should have a say in its direction! Check it out to learn more about our future direction and help us decide what we should do!
  • Episode 23 Listener Content – As a Rover-level patron, Jorge had his question read on the show for Frances Butcher, our guest for Episode 23. Jorge asked about the possibilities for robotic and human exploration of a Martian esker.
  • Bonus Audio – Episode 23 (Frances Butcher) – All Patrons got to experience an additional 6 minutes of audio from our guest Frances Butcher, who talked about her experiences at the ExoMars 2020 Rover landing site selection committee in Europe. Europe first Mars rover is set to land in 2021 and will be exciting mission that we hope to learn more about soon on this show.
  • Quarterly Chat – Lander Level Patrons were entitled to attend our 2nd quarterly chat, which is an interactive session where listeners can provide feedback on the podcast and we can generate ideas together. This quarter we unfortunately didn’t have anyone attend – I’ll take the blame myself for scheduling it on Mother’s Day! The next chat will be in August so stay tuned!
  • Bonus Audio – Episode 24 (Leonard David) – All Patrons got to experience an additional 10 minutes of audio from our guest Leonard David, who talked about the Mars Underground. The Mars Underground was a group of Mars enthusiasts from the late 70s and early 80s who began a conference called “The Case For Mars Conference”. Much of their work was built on to create organizations like the Mars Society and podcasts like this one!

Martians, we finally made it!

This month, we reached our first milestone goal on Patreon! At $65/month, we officially satisfy all the podcast’s operating expenses. We’re a 100% listener-supported! This is a massive accomplishment and I cannot thank all of the patrons who have contributed so far enough. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

So what’s next? Well, our next goal is at $150/month and it will permit me to upgrade some of our recording equipment. I’ll have more details on this in a future post, but I’m happy to say we are already 51% of the way there!

Read more below for a summary of the Patreon highlights in April.

  • Episode 22 – Live! – Normally, Rover-level patrons get to participate in pre-interview preparation by submitting questions, but for Episode 22 we decided to do something really special. We joined with the Orbital Mechanics Podcast for a special live episode, and patrons got to listen in as we recorded the podcast! To make it even better, we extended the invitation to lander-level Patrons as well. It was suitable thank you for all the support so far. And instead of releasing bonus content, we put everything out in the epic 100-minute episode.
  • Episode 23 – Interview Prep – Rover-level Patrons got to submit questions for the upcoming episode on Martian Eskers (out tomorrow). These patrons aren’t just supporters – they’re contributors, too!
  • Next Quarterly Chat Announced! – We’ve got our next quarterly chat hangout session planned for May 14th – all Lander-level and Rover-level patrons are invited! Come talk about episodes, past and future, a fun topic, and anything else going on!
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Credit: Ryan Wick

On Saturday, April 29th, the world celebrates Astronomy Day, and here at WeMartians we wouldn’t want to let that pass unnoticed. Mars is a great target for astronomy here on Earth! All this week, we’ll be spreading the astronomical love across our web platforms.

Read more to find out what’s going on and how you can take part! Astronomy Day is for everyone!

Social Media

  • Our Instagram account will have some classic #Mars astronomical photos each day of this week, beginning today!
  • Our Twitter account will publish some random astronomy facts and photos.
  • Over on Facebook, we’ll be sharing some highlighted videos from a great astronomy series by Phil Plait called “Crash Course” to help gear you up!

Where do I get started if I want to do some astronomy?

There’s a lot going on this week in astronomy, and if you want to see everything you can watch, we recommend this article from space.com. But here are the highlights:

  • Jupiter is very bright, having reached opposition on April 7th.  Look for it in the evening after sunset to the East! If you have binoculars or a small telescope, you can even spot the four Galilean Moons!
  • Venus is getting brighter every night this week, appearing just before sunrise in the East. It will be low to those of us in the Northern hemisphere, but Southerners will have a great showing.
  • Mars is getting further away form us but is still visible this month in the early evening Western sky.

Further Reading/Listening

If you want to go deeper, check out the following resources.

  • Naked Eye Astronomy Guide – Our article from last year’s Mars opposition giving you an idea of what you can do without a telescope.
  • Astronomy Smartphone Guide – Also from last year’s Mars opposition event, this guide gives you some ideas for Smartphone apps to help you do astronomy.
  • Episode 6 – “Mars; God of War” – Last year, we spoke with Kyle Dally from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and took a look through his telescope. Check out the podcast interview with him.

How can I participate?

Quite frankly – just go outside and look up!

If you’re in to photography, send us some photos that you take of the night sky and we’ll share them through social media. We’d love to hear from listeners around the world and hear their astronomical experiences.

What a crazy month!

Thanks to all the Patrons who’ve pledged support already. We’re 83% of the way to our first goal of $65/month in order to satisfy all the podcast’s operating expenses. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

Read more below for a summary of the Patreon highlights in March.

