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Robert Zubrin — How What We Can Create on the Red Planet Informs Us on How Best to Live on the Blue Planet

When Robert Zubrin published his classic book The Case for Mars a quarter century ago, setting foot on the Red Planet seemed a fantasy. Today, manned exploration is certain, and as Zubrin affirms in The New World on Mars, so too is colonization. From the astronautical engineer venerated by NASA and today’s space entrepreneurs, here is what we will achieve on Mars and how.

SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are building fleets of space vehicles to make interplanetary travel as affordable as Old-World passages to America. We will settle on Mars, and with our knowledge of the planet, analyzed in depth by Dr. Zubrin, we will utilize the resources and tackle the challenges that await us. What we will we build? Populous Martian city-states producing air, water, food, power, and more. Zubrin’s Martian economy will pay for necessary imports and generate income from varied enterprises, such as real estate sales—homes that are airtight and protect against cosmic space radiation, with fish-farm aquariums positioned overhead, letting in sunlight and blocking cosmic rays while providing fascinating views. Zubrin even predicts the Red Planet customs, social relations, and government—of the people, by the people, for the people, with inalienable individual rights—that will overcome traditional forms of oppression to draw Earth immigrants. After all, Mars needs talent.

With all of this in place, Zubrin’s Red Planet will become a pressure cooker for invention in bioengineering, synthetic biology, robotics, medicine, nuclear energy, and more, benefiting humans on Earth, Mars, and beyond. We can create this magnificent future, making life better, less fatalistic. The New World on Mars proves that there is no point killing each other over provinces and limited resources when, together, we can create planets.

Robert Zubrin is former president of the aerospace R&D company Pioneer Astronautics, which performs advanced space research for NASA, the US Air Force, the US Department of Energy, and private companies. He is the founder and president of the Mars Society, an international organization dedicated to furthering the exploration and settlement of Mars, leading the Society’s successful effort to build the first simulated human Mars exploration base in the Canadian Arctic and growing the organization to include 7,000 members in 40 countries. A nuclear and astronautical engineer, Zubrin began his career with Martin Marietta (later Lockheed Martin) as a Senior Engineer involved in the design of advanced interplanetary missions. His “Mars Direct” plan for near-term human exploration of Mars was commended by NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and covered in The Economist, Fortune, Air and Space Smithsonian, Newsweek (cover story), Time, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, as well as on BBC, PBS TV, CNN, the Discovery Channel, and National Public Radio. Zubrin is also the author of twelve books, including The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, with more than 100,000 copies in print in America alone and now in its 25th Anniversary Edition. He lives with his wife, Hope, a science teacher, in Golden, Colorado. His latest book is: The New World on Mars: What We Can Create on the Red Planet. The next big Mars Society conference in Seattle August 8-11.

Read Zubrin’s discussion of his paper on panspermia for seeding like on Earth.

Shermer and Zubrin discuss:

  • Why not start with the moon?
  • What’s it like on Mars? Like the top of Mt. Everest?
  • Was Mars ever like Earth? Water, life, etc.?
  • How much will it cost to go to Mars?
  • How to get people to Mars: food, water, radiation, boredom?
  • Where on Mars should people settle?
  • What are “natural resources”?
  • Resources on Mars already there vs. need to be produced
  • Analogies with Europeans colonizing North America
  • Public vs. private enterprise for space exploration
  • Economics on Mars
  • Politics on Mars
  • Lessons from the Red Planet for the Blue Planet
  • Ingersoll’s insight: free speech & thought > science & technology > machines as our slaves > moon landing. “This is something that free people can do.”
  • Liberty in space: won’t the most powerful people on Mars threaten to shut off your air if you don’t obey?
  • Independent City-States on Mars
  • Direct vs. representative democracy
  • America as a model for what we can create on Mars
  • Are new frontiers needed for civilization to continue?
  • The worst idea ever: that the total amount of potential resources is fixed.

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This episode was released on April 13, 2024.

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