Madame Mars project founders speak at Oakland’s Chabot Space and Science Center

“The first person to go to Mars is probably alive today.”
Beth Rogozinski, founding member of San Francisco State University’s multimedia studies program and founder of Transmedia SF, a transmedia agency and studio, and Dr. Jan Millsapps, SFSU professor of cinema, made this bold pronouncement during their July 15th enrichment lecture at Chabot.
Both speakers discussed the history of human space travel. So far 537 people have entered outer space, and 57 of these were women. 12 people have walked on the moon, and all of these were men.
However, the design of some upcoming plans for Mars exploration has different goals than those of the Apollo moon missions. The idea will not simply be to visit the planet for the sake of scientific research or for pride in having reached the destination, but to go with long-term colonization in mind. This will necessarily require welcoming a larger and more diverse group of astronauts and mission support crew.
“Men went to the moon, but everyone will be going to Mars,” said Rogozinski.
She herself volunteered as a candidate for the Mars One project, a nonprofit international venture designed to send people to the planet by 2025. She’s survived two rounds of elimination and remains in the running for a one-way trip to a future colony.
The project proposes a one-way trip for its adventurers because of the time involved with visiting Mars. A round trip to Mars with humans on board could take up to 500 days, and it takes five to seven months to land on the planet once reaching its orbit.
Significant questions remain about whether humans can survive for the long-term on the planet. Will we be able to withstand radiation in outer space? Will the low atmospheric pressure prove harmful to our bodies? Local Bay Area author Mary Roach has proposed some ingenious strategies to shield us from radiation, including reusing waste as a shield. There are also cost issues, as some have suggested a trip to the red planet could run about six billion dollars. Some propose bringing a 3D printer to Mars in order to more quickly and cheaply replace mechanical parts.
Rogozinski’s interest in women in the space program began when she did research for the female characters in her historical novel, Mars on Venus, set during the early days of NASA.
In the past, as well as today, there are plenty of women involved in space exploration who do important work and deserve recognition. Percival Lowell’s secretary Wrexie Louise Leonard served as a partner in Lowell’s research work and wrote about their studies. Women have monitored and driven rovers sent to space, including the Mars Sojourner rover, named for abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. MIT researcher Dava Newman is designing a spacesuit with fabric that provides resistance to astronauts as they move, which should lessen the need for them to do hours of exercise per day to avoid losing muscle mass.
“One does not have to become an astronaut in order to take part in the space program,” Rogozinski pointed out. “All sorts of people behind the scenes – engineers, designers, nutritionists – are critical to the mission as well.”
Rogozinski and Millsapps represent the Madame Mars project, a multimedia educational campaign designed to bolster and maintain girls’ interest in science and astronomy. This program will take place through transmedia, where the group presents information about the history of women in space exploration through a variety of media. Teens will be encouraged to read, watch, and interact with the ideas and pictures in the upcoming documentary through their smartphones, laptops, tablets, televisions, and school curricula.
Statistics quoted by Rogozinski and Millsapps indicate that 68 percent of all content teens view online comes from someone they know. 57 percent of people who go online are content creators, producing websites, blogs, Youtube videos, or social media pages. So the program creators intend to further engage modern teens with the interactive and social component of Madame Mars, which will include online quizzes and trading cards with female scientists.
Scientists are using social media as well to reach out to the public. The Curiosity rover, currently exploring and broadcasting from Mars, has a Twitter account which people can follow.
An audience member pointed out that it takes strong math skills as well as an interest in science to be successful in the field. Rogozinksi suggested that girls, and some people in general, might learn math better when the subject is taught within a narrative framework, where algebra, geometry, etc are required to solve problems within a coherent story.
Hopefully, the Madame Mars educational campaign will inspire and empower more young people to take part in the story of interplanetary exploration.