Steering Committee

Buzz Aldrin
Dr. Buzz Aldrin is one of the first two humans to have walked on the surface of the Moon as part of the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969.  Since retiring from NASA, the U.S. Air Force and his position as Commander of the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Dr. Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in human space exploration. He has also become a key advocate for the humans-to-Mars movement and a respected author on science-related issues.

April K. Andreas
Dr. April Andreas is an educator with undergraduate and graduate degrees in mathematics and a Ph.D. in systems and industrial engineering.  She is currently building an engineering program at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, and spends her summers doing Mars-related outreach.  This work was highlighted in her article “One Room, Three Weeks, Twelve Gifted Teens: Mars or Bust,” published in TEMPO Magazine | The Quarterly Journal of the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented in the summer of 2010.  She has also worked as a consultant for the Mars Homestead Project and for 4Frontiers Corporation.

James Burk
Washington State
James Burk is a technology industry manager, software developer, and engineering project manager.  Formerly with Microsoft, James has worked for over 20 years on Agile software development projects, and has led teams to create many different types of large & scalable software solutions.  James is a founding member of the Mars Society, and (since 2011) our Webmaster & IT Director.  In his capacity with our organization, James is responsible for keeping all of our public outreach websites and social media channels modern, relevant, and effective.  James is also the Director and Program Manager of our MarsVR Program, which creates open source Virtual Reality tools to support our analog research program and to better tell the story of the human exploration and settlement of Mars to the younger generations.

Kurt Chankaya
Kurt Chankaya is a founding member of the Mars Society and a judge with the University Rover Challenge. He has always been interested in space exploration since watching the Apollo astronauts as a child. Besides working with the University Rover Challenge, Kurt is active with the local Dallas chapter of Mars Society, and frequently engages in local STEM events about Mars and space exploration. He is interested in a number of aspects of Mars exploration, including spacesuit design, and radiation protection. He has over 30 years of experience as an engineer in the aerospace field.

Ilaria Cinelli
Ilaria has a masters in biomedical engineering from the University of Pisa (Italy) and a structured PhD in neural engineering from the National University of Ireland Galway (Republic of Ireland). Ilaria has completed the Space Studies Program of the International Space University at TU Delft (The Netherlands), and now she is a post-doctoral researcher at Tufts University, working in collaboration with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), and with the Center of Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences.  Ilaria is also associate Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association, President-Elect of the Aerospace Human Factors Association and Member-at-Large of the Life Sciences and Biomedical Engineering Branch. The Mars Society selected her as crew member of MDRS crews 158, 172, 185, and 196 during which she was assigned of the role of Commander and awarded with the Emerging Space Leader Scholarship.

Jonathan Clarke
Dr. Jonathan Clarke is Director of Field Research with Mars Society Australia. A Canberra-based geologist with experience in the mineral and petroleum industry, academia and government surveys, Dr. Clarke currently works for Geoscience Australia.  He has worked in every state of Australia, mostly in the arid interior. In addition he has practiced geology in New Zealand, the Philippines and the Atacama desert of northern Chile, one of the most Mars-like areas on Earth. Dr Clarke led the Jarntimarra-1 expedition and took part in Expedition One in Utah in 2003 and Expedition Two in Arkaroola in 2004.

Richard Heidmann
Richard Heidmann, a space propulsion engineer, was involved in the genesis and development of the European Ariane rocket launchers.  He has taken an active role in promoting Mars exploration in Europe as a founding member of the Mars Society and as the head of the organization’s French chapter, Association Planète Mars.  He is also the author of Planète Mars, une Attraction Irresistible (ALVIK, Paris, 2005), a book about the motivations for Mars exploration.

Bishop James Heiser
Bishop James Heiser was ordained into the ministry in 1996 and has actively worked in central Texas since 1998.  In 2006 he was called to serve in his current capacity as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America.  His other responsibilities include holding the office of President of the Center for the Study of Lutheran Orthodoxy and Dean of Missions of The Augustana Ministerium.  A founding member of the Mars Society and a member of the organization’s Board of Directors, Bishop Heiser has presented essays to numerous Mars Society conventions and published a new book in 2010 called Civilization and the New Frontier: Reflections on Virtue and the Settlement of a New World.

