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?
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.
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
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
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
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
- 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!
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.