Northern California Science Writers Association

Doing Science on Mars: Designing Human Space Exploration on Hawaii’s Lava Fields

  • Wednesday, December 11, 2019
  • 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
  • Tres Tequila Lounge, San Francisco


NCSWA holiday dinner: AGU attendees welcome!

When humans return to the moon – NASA is shooting for a 2024 lunar landing – and from there head to Mars, astronauts will be essential to the scientific research accomplished on the surface. Rovers can do wonders, but the human brain’s ability to synthesize information in a wildly new context has still got robots beat. Astronauts will study the resources available and help address profound questions, like whether life ever evolved on the Red Planet. Yet practical questions remain: How – in concrete terms – will people accomplish such tasks?

Darlene Lim envisions how scientists will conduct research “off world”. That is, how astronaut-explorers can be supported by experts on Earth to conduct rigorous, publishable science under the most challenging of conditions. Her team’s findings go against prevailing wisdom: Despite it taking up to 40 minutes round trip to send communications between Earth and Mars, scientific experts on this planet will be able to guide scientific exploration on Mars while it’s happening. But the devil’s in the details – and there are a lot of them.

Lim works in analog environments on Earth – extreme places that have key characteristics and challenges in common with specific deep-space destinations. A researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, she has spent over 20 years leading field research programs to remote destinations, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, in underwater environments, volcanic settings, deserts of all sorts and the deep sea.

Lim will describe how, by conducting genuine scientific research under the conditions of a simulated mission to Mars, her team is designing the tools and protocols needed for the future of human space exploration, right here on Earth.


6 pm No-host bar

7:15 pm Dinner

8:30 pm Door prizes and speaker


Tres Tequila Lounge & Mexican Kitchen

130 Townsend St. (at 2nd St.), San Francisco CA 94107 (map)

(Two blocks from Caltrain, 0.9 miles from Montgomery St. BART station)

We will enjoy the buffet menu at this popular Mexican restaurant in the burgeoning neighborhood just one block from AT&T Park.


Grilled baby carrots & broccoli and mole

Three-cheese blend & epazote empanadas

Sauteed seasonal vegetable enchiladas with chipotle & guajillo salsa

Braised beef with roasted tomatillo salsa

Slow-roasted pork rubbed with chile de árbol

Smoky chile ancho-marinated chicken

Housemade corn tortillas, Mexican rice, seasonal beans

Dessert sampler with Mexican chocolate cake and churros with caramel sauce


Members: $26/ Students: $16 / Non-members: $45 (members and students allowed one guest at the discounted price)

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