Jürgen Herholz
Jürgen Herholz was formerly a senior space engineer and project manager, during which time he focused on European manned space programs  including Spacelab, Eureca, Hermes and Columbus.  Prior to that, Mr. Herholz was involved in aircraft and scientific satellite projects, as well as system engineering and contractor management.

Bruce Mackenzie
Bruce Mackenzie is co-founder of the Mars Homestead Project, which aims to start the settlement of space with a Mars base built from local materials.  He originated the concept for brick masonry structures for Mars featured as ”Underhill” in Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.  Mr. Mackenzie has also worked on orbital transport using tethers , leading to space manufacturing.  As a staff member at Draper Laboratory, he worked on launcher guidance and GPS receivers. He became active in NSS through the Boston L5 Society and is also involved with the SSI, Planetary Society, ISU and MIT – SEDS.

Susan Holden Martin
New Hampshire
Susan Holden Martin, MBA, J.D., is an experienced college educator and aerospace media consultant. She currently works with author and space historian Rod Pyle. She served as Executive Director of the Mars Society during 2012 – 2013 and continues to serve as a member of the organization’s Steering Committee. She previously served as the Mars Society’s Director of Strategic Planning and Director of Public Relations/Media, and she was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the organization’s flagship publication, The Mars Quarterly. Her enthusiasm for space science comes from several family scientists, including her great uncle, the late Doyle Northrup, Ph.D. (MIT), and her uncle, the late Robert Leonard (Lockheed Martin/Hubble Space Telescope). Susan also served as an officer and director of The Mars Foundation, 2006-2010; and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Mars Exploration Magazine, a publication of Explore Mars, Inc., where she also served as that organization’s corporate secretary during organizational start-up in 2010. She is available for speaking engagements and can be reached via

Anthony Muscatello
Dr. Anthony (“Tony”) Muscatello has over 30 years’ experience in advanced chemical research, most recently in ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization) for Mars exploration.  He is a former Los Alamos National Laboratory staff member and worked for Rockwell International before that. At Pioneer Astronautics, Dr. Muscatello served as a member of teams working on the Mars Methanol In-Situ Propellant Production (MMISPP), Mars Aromatics, Hydrocarbon, and Olefin Synthesis System (MAHOSS), Nitrous Oxide Based Oxygen Supply System (NOBOSS), and the Carbon Monoxide Metal Oxide Reduction System (COMORS) (oxygen extraction from lunar and martian regolith) research projects.  He was Principal Investigator on the NASA Phase II SBIR Methane to Aromatics on Mars (METAMARS) project.  Dr. Muscatello joined NASA in the fall of 2007 and is continuing his work in ISRU in the RESOLVE project, which is designed to locate water on the Moon.  He is also a founding member of the Mars Society and coordinated Mars Analog research Mission Support from 2000 to 2007.

Kent Nebergall (Chairperson)
Kent Nebergall became involved with the Mars Society in 2004, when he won the Mars Society’s Kepler Prize to design the Mars Direct Earth Return Vehicle.  He has given several convention track talks each year ever since, focusing on new inventions for space settlement, along with gaining a systematic and historical understanding the human need and ability to do so. Kent is a business analyst in the Chicago suburbs, where he’s worked in over 20 industries.  He is also a volunteer speaker for NASA, the Mars Society, and several other space advocacy groups.  Kent served as astronomer for MDRS Crew 32, commander of Crew 124, and has helped with the new MDRS greenhouse project.