  • LPSC History & Preview Video – I don’t often make videos, but all the Orbiter-level or higher patrons got a special on-the-scene preview of the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference that I recorded from my rental car on the way to Houston. We covered a little bit of what to expect from LPSC, but also covered LPSC’s history all the way back to 1968! It was a fun way to explore LPSC’s past, and if anything, you should watch it just to hear my try to sing country music (I’ll just leave that there).
  • LPSC Audio Updates (3) – The big bonus content from this month’s episode really comes before it aired in the form of near-daily updates of the four conference days I spent in Houston (Wednesday was a straight-forward day and I was really tired that night, so there was no update then). Each of the three audio clips, available to Orbiter-level patrons or higher, covered my raw thoughts of the day and goes into more detail than the Episode released afterwards does. You’ll hear some more thoughts on a lecture about Laser Altimeters, NASA Night and the Budget Proposal from the White House, a special session on JMARS, deeper thoughts on NASA’s human landing sites and Lockheed Martin’s Mars Base Camp, and some more details about the science talks I spent my time in. It’s definitely the most bonus content I’ve produced so far for an episode!
  • Lockheed Martin Mars Lander Concept Photo (TOP SECRET) – I wasn’t allowed to tweet these, but that doesn’t stop me from sharing them privately with Patrons!
  • WeMartians Care Package – Some lucky Patrons who got me their addresses in time got a special care package in the mail this month. This was an “Off The Cuff” mail-out with some goodies I had made for the conference. You might see them pop up on social media!
  • Roadmap to Mars “Off The Cuff” – I dropped 20 minutes of audio exploring NASA’s announced Roadmap to Mars, covering the 11 missions on SLS and the proposed architecture.

It’s not too late to get in on this action – head over to www.patreon.com/wemartians and see how you can not only help the show grow, but also become more involved with the exploration of Mars for as little as $1/month.

Hey there, Martians!

A quick note that we’re going to be bringing Episode 22 forward in the publishing schedule by 1 week. Normally, following our once-every-three-week schedule meant we’d see #22 on April 18th, but we’re bringing it up to the 11th. Why, you ask? Well, we’re going to keep it a surprise for now, but we will give you some hints. Your first one? Check it out.

Be sure to follow any of our social media for updates on this development – we’ll have a few more hints before next week!

By the way, related to this announcement – now would be a great time to become a Patron (especially one of $3+). These lucky Martians are in for a special treat, in addition to all the regular great benefits! Check it out!

Picture Every year in March, nearly two thousand scientists, from geologists to astronomers to geophysicists, descend upon The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston. For one week, they share the latest findings in planetary science at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Facilitated by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, who itself is supported by NASA, the 48th annual LPSC promises to showcase a variety of important Mars results, and WeMartians will be there in person to capture it all.

What can I expect from WeMartians in terms of coverage?

TL;DR (if you’re short on time): Follow the social media accounts below for coverage from Sun Mar 19 to Thur Mar 23. On Friday Mar 24th, WeMartians will be touring Space Centre Houston to visit Johnson Space Centre and will provide additional content. The conference hashtag is #LPSC2017. First podcast episode will be Tuesday, Mar 28. Additional long form interviews will follow in subsequent episodes on our regular 3-week basis. Patreon Supporters should read below for bonus content info.

Social Media

This is WeMartians’ first in-person event and we’re very excited to provide coverage for all the Martians out there. Jake has been selected as one of 48 official conference microbloggers with dedicated access to wi-fi during the event. If you’re looking to follow along as it happens, our Twitter account is the one account you should follow.

Additional coverage on Facebook will include featured Mars scientists from the event with pictures of their posters or during their talks. We’re interested in showcasing the diversity of talent that will be present at the event and hope to show you all kinds of people who are working to unlock the mysteries of Mars today. Instagram will show worthy images from the conference.

The Podcast

Episode 21 will be released on March 28th, the Tuesday after the conference. The intention is for this episode to be an overall story of the event, with short interviews from a variety of attendees and organizers. If you want the once and for all summary of everything that happened, this will be your best bet! This episode should include a good mix of science, inspiration and exploration. We should even be able to catch up with some of our past guests!

Depending on the contacts that we make on site, we could have 1-3 additional episodes that will follow on the regular schedule after 21. These episodes will be traditional long form interviews with one or more scientists who are working on Mars.

What if I’m a Patron?

Quite frankly? Hold on to your space helmets. We’ve got a lot in store for Patrons of all levels. Expect daily audio updates throughout the event, and a vast amount of bonus content that doesn’t make it in to the regular episode. If you’re not already a Patron, now would be a great time to join. Bonus content is available to all Patrons who pledge $1 or more per month to help WeMartians continue building great content like this.


 The Event Itself

You might be asking yourself – what kinds of things actually happen at this event anyway? You can definitely check out the week’s schedule at a glance, or the full schedule with links to the abstracts being presented. But basically, there are three major kinds of events happening.

 PictureOral Sessions

During most of the mornings and afternoons, different presenters will be taking turns giving talks  of around 15 minutes each on the subjects of their papers. These papers are organized into groups of similar research, and similar destinations in the solar system. For example, Monday morning has a three hour session on Mars Volatile Surface-Atmospheric Interactions, which is a series of talks on the effects of different substances moving from the atmosphere to the surface and back. If you remember Episode 4, Michael Aye taught us about how Carbon Dioxide cycles to the poles and back seasonally – this would be the right session for a talk like that (in fact, Michael’s work is being presented in this very session!)

