Photo of Zubrin by the Mars Society
|Born||9 April 1952|
|Alma mater||University of Rochester
University of Washington
|Known for||Mars Direct
The Case for Mars
Robert Zubrin (born April 5, 1952) is an American aerospace engineer and author, best known for his advocacy of the manned exploration of Mars. He was the driving force behind Mars Direct—a proposal intended to produce significant reductions in the cost and complexity of such a mission. The key idea was to use the Martian atmosphere to produce oxygen, water, and rocket propellant for the surface stay and return journey. A modified version of the plan was subsequently adopted by NASA as their "design reference mission". He questions the delay and cost-to-benefit ratio of first establishing a base or outpost on an asteroid or another Apollo Program-like return to the Moon, as neither would be able to provide all of its own oxygen, water, or energy; these resources are producible on Mars, and he expects people would be there thereafter.
Disappointed with the lack of interest from government in Mars exploration and after the success of his book The Case for Mars as well as leadership experience at the National Space Society, Zubrin established the Mars Society in 1998. This is an international organization advocating a manned Mars mission as a goal, by private funding if possible.
Qualifications and professional experience
Zubrin holds a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester (1974), a M.S. in Nuclear Engineering (1984), a M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1986), and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering (1992) — all from the University of Washington. He has developed a number of concepts for space propulsion and exploration, and is the author of over 200 technical and non-technical papers and five books. He was a member of Lockheed Martin's scenario development team charged with developing strategies for space exploration. He was also "a senior engineer with the Martin Marietta Astronautics company, working as one of its leaders in development of advanced concepts for interplanetary missions" (The Case for Mars 1996). He is also President of both the Mars Society and Pioneer Astronautics, a private company that does research and development on innovative aerospace technologies. Zubrin is the co-inventor on a U.S. design patent and a U.S. utility patent on a hybrid rocket/airplane, and on a U.S. utility patent on an oxygen supply system (see links below). He was awarded his first patent at age 20 in 1972 for Three Player Chess. His inventions also include the nuclear salt-water rocket.
In 2008, Zubrin founded Pioneer Energy, a Research & Development firm headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado. The company's focus is to develop mobile Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) systems that can enable CO2-based EOR for both small and large oil producers in the United States. The company has also developed a number of new processes for manufacturing synthetic fuels.
- The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must (1996), with Richard Wagner. This outlines the Mars Direct plan along with speculation about the economic, social and technical viability of future Mars colonization. Revised and updated in 2011.
- Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization (1999). This ranges from the current status quo and innovative startups of the aerospace industry, through exploration and colonization of Mars, to a more futuristic look at humanity's possible colonization of the solar system and the feasibility of interstellar travel with known physics.
- Mars On Earth: The Adventures of Space Pioneers in the High Arctic (2003). Zubrin recounts the origins and progress of the Mars Society's Mars Analog Research Station project, including a variety of perils, both mundane and adventurous, that were overcome in establishing the first analog Mars habitat on Devon Island in the high Arctic. He offers highlights of what has been learned so far through that effort.
- First Landing (2001), a hard science fiction novel about a future Mars flight using the Mars Direct plan.
- The Holy Land (2003). This is an "SF satire on the Middle East crisis and the War on Terrorism, and concerns what happens when the liberal Western Galactic Empire relocates the oppressed Minervan sect to their ancient homeland of Kennewick, Washington, in the midst of a US ruled by Christian fundamentalist fanatics.". The story was partly inspired by Čapek's War with the Newts.
- Benedict Arnold: A Drama of the American Revolution in Five Acts (2005). This is an effort to humanize and show the multiple dimensions of Benedict Arnold, and to contrast the democratic values embodied in the spirit of the Revolution with the socially bankrupt classism embodied in the British subjects who won Arnold to their side.
- Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil (2007). An expansion on his recent articles criticizing both reliance on oil and the potential for hydrogen energy, while highlighting the benefits of switching more toward methanol and ethanol. It carries an endorsement from former CIA director James Woolsey.
- How to Live on Mars (2008). A tongue-in-cheek technically accurate guidebook for Mars-bound Earthlings about how to survive and thrive on the Red Planet, written from the point of view of a 22nd-century Mars native.
- Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism (2011). This traces the history of antihumanism over the last two centuries, from Thomas Malthus and the eugenics movement through to the anti-nuclear and global warming campaigns. Zubrin argues that these movements have all represented an attempt to gain oppressive political control through the restriction of human activities and freedom.
- Vixens of Alpha Centuri (1974) (as Robert Martins) Early humorous science-fiction work written while a student.
- Mars Direct: Space Exploration, the Red Planet, and the Human Future (2013) This e-book looks at the current situation of NASA and outlines a Mars Direct mission proposal with the SpaceX Dragon, and considers the implications of interplanetary exploration for humanity.