Lucinda Offer
United Kingdom
Lucinda Offer is a life-time member of the Mars Society and has been familiar with Dr. Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan since NASA’s adaption in 1989.  She began her activist role on the Political Task Force raising awareness within the organization.  As a member of the political web team and a regional coordinator for the east coast, Ms. Offer helped members write and meet with their local representatives.  She continued her advocacy in 2004 at the first Space Exploration Alliance (SEA) Blitz for the Moon, Mars and Beyond Initiative in Washington DC.  Since then, she has participated in and led four lobbying efforts, her last being in July of 2009.  Shortly after her first SEA Blitz, she was appointed to the Mars Society’s Steering Committee and asked to serve as Director of Public Relations.  In 2006, she earned her teaching credentials in Geoscience and served as a secondary education teacher in San Jose, California.  In November 2009, she proudly accepted the position of Executive Director for the Mars Society.  Her goal for the organization was to set the course for Mars through collaboration, outreach events and digital branding.  She became a NASA Associate at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA with Dr. Chris McKay as her Supervisor at the Space and Earth Science Laboratory.  She supported teachers as part of the NASA Spaceward Bound Team through four international field expeditions to the Mojave, U.A.E., Australia and New Zealand.  During a temporary hiatus with the Mars Society in June 2012, she served as a Senior staff member for International Development until re-assuming the role of Executive Director in August 2015.  She lives in and works from Oxfordshire, England and concurrently serves as the Geophysics Lead, Education and Outreach Officer for the Royal Astronomical Society in London.

Ian O’Neill
Dr. Ian O’Neill serves as a Space Science Producer for Discovery News.  Before joining the Discovery team, he was a solar physics Ph.D. researcher at the University of Wales, Abserystwyth (UK), where he worked on computer simulations of coronal loops.  After permanently moving to the United States in 2008, he served as a space science blogger for Universe Today and spaceflight reporter for Space Lifestyle Magazine.  During this time, he was also the Communications Officer for the Mars Foundation, a non-profit group headed by Bruce Mackenzie in an effort to design future manned habitats (constructed primarily from in-situ materials) for future missions to the Red Planet. Since 2007, he has also maintained his own popular space blog,  In 2009 he joined Discovery News, where he continues to enjoy communicating complex science to a mainstream audience with his growing team of skilled correspondents and bloggers.  Dr. O’Neill’s expertise covers all areas of space science, but he specifically likes to focus on solar physics, Mars exploration, space weather phenomena, commercialization of spaceflight, manned space exploration and debunking bad science (i.e. the 2012 doomsday hysteria).

Joseph E. Palaia IV
Joe Palaia is an entrepreneur and an engineer with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering. He is Vice President of the 4Frontiers Corporation and Manager of NewSpace Center, LLC,  has served in lead roles in two comprehensive Mars settlement design efforts and has co-authored technical papers on the topics of Mars surface nuclear power plant design, Mars settlement architecture, space economics and the economics of energy on Mars. He served as executive officer and engineer for the Mars Society’s 2009 FMARS expedition and has been appointed the Field Season Director and Crew Commander for the next FMARS expedition.

Kay Radzik
Kay Radzik was born in Japan and is an Architect from Reno, Nevada. She is a member of American Institute of Architects, the Mars Society, and the Planetary Society; is a regular judge in the yearly International University Rover Challenge; and is on the Management Team of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) located in the middle of the Utah desert. She has long been an advocate of human settlement on Mars, and is currently a Round 3 Candidate with Mars One – one of the “Mars 100”. Kay feels that sending humans to Mars is a phenomenal undertaking by all standards and presents very real risks and challenges, and her goal is to make this everyone’s mission.

Shannon Rupert
Shannon Rupert is an ecologist with two decades of experience in Mars Analog studies. Formerly a professor of biology and environmental science, she is currently director at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. She is an expert in planetary mission simulations and field exploration. Her current research includes the microbial ecology of planetary analogs and the patterns of chemical signatures in dinosaur bone of the Morrison Formation. She is a collaborator on many other science investigations. Shannon holds a Ph.D. in Biology (social ecology of acequias) from the University of New Mexico, a Master’s degree in Biological Sciences (plant ecology) from California State University, San Marcos, a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from the University of California, San Diego, and an Associate’s degree in Biology from San Diego Miramar College.

