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May 27, 2007

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THE NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY gives its Wernher von Braun award once every two years. This year it went to Prof. Steven Squyres, father of the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, whose 90-day mission has now run over 1200 Mars days (or "sols" as they're called). He's also the author of Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet.

He gave a very interesting talk, and showed some pictures and video from Mars that I hadn't seen before. The $400 Million for this mission seems quite well spent, as we've learned all sorts of useful things about Mars. The pathfinding role of these probes, which have produced all sorts of data we'll find useful in the event of manned missions or colonization, also illustrates the silliness of the manned vs. unmanned exploration debate.

I saw Ben Bova -- another former NSS Chair whom I hadn't seen in years -- and he was doing quite well. It was his first International Space Development Conference in a while, too. "What made you come this year,?" I queried. "They asked me to," he responded. "That's pretty much what it was with me," I replied.

I had a good time -- I used to be stuck in Board meetings at these things, but this time I actually got to enjoy the conference. I had dinner with Bob Zubrin -- author of The Case for Mars and a forthcoming book on energy policy and how to destroy Opec -- who is shown below explaining the superiority of Methanol as an alternative fuel.

More on the conference later.

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UPDATE: Who's Zubrin talking to? Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, co-founder of Yuri's Night.

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