SXSW Panel: Generation Mars

You're not going to make it to the Red Planet, but your kids might

It’s been a fantasy of science fiction fans and government agencies to boldly go to infinity and beyond, but how exactly does one get there? Dr. Deborah Barnhart, former NASA astronaut Don Thomas, microbiologist Monsi Roman, and screenwriter Mickey Fisher gathered to discuss the possibilities of what Mars space travel might look like.

(l-r): Deborah Barnhart, Don Thomas, Monsi Roman, Mickey Fisher (Photo by Mae Hamilton)

Though the notion of a permanent human colonization on Mars may seem like something that would happen in the distant future, all four panelists were in agreement that motions to begin such a project could be underway as early as 2030. But for that to happen, Barnhart argued that a mutual partnership between private sector space companies and government agencies needs to be achieved in order to reach the fulfillment of life on Mars.

“It doesn’t really matter if Elon [Musk] gets there first or if NASA gets there first,” Barnhart said. “It’s not us and them. It’s ‘we’ now. It’s going to take commercial, government, and international participation.”

The panelists also discussed how a Martian space age might shape the consciousness of pop culture.

“If you look at all of these dreams that are becoming reality, it’s the job of somebody like me to help foster that dream and inspire kids to say, ‘Hey, that could be me one day,’” Fisher said. “I want every kid around the world to look at media and feel a part of that.”

But don’t look to the stars to see where humanity might be going. All panelists agreed that the future of space travel lies a little bit closer to home with the proverbial future: children. Thomas emphasized that though he is now an accomplished astronaut who has spent a total of 44 days in orbit, his career in space began with a simple childhood interest that never quite died.

“Between our technology and this generation, we will definitely be heading to Mars in the near future,” Thomas said. “Our next generation of young astronauts, scientists, and engineers have the enthusiasm and the energy. They want to go to Mars.”

Here’s to hoping that the little dreamers of today will still have an interest in space oddities by 2030.

Generation Mars

Monday, March 12, Hilton Austin

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Panel Recap: Immerse Yourself: AR & VR in Museums and the Arts
Recap: AR & VR in Museums and the Arts
An odd juxtaposition of VR experience and expert panel

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 16, 2018

Review: RONE
Architectural decay becomes a street-artist canvas you can navigate

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 15, 2018

More by Mae Hamilton
Free Events at SXSW
Free Events at SXSW
Festival music and more on the cheap

March 16, 2018

SXSW Film Review: <i>Galveston</I>
Review: Galveston
Coastal revenge thriller sparkles with humor and humanity

March 12, 2018


SXSW Interactive 2018, Generation Mars, Deborah Barnhart, Monsi Roman, Mickey Fisher, Don Thomas

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle