Spent a lot of time from Thursday through Sunday online with the Mars Society meeting. As I’ve noted before, this is not a science fiction convention; it is a dead-serious society of people dedicated to putting a real settlement on Mars. The only relationship to science fiction is that the Mars Society aims to turn it into reality. (For a modern science fiction view, read Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang.) Due to COVID-19, the planned in-person meeting in California had to be scrapped but, making a virtue of necessity, the meeting went Zoom and I think we ended up with over 10,000 people registered from countries all across the world. Makes me think we should stick with that format. Speakers ran the gamut from venture capital to NASA administrators to hard core scientists and covered everything from where we might find life on Mars to the details of nuclear electric propulsion and nuclear power in space (that one left me with me with my head in my hands), to what a Martian city might look like. I had to grin when one speaker commented that, due to COVID-19, they were working remotely, so she was driving the Mars rover from her kitchen table. I would say that qualifies as working remotely! Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla) spoke and then took questions for close to 50 minutes overall. I thought he framed the objective very succinctly: our aim should be, not just to go to Mars, but to put a settlement there that would thrive even if ships from Earth stopped coming. His company is now developing a vehicle called “Starship” that could be used for these missions. You can find his talk on YouTube and it is worth having a listen as he has demonstrated a pretty good track record for doing things that “conventional wisdom” says are impossible. Can we do this? The answer I took from the presentations is: probably. It was pointed out that there are some yes/no questions that exist. For example, can humans have children and will they grow up successfully in 1/3 of Earth gravity? If the answer turns out to be “No,” then a permanent settlement may be a mirage. Still, we are not going to know the answers without going there. The orbits of Earth and Mars create an opportunity for flight every 26 months; taking that into account, Musk figured a key launch opportunity for a first heavy-lift ship would be in 4 years. So, let’s get there, see what we find and answer the questions!.