Zubrin has also edited or co-edited the following books, most of which include contributions he wrote:
- Islands in the Sky: Bold New Ideas for Colonizing Space (1996), co-edited with Stanley Schmidt. This is a collection of fifteen selected non-fiction entries that had been published in Analog magazine over the years; it includes five articles authored or co-authored by Zubrin, including "The Hypersonic Skyhook", "Mars Direct: A Proposal for the Rapid Exploration and Colonization of the Red Planet" (co-authored with David A. Baker), "Colonizing the Outer Solar System", "Terraforming Mars" (co-authored with Christopher McKay), and "The Magnetic Sail". Notable additional contributors include Robert L. Forward and the godfather of terraforming, Martyn J. Fogg, each of whom contributed two articles.
- From Imagination to Reality: Mars Exploration Studies of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society : Precursors and Early Piloted Exploration Missions (1997).
- From Imagination to Reality: Mars Exploration Studies of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society : Base Building, Colonization and Terraformation (1997).
- Proceedings of the Founding Convention of the Mars Society (1999), co-edited with Maggie Zubrin. This contains articles corresponding to talks presented at the founding convention of the Mars Society in Boulder, Colorado in August 1998; it includes contributions from Zubrin, Buzz Aldrin, Martyn Fogg, and many others.
- On to Mars: Colonizing a New World (2002 Apogee Books), co-edited with Frank Crossman. This contains articles corresponding to talks presented at the annual conventions of the Mars Society in Boulder in 1999, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2000, and at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California in 2001.
- On to Mars 2: Exploring and Settling a New World (2005 Apogee Books), co-edited with Frank Crossman. This contains over 130 articles corresponding to talks presented at the annual conventions of the Mars Society in Boulder in 2002, in Eugene, Oregon in 2003, and in Chicago, Illinois in 2004.
The ethics of terraforming
Dr. Zubrin is noted as an advocate of a moderately anthropocentric position in the ethics of terraforming. Discussions of the ethics of terraforming often make reference to a series of public debates Zubrin has held with his friend Christopher McKay, who advocates a moderately biocentric position on the ethics of terraforming. For example, a written account of some of these debates is available in On to Mars: Colonizing a New World, as a joint article, "Do Indigenous Martian Bacteria have Precedence over Human Exploration?" (pp. 177–182)
An aging Robert Zubrin also appears as a background character in The Martian Race (1999) by Gregory Benford, a science fiction novel depicting early human explorers on Mars in the very near future. Benford, who is also an astrophysicist, is a longtime member of both the board of directors and the steering committee of the Mars Society.
Robert Zubrin was also recently featured in a CBC Television documentary special The Passionate Eye dubbed "The Mars Underground".
The songwriter and musician Frank Black (alias Black Francis of the Pixies) penned an homage to Zubrin, "Robert Onion", on the album Dog in the Sand. The lyrics form an acrostic spelling "Robert The Case For Mars Zubrin".
- Dr Robert Zubrin (Apr 21, 2005). "Getting Space Exploration Right". Space Daily. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "Robert Zubrin". Nasa. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "Robert Zubrin". Pioneer Astronautics. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- Email from Robert Zubrin to Tim McMahon dated 9-18-2003 requesting book review
- Jack J. Woehr (November 17, 2003). "The galaxy strikes back". Enter Stage Right. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "The Mars Underground". CBC News. September 4, 2010. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "Robert Onion". Frank Black Discopedia. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- U.S. design patent D405,750, "Reusable rocket airplane"
- U.S. Patent 6,119,985, "Reusable rocket-propelled high altitude airplane and method and apparatus for mid-air oxidizer transfer to said airplane"
- U.S. Patent 6,347,627, "Nitrous oxide based oxygen supply system"
- U.S. Patent 3,652,091, "Three-player chess board"
- The Mars Society
- Symphony of Science – The Case for Mars (ft. Zubrin, Sagan, Cox & Boston)
- Pioneer Astronautics
- Robert Zubrin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- "The Political Economy of Very Large Space Projects"
- An Energy Revolution article by Robert Zubrin in The American Enterprise
- Getting Space Exploration Right article by Robert Zubrin in The New Atlantis
- Review of Zubrin's book Benedict Arnold
- The Hydrogen Hoax article by Robert Zubrin in The New Atlantis
- Interview on the SciFiDimensions Podcast
- The Mars Underground at the Internet Movie Database
- 2012 Named a Fellow at the Center for Security Policy
- Pioneer Energy
- Robert Zubrin Discusses Challenges to Humans-to-Mars interviewed by radio host Doug Turnbull