Kevin F. Sloan
Washington, D.C.
Kevin Sloan works as a systems engineer in the Washington, D.C. area and serves as Director of the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge, held annually at the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah.

Peter H. Smith
Dr. Peter Smith is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tuscon.  He also works as Project Manager and co-Principal Investigator of the HiRISE high resolution telescope that is currently orbiting Mars and sending back detailed photographs of the Martian surface.  He was also the Principal Investigator for NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft, which successfully landed on Mars’ northern polar region in 2008.

Sara Spector
Sara Spector is a lifetime member of the Mars Society, serving as a volunteer and previously as Secretary of the Steering Committee. She has been interested in space-related subjects and activities since the age of nine. During the 1980’s  she served as Aerospace Officer of her local CAP squadron, conducting classes and the occasional seminar. She is also a member of The Planetary Society, Explore Mars Inc. and the National Space Society. She was a volunteer at the NSS International Space Development Conference in 2010 for both NSS and TMS. Sara has sponsored renovation projects at both FMARS and MDRS for TMS and performed design work for The Mars Quarterly. Ms. Spector holds Bachelor’s degrees in Pharmacy and Science in Microbiology and is presently employed part-time as a pharmacist. She also has interests in environmental issues and supports several “green” organizations, including the National Resources Defense Council.

Michael Stoltz
Michael Stoltz serves as the Mars Society’s Director of Media & Public Relations. He has an extensive background in communications, social media outreach, non-profit management and fundraising. While living in Israel for 14 years, Michael served as a communications aide in the Israeli Parliament and the Prime Minister’s Office and also headed global resource development for one of Israel’s largest public colleges. In addition, he represented the Mars Society in Israel for a number of years. Currently based in the Chicago area, Michael is a long-time advocate of human Mars exploration and has a deep interest in astrobiology, the search for exo-planets and interstellar travel. He has a B.A. degree in History from Creighton University and a M.A. degree in Near Eastern Studies from New York University.

Edward Barrington Stott
Attributing his life-long fascination with the cosmos to an early avidity for science fiction, Barry Stott founded the Rocket Society at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire before going on to Yale, then doing his Masters in Communications at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Soloing at 16, Mr. Stott has been a pilot for more than fifty years, and in addition to owning several aircraft charter firms, he has founded a variety of small high-tech companies, including Trash Engineering and Stellar Door.  He is a lifetime member of the Mars Society and, through his family foundation, has been a significant financial contributor to a variety of Mars Society programs.

Chris Vancil
Washington State
Chris Vancil is a founder and co-organizer of Mars Society Seattle and is also a founding member of the Mars Society.  In addition he has been a strong advocate for the robotic and human exploration of the planet Mars from the days of NASA’s Viking landers in the mid-1970s.

Nicole Willett
Nicole Willett is an educator who holds a BS in Biology and a Graduate Certificate in Astronomy. She served as Mars Society Education Director from 2012-20 and has been a long-time humans to Mars advocate since reading the November 1988 National Geographic article entitled, Mission to Mars.  Soon after she discovered Dr. Robert Zubrin’s work on Mars Direct. Since then Nicole has worked tirelessly to promote science and space education. Throughout her career she has been involved in outreach such as, implementing humans to Mars projects in schools, worldwide Mars educational classes, maintaining the Mars Society’s educational website, writing regular articles for the Mars Society’s blog, The Red Planet Pen, and contributing articles to many online magazines.

Robert Zubrin
Dr. Robert Zubrin is the founder and President of the Mars Society, as well as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.  He is also President of Pioneer Astronautics, an aerospace R&D company located in Lakewood, Colorado.  Formerly a Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, he holds a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington.  A respected author and a renown expert on Mars and human space travel, Dr. Zubrin has testified in recent years before several congressional committees and in 2009 spoke in front of the Augustine Commission on the future of America’s human space flight program.