We’ll be hitting as many of the Mars ones as possible (hitting all would require Jake to be in more than one place as once). Past guests Cassie Stuurman, Nina Lanza, and Tanya Harrison are all speaking this year. Some of the highlighted sessions I’m looking forward to:

  • Mars Atmosphere: That was then, this is now
  • Mud to Mountain: Curiosity’s Geologic Traverse Across Gale Crater
  • Martian Meteorite Madness: Mixing on a Variety of Scales
  • Atmosphere and Loathing: Aeolian Processes on Mars

PicturePoster Sessions

If you don’t land a talk to present your work, you might also have the chance to present your scientific findings in one of two poster sessions. These happen Tuesday and Thursday evening, and basically involve a huge conference hall with rows of posters up on walls. These posters try to summarize, with figures and other imagery, the findings on various topics so far. These posters are also categorized into different areas based on different themes.

We hope to meet a lot of people in these sessions and capture some on the scene 5-minute summaries of different work being conducted. Some of the poster categories I’m looking forward to:

  • Exobiology: Search for (Signs of) Life High and Low, Near and Far
  • Martian Meteorites: Geochemistry and Such
  • Opportunity Rover Observations
  • Investigation of Mars Analog Field sites
  • Mars Mission Concepts
  • Environmental Analogs (many, including a whole section on CanMars 2016 and posters from past guest Eric Pilles)
  • Future Mars Exploration and Landing Sites
  • Martian Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL), Gullies, and Landslides

PicturePresentations & Special Events

Finally, there are a couple presentations & special events which take place throughout the conference.

The Sunday evening before is a welcome event that we’ll be attending in order to catch up with past guests and try to meet some future ones.

On Monday, we’ll have the chance to hear Apollo astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt gives his thoughts on the recent passing of John Glenn, Edgar Mitchel and Gene Cernan. Afterwards, NASA’s Science Mission directorate will address the community. That evening, the Exhibit Hall opens, which has some cool visitors we’re keen to say hello to, not least of which are:

  • Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration from the University of Western Ontario – hosted CanMars2016 and the breeding ground for many of our past guests
  • JMARS (Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing – basically an amazing mapping software for Mars)
  • Lockheed Martin
  • NASA
  • MSA/SSL (has built science instruments for Curiosity, Phoenix, as well as the Canadarm and robotic arm for InSight)

Tuesday has a special presentation called Picking a Human Landing Site on Mars: What Are We Learning? which is obviously of great interest to us Martians!

Finally, on Thursday, Lockheed Martin is hosting a workshop on how humans can use their Mars Base Camp spacecraft design to accomplish scientific objectives on Mars from orbit. Should be a blast!

PictureSpace Centre Houston

The last day of the conference is typically a short one, and we made the decision to get out early and head down to Houston to visit Space Centre Houston at the Johnson Space Centre on the Level 9 tour which is sort of a VIP tour to visit behind the scenes.

Expect some cool photos, including the Saturn V rocket, a space shuttle replica, the historic Apollo Mission Control and more. They’ve also opened a new Mission Mars exhibit that we’re very excited to check out.

Conclusion

This is going to be a lot of fun. Strap in to your space couch and let’s go to Mars!

It’s been an exciting month for Patrons of the show. We’ve only been live for about five weeks but there is already lots going on.

Thanks to all the Patrons who have pledged support already. We’re 62% of the way to our first goal of $65/month in order to satisfy all the podcast’s operating expenses. Click the link to the right if you’d like to join the growing number of Martians who help support the exploration of Mars.

Read more below for a summary of the Patreon highlights in February.

  • Patreon Commercial – Three volunteer Martians have had their voices heard on the show (literally) by participating in a short spot for Patreon that I use on the podcast. Thanks to Jorge, Paul and Anthony for lending their lungs to the cause!
  • 1st Quarterly Chat – Lander- and Rover-level patrons joined me for the first ever quarterly chat hangout on Discord. We discussed past episodes and future content, as well as geeking out about a few topics like the Mars2020 rover. It was an awesome experience for me to get feedback from the listeners, but also really excited that they can set direction for the show.
  • Interview Contributions – Patron Jorge, a Rover-level Martian, had his questions read on the air in Episode 19 – Dome Sweet Dome. Jorge asked about the extensibility of the Mars Ice Home as well as the source of its building materials.
  • Bonus Content – Extended Interview – All Patrons were able to listen to the extended interview with Kelsey Lents and Jeffrey Montes from Episode 19 – Dome Sweet Dome. Jeffrey and Kelsey describe what it was like working with NASA and being a part of a greater space community.
  • Bonus Content – “Off the Cuff” – Pushing SLS – All Patrons also got a mini-episode where I share some thoughts on the news that NASA will explore putting a crew on to the first flight of the SLS rocket. This change would accelerate NASA’s schedule and is a bit uncharacteristic. I tried to provide some context to what it all means.

It’s not too late to get in on this action – head over to www.patreon.com/wemartians and see how you can not only help the show grow, but also become more involved with the exploration of Mars for as little as $1/month.