Opening Remarks

Guy Murphy

President, Mars Society Australia

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FULL TEXT: Welcome to AMEC2003, the 3rd annual Australian Mars Exploration conference. I am going to briefly tell you a little about what the Mars Society is and what it aspires to do, and then I will introduce you to the Lord Mayor of Perth, Dr Peter Nattrass, who is going to be opening today’s conference.

Some day in the future, a space suited figure will fling open a hatch door, slowly climb down a ladder and take the first ever human steps on the surface of Mars.  They will wander out onto a dusty, wind swept plain, moving uneasily under an unnaturally weak gravity. They will look up and see a pinkish orange sky.  They will stare searchingly across an earthen, greenless landscape wondering what there might be beyond and beneath the horizon waiting for them to find. It will be an unforgiving, dangerous and hostile environment, but strangely pristine and beautiful.  Turning back, these first explorers will see the series of habitats and other structures that will be their only sanctuary for tens of millions of kilometres over the coming months.  They’ll commence a search that will exhilarate the scientific community back on earth and enthral billions and they will be following an ancient tradition of exploration and discovery, which over recent centuries has moved Europeans to explore and settle the Americas and Australia. When it happens, it will be an electric moment, the culmination of decades of research across many disciplines, and it will represent as new peak of human creative and intellectual achievement.

The Mars Society Australia was founded in 1998 to help bring that day closer, and to help make Australia part of that huge human enterprise. It is a national organisation with branches in each of the Australian state and it draws its membership from the interested public as well as researchers in the scientific community.  It undertakes as program of research of its own which contributes in a small, modest but very useful way to the body of knowledge that will be needed by a future human Mars mission.  It also undertakes outreach activities that seek to instil in the public with wonder and excitement about Mars exploration, and hopefully influence Australian government opinion to support Australian participation in planetary exploration.

This conference AMEC is our single most important outreach event.  It is the annual national gathering for the Mars Society Australia, for its widely dispersed members.  It is an important opportunity for people in Australia who are undertaking Mars related research to get together and share ideas, and is also a chance for the general public to come in and hear about some of the latest discoveries that are going on in Australia and overseas, and to talk directly with people who are involved in that research.

If it seems improbable that humans will one day eventually live and work on the surface of Mars, just cast your mind back several centuries.  When early European explorers first sailed past the coast of Western Australia, usually by accident, they looked towards the shore and saw what looked like a very hostile, barren landscape.  Typically, unless they were ship wrecked, they sailed on because there seemed to be nothing useful there.  It seemed too hard to take that extra step to establish a settlement, but time has passed, and here we are several centuries later, we are here standing in a beautiful, modern, prosperous city whose citizens enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world. Who would have thought in the 18th century sailing past that this would one day happen?  Just as Australia was once over the edge of the known world, a strange hostile, barren place in the 17th and 18th centuries, so Mars is today, and the edge of the know world is again moving, and in out time that boundary is moving towards Mars.

At this point rather than talk about the various projects you are going to hear about today I d like to hand you over to the Lord Mayor of Perth, Dr Peter Nattrass who we are very privileged to have here to open the conference

PROFILE: Guy Murphy has a Bachelor of Arts (economic history) and a Graduate Diploma (architectural history & conservation) from the University of Melbourne. He works as a heritage consultant in Melbourne, researching and documenting historic buildings. A founding member in 1998 and the current president of the Mars Society Australia, Guy is also a member of the Mars Society's International Steering Committee and last year attended the US Mars Society Convention at Stanford University. He participated in Project Jarntimarra in 2001 assisting the search for Mars analogue sites in the outback regions of Central Australia. He also was a crew member on Expedition 1 in Utah in February-March of this year.  Particular interests include space architecture, crew psychology and parallels between Australian history and contemporary space exploration. He is keen to see the MSA further develop its research program. Guy is the author of a forthcoming architectural monograph.