2017 – Mars – Man or Machine?

2017: Mars - Man or Machine?

Date:Wednesday 8th November 2017
Venue:Weston Auditorium, De Havilland Campus, University of Hertfordshire. AL10 9EU

Chair:Yang GaoProfessor Yang Gao, FIET FRAeS
Associate Dean (international), Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Professor of Space Autonomous Systems. Head of STAR Lab, Surrey Space Centre.
Speakers:Tanya LimDr. Tanya Lim
ESA Science Operations Department

Abbie HuttyAbbie Hutty
Airbus Defence and Space Limited

Nick SpallNick Spall
Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society
Vote of Thanks:Professor Hugh Jones, Director of Research, Science and Technology Research Institute, University of Hertfordshire.
Open Forum:An essential element of the prestige seminar was the final chaired discussion when the audience put forward their questions to the speakers.
Live Streaming:The seminar was streamed live over the Internet on the Global Teleports EMSTA Ustream channel.


NASA are planning to put a man on Mars by 2030 and Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, are working to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. The EMSTA 2017 seminar “Mars – Man or Machine?” explored the technical and human challenges of extended space travel and how to survive on Mars, a distant hostile planet.  EMSTA’s nineteenth annual prestige seminar, took place on the evening of Wednesday 8th November 2017, in the Weston Auditorium of the University of Hertfordshire.  The event was fully booked, but on the day there were a number of no-shows: however the Seminar was a success.

This free event was hosted by the University of Hertfordshire and commenced with light refreshments for the delegates to enjoy whilst networking with other delegates.

The Seminar was opened by Professor William Clocksin, Head of School for Computer Science, University of Hertfordshire, who gave a welcome address and then handed over to the Chair, Professor Yang Gao.

Before the main business of the evening the Chair had two pleasant tasks to fulfill: she presented the EMSTA Scholars Innovation Award, and acknowledge a Friend of EMSTA.  This year the EMSTA Scholars Innovation Award went to Eve Clarke of Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge, an outstanding Arkwright Scholar from the region. Further information about Eve is given on the Innovation Award webpage.  Then the Chairman welcomed Keith Hole, as a Friend of EMSTA. Further information about Keith is given on the Friends of EMSTA webpage.

The first speaker, Dr. Tanya Lim, talked about ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which is currently at Mars aerobraking towards its science orbit, and is expected to be reached in April 2018. The 2016 mission will study trace gases in the Martian atmosphere to advance our understanding of climatology and the link between the atmosphere and surface. One aspect of the mission of particular interest is the study of the origins of methane, which potentially are biological. Dr Lim started her talk quietly and nervously, but she enthusiastically described the mission and gave an update on status and early results.

The second speaker, Abbie Hutty, talked about the ExoMars Rover, Europe’s first Rover mission to Mars – a mission in search of life, past or present.  Abbie Hutty, the lead Spacecraft Structures Engineer working on the rover, enthusiastically and very knowledgeably described the mission’s aims and objectives, some of the major challenges and design drivers of a robotic mission to the Mars surface, and how engineers are developing new technology and software to meet those challenges.

The third talk given by Nick Spall was called Man or Machine? The Issues.  This talk was interesting and informative, but didn’t give all the information indicated by the paper’s title: it gave little information about the physical and mental effects on humans of extended space travel. 

An essential element of the prestige seminar was the final question and answer session, superbly orchestrated by the Chairman, which provided further interesting insights from all speakers.

The Vote of Thanks was given by Peter Hansford, Former Government Chief Construction Adviser.

This seminar was the nineteenth annual prestige seminar organised by EMSTA CIC as a joint event with various professional engineering and science Institutions.

The seminar was streamed live over the Internet on the Global Teleports EMSTA Ustream channel, thanks to the technology and generosity of Missing Link Live and Global Teleports, and SES, who provided the space segment.

Text by Ian Williamson.