Zubrin's Mars Direct Testimony at the Augustine Commission

Should we implement Mars Direct as described by Robert Zubrin?

  • Yes, we should go to Mars in 10 years or less using Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct Plan (see link in my

    Votes: 3 100.0%
  • No, we should stay with the ISS and continue in Low Earth Orbit doing nothing.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    3
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neutrino78x

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While I think it is egregious that Zubrin was not a member of the Augustine Commission, and he should probably be the NASA administrator, he did testify at the Commission about Mars Direct and what the future of NASA should be. Observe:

Zubrin's Testimony

I completely agree with everything he said!!! How about you guys???

--Brian
 
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radarredux

Guest
neutrino78x":5b4yuzm5 said:
I completely agree with everything he said!!! How about you guys???
While I generally agree with Zubrin, I also think he is politically naive and makes too much of the Apollo schedule.

Regarding politics, I remember during discussions of the Aldridge Commission for Moon, Mars, and Beyond there was a lot of discussion of closing unnecessary NASA sites. When the report didn't recommend that, someone asked why, and the response was that they were told by members of Congress that the report would have been dead on arrival had they proposed that.

The current Constellation architecture was chosen in part to preserve the current employment base used by the Shuttle. In a recent NBC News segment called End of an Era? they quickly started talking about all the jobs that would be put in jeopardy.

Like it or not, much of NASA is about selling rope.

Regarding the Apollo schedule, Zubrin should not rely on a single data point to make his argument. Virtually every large NASA program has had a deadline... and then missed it, often by large margins. Even the current Constellation program had deadlines and schedules, but since the announcement of the VSE neither the Bush Administration nor NASA chose to fund it at the level to meet its schedule, and it doesn't look like it is getting any better. Furthermore, by Apollo rushing to make its schedule, it also became unpopular and unsustainable and its funding, even at the height of Apollo, was not supported by a majority of Americans.
 
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halman

Guest
For some reason, I perceive a bias towards going to Mars at all costs in your poll. Perhaps it is the way that the options are stated, where one seems extremely positive, implying swift action, and the other specifically states that "doing nothing" would be the end result. A great many people believe that money will have to be made in space if we are to continue our activities there. The most likely endeavor which will be profitable will be processing materials in a zero-gravity environment, especially those processes which require large amounts of energy. In order to be able to do these kinds of things, we will need to know how to keep people alive in space for long periods of time, how to construct habitat and processing facilities in space, and how to keep these facilities operational over extended periods of time. These are the primary reasons for having the International Space Station, and they could be performed in orbit around the Sun, around the Moon, or around Mars. However, our technology for accessing space limits us currently to low Earth orbit.

I disagree with a number of things which Mr. Zubrin says, starting with his comparison of NASA budgets during the Apollo era and today. During the Apollo era, NASA was focused almost exclusively on manned space exploration. Currently the agency is involved with a wide array of programs which have nothing to do at all with space exploration, manned or unmanned. So to say that the entire budget of 18 billion dollars is going into space exploration is incorrect. Space exploration accounts for a little less than half of the NASA budget at this time.

Mr. Zubrin states that Mars is "...currently within reach..." of manned exploration. He supports this statement by proposing a system for utilizing resources found on Mars to provide the life support and propellant needs of the majority of the mission. This system has never been proven under actual use, therefore it is erroneous to state that Mars is currently within reach. This is comparable to stating that it is safe to jump out of an airplane with a parachute which has never been tested, at all!

Mr. Zubrin states later in his testimony, "If we can go to Mars, and find fossils of past life on its surface, we will have good reason to believe that we are not alone in the universe." We already have good reason to believe that we are not alone in the universe, merely from the statistical chance that life would arise on only one planet among the trillions of stars that we can see. Basing our choice of destinations upon purely scientific goals also leaves our space program vulnerable to deep cuts, because science is never considered essential to our economic survival.

While I agree that that a definitive goal in space would have positive social implications, I seriously question the value of a destination which most people cannot find even when it is visible from Earth. A point of light in the sky is not a place in the minds of many people, or it is the same as a star, infinitely far away. The only celestial body which the average person could locate unaided is the Moon, and the Moon is also the only body which shows a visible disc. In terms of motivating young people to get involved with scientific careers, or to support space exploration, a goal which does not have to be explained, pointed out, and justified seems to me to be far more valuable.

Many people believe that colonization will the next step in space exploration. This view seems very unrealistic to me, because of the costs involved versus the potential rewards. Industrial development does not require colonization, especially in an age when robotics has become such an advanced field. People who work on the North Slope of Alaska don't usually end up living there full time, they rotate in and out. The same holds true for off-shore oil rigs, drill ships, and many other resource extraction sites.

I firmly believe that people will live on Mars someday. I also firmly believe that it will not happen until after we have begun extracting resources from the Moon, asteroids, and possibly Mercury, and have established industrial space stations processing those resources. The costs of space flight will come down drastically as we move our industrial base off planet, which will make colonization much more affordable. Considering that the government has absolutely no place establishing colonies, that will be a critical factor.

People who insist that we should make Mars our primary goal are quite possibly hindering our space exploration effort. When those who are not familiar with space exploration hear a multitude of goals proposed, they can become confused, uncertain of what is the best course of action. If space exploration becomes well established, financially rewarding, and safe, we will eventually get to Mars. If we make Mars our primary goal, we may threaten the long term viability of space exploration, as people perceive that they are being asked to pay for what should be a privately funded effort with little foreseeable monetary returns.
 
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neutrino78x

Guest
halman":22pbwzo0 said:
A great many people believe that money will have to be made in space if we are to continue our activities there.
I agree, but it is the job of private colonists to make money, not the government. Part of NASA's mission in going to Mars, in my opinion, should be to set up infrastructure that enables the arrival of private homesteaders.

I disagree with a number of things which Mr. Zubrin says, starting with his comparison of NASA budgets during the Apollo era and today. During the Apollo era, NASA was focused almost exclusively on manned space exploration. Currently the agency is involved with a wide array of programs which have nothing to do at all with space exploration, manned or unmanned. So to say that the entire budget of 18 billion dollars is going into space exploration is incorrect. Space exploration accounts for a little less than half of the NASA budget at this time.
He and I are both saying that it should be more like 80-20 in favor of exploration!!! If not 95-5. Pure science, not linked to exploration, should be done via the National Science Foundation. Anything NASA does should either involve a probe or manned mission.

Mr. Zubrin states that Mars is "...currently within reach..." of manned exploration. He supports this statement by proposing a system