#LPSC2018 Preview – What to Expect?

March 12, 2018

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

Facilitated by the Lunar and Planetary Institute, who itself is supported by NASA, the 49th 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 for coverage?

TL;DR (if you’re short on time): Follow us on Twitter (@we_martians) for coverage from Monday, Mar 19 to Friday, Mar 23. The conference hashtag is #LPSC2018. First podcast episode will be Tuesday, Mar 27. 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

I am one of the official conference microbloggers with dedicated access to wi-fi during LPSC. If you’re looking to follow along as it happens, our Twitter account is the one account you should follow. This year I’m going to make an attempt for more Twitter live video to bring you inside the science and the event at a deeper level.

Our other channels (Facebook and Instagram) will not have any further content than normal.

The Podcast

Episode 39 will be released on March 27th, 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. Listen to this podcast to hear a great summary of the event! This episode should include a good mix of science, inspiration and exploration. We might 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 Episode 39. These episodes will be traditional long form interviews with one or more scientists who are working on Mars.

Chomping at the bit? Try checking out last year’s summary episode as well!

What if I’m a Patron?

Quite frankly? Fasten your capsule harness. 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.

If you’re in our Discord (if you’re a $5+ supporter), I’ll be spending some time in there as well to give more inside looks and commentary. This will be a great place to discuss some of the things I see that aren’t suitable for public consumption (sounds lascivious, doesn’t it?!).

Click here to support WeMartians on Patreon and get behind the scences at LPSC2018!

The Event Itself

You might be asking yourself – what kinds of things actually happen at LPSC 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.

Oral 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 Polar Caps: Where Ice Lingers, which is a series of talks on Mars’ two polar caps and the amazing processes that shape and change them. If you remember way back in 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 is speaking 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 Lauren McKeown, Michael Aye, Justin Cowart, Matt Golombek and Frances Butcher are all speaking this year. Some of the highlighted sessions I’m looking forward to:

  • Astrobiology I: Looking for Life on Mars, Microbial Impact of Human Exploration, Curation Contamination Measurements
  • Mars Atmosphere
  • Aqueous Alteration of Mars: Results of Rovers, Meteorites and Analogs
  • Mars Rover Results: Depositional and Environmental History
LPSC2018 Attendees wait for the Oral Sessions to begin

LPSC2017 Attendees wait for the Oral Sessions to begin

Poster Sessions

If you don’t land a talk to present your work at LPSC, 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 summaries of different work being conducted. Some of the poster categories I’m looking forward to:

  • Astrobiology III: Analog Environments, Life Detection, and Extremophiles
  • Mars2020 Supercam Calibration & Lab Results
  • Planetary Mission Concepts III: Mars
  • Mars Future Exploration and Landing Sites
  • Human Extra Vehicular Activity Research
  • Phobos & Deimos II
  • Community Update from the Mars Exploration Program Advisory Group

Presentations & Special Events

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

On Monday, there is a feature lecture by Linda Spilker on Cassini, which will surely be delightful. Later that evening is “NASA Night”, where members of the Planetary Science directorate will address the attendees. We usually get some great info from this talk. They’re holding another smaller format meeting on Tuesday.

Monday evening, the Exhibit Hall opens, which has some cool visitors we’re keen to say hello to. Oftentimes big aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin will put on displays here.

On Wednesday, we’ll have the chance to hear Apollo astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt present some of his research as a geologist in Taurus Littrow on the Moon, which is of course a treat. More about the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 will be on the docket later that afternoon.

Jack Schmitt Address the Attendees of LPSC2018

Apollo 17 Astronaut and Geologist Jack Schmitt Addresses the Attendees of LPSC2017. Credit: LPI

Finally, on Thursday, there’s a chance to meet the MEPAG (Mars Exploration Program Advisory Group) committee members. If you remember, we did a blog post about their Virtual Meeting update just a couple of weeks ago.

Come meet Jake!

Interested in meeting Jake, having a few drinks, and talking about space and science? Jake will be hosting a listener meetup on March 18th in The Woodlands. Come by the wonderful Goose’s Acre pub for some food and beverages. See all of our upcoming meetups at events.offnominal.space.

March 18th, 2018, 8PM CDT
The Goose’s Acre
21 Waterway Avenue, Suite 140
The Woodlands, TX 77380

Is there a Live Stream for those of us not coming?

Yes! But most events won’t be streamed. The stream will be located here, and the image below shows you the events that will be streamed live.

LPSC2018 Live Stream Schedule

LPSC2018 Live Stream Schedule


It’s going to be a blast. So follow up on Twitter and be sure to catch Episode 39 of the podcast the following week!

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