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The Mars Flag is a flag designed by the Mars Society. The Mars Society is an organization dedicated to the human exploration of Mars. The Mars flag is a symbolic representation of their aims. The flag is meant to depict the future history of Mars by showing its transition from a barren red planet to a fully terraformed world that can support its own atmosphere and has liquid water.
The Mars Flag is an unofficial flag. This is because the Outer Space Treat of 1969 forbids any government or authority by act or occupation from claiming any extraterrestrial object as its territory. This makes it impossible for the flag to be an “official” flag of Mars. However its informal adoption on a Discovery space shuttle mission was a major event.
The Flag is a basic tricolor flag with vertical bands of red, green, and blue. The colors are inspired by a science fiction trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. The series depicts the gradual terraforming of the planet Mars to point where it could support Human life and the political and historical ramifications that emerge as a result.
The design of the flag was first proposed by Pascal Lee a former NASA engineer and member of the Mars Society who was the task force leader for an expedition to Devon Island. Devon Island is one of the many proposed sites for the MARS project. MARS stands for Mars Artic Research Structure and is the name of structures built as training facilities for possible human research capsules in the polar region of Mars. Each of the structures is built to specifications set by NASA in a paper on possible human exploration.
The flag is important because of the sentiments and goals it represents. Human exploration of Mars is becoming an increasing possibility in the near future as the technology needed to make it possible has improved. However the biggest obstacle is political will. Especially with the economic downturn many countries are cutting back on spending for space exploration and the resources needed for an initial trip to Mars would be considerable. The flag shows the importance of groups like the Mars Society in maintaining public support of such an endeavor.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about Mars. Listen here, Episode 52: Mars.