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Mars Blitz participants
Participants in the 2006 Mars Blitz make their way across the grounds of the US Capitol after a long afternoon lobbying for human Mars exploration. (credit: Patt Czarnik)

The Mars Society blitzes the Hill

There are moments in space advocacy that stand out, and the Great 2006 Mars Blitz certainly falls into that category. It was a tremendous success. On Thursday afternoon, August 3, 2006, the Mars Society sent over 100 members to Capitol Hill to show support for the Vision for Space Exploration and to make sure Mars remains a key part of that plan. In just over three hours, we spoke to over 100 congressional offices. This was truly a “blitz.”

Out of chaos

The event began with a few moments of organized chaos. Numerous people signed up just before we headed off to the Hill and in a period of fifteen minutes, we had to make sure that all the teams were assembled with the proper members, added new people to existing teams, created several new teams, and made sure participants had the proper materials.

In just over three hours, we spoke to over 100 congressional offices. This was truly a “blitz.”

At roughly 12:30pm this crowd, all wearing Mars Society Convention name tags, headed to the Metro on a journey toward the Capitol South Metro stop. Miraculously, we didn’t lose anybody during this process as the teams scattered to various congressional office buildings: some went to the Senate side and others remained on the House side to begin a dizzying number of Congressional meetings.

In hand they brought talking points that expressed support for the Vision for Space Exportation (VSE), but we also requested that VSE proceed as efficiently as possible by 1) using common hardware for the Moon and Mars (when possible), 2) accelerating the VSE schedule, 3) using in situ resource utilization on the moon and Mars (when possible). We also requested that NASA conduct a repair mission on the Hubble Space Telescope.

The reaction from Congress was what I can only call “freakishly” positive. Although previous efforts have produced some good results, I was stunned by how many positive meetings occurred during this short period of time. We received dozens of requests for follow-up information, strong statements of support for VSE, and even some requests to testify in front of Congress—all in all, a pretty good day on the Hill.

Old $2 bills

Admittedly, not everything ran as smoothly as we would have liked. Some teams didn’t get enough materials to complete all of their meetings and some people had difficulty getting from the House side to the Senate side (in 100 degree heat) in time to get to some tightly scheduled meetings. However, people improvised when the plan had gaps in it (and even received help from Congressional staff). When a team found themselves with only one copy of the talking points, they convinced a helpful congressional office to let them use the office copy machine to produce a few more copies. When one of the teams realized that they were going to have difficulty getting to their next meeting on the other side of the Hill, a Congressional staffer escorted them through the Congressional underground system, and guaranteed that they not only arrived on time, but also arrived without a severe case of heat exhaustion.

People who had been extremely unsure about participating in this activity, now reported that “It was wonderful! We never realized how rewarding it was going to be.”

In one of the more bizarre occurrences of the day, one of our team members was almost arrested for counterfeiting. He was purchasing lunch at the Rayburn House Cafeteria and pulled out three $2 bills to pay for lunch. In addition to the fact that the cashier had obviously never seen a $2 bill before, these were not ordinary bills. One of them was from 1928, and the other two were from the 1950s. The cashier dutifully performed an ink test on the bills, but since they predated that type of ink, the bill failed that test, so our member paid for his meal with other denominations. After the team sat down to lunch, the Capitol police appeared at the table to make inquiries with our would-be counterfeiters. They questioned the team for a few minutes and even checked the serial numbers of the notes in question. A few moments later, they confirmed that the bills were in fact real and that they had a value several times larger than the face value of ordinary $2 bills. Satisfied that no federal crime had occurred, one of the policemen sat down at the table, and started to chat about Mars with our team.


The most remarkable part of this event was the participants, many of whom had never taken part in anything like this before. Earlier in the day, as we were organizing people into teams, I sensed a definite feeling of angst from a number of the Blitzers. Part of this feeling was certainly a result of the fact that they were nervous about talking to Congressional offices for the first time. However, another part of it was undoubtedly caused by the seemingly chaotic madhouse that was occurring as we assembled the teams. I actually had to convince a few people not to drop out at that moment.

Upon their return, I was stunned by the transformation (which was far more dramatic than the effects the weather had left on them). People who had been extremely unsure about participating in this activity, now reported that “It was wonderful! We never realized how rewarding it was going to be.” I had dozens of people approach me asking how they could help, wondering if we were planning to do anything like this again, and giving me their particular “spin” on their congressional expedition.

Approaching 2008

As we approach the mid-term elections and with the 2008 presidential elections looming in the near future, the Mars Society does not intend to remain idle. We are going to use the momentum we have built up from the Mars Blitz to inspire even more political outreach from our membership.

First, we certainly intend to run events similar to the Mars Blitz in the future, both individually and partnering with other groups. In the meantime, we are starting a new program where we will set up congressional meetings for Mars Society members who might be visiting Washington, DC on business or pleasure.

We will also continue (and greatly improve) our old programs, instructing our membership how to speak to their members of Congress in their home districts as well as reactivating the extremely successful Operation President. We are going to make sure that current and future Congresses as well as the next President of the United States know that “Moon, Mars, and Beyond” has strong public support and it is vital to the interests of our nation.

The Mars Society cannot do this alone. The space advocacy community needs to come together in a way that they never have before. With a clear, united, and tireless message, we can assure that humans will again walk on the Moon and, soon thereafter, stroll the dunes of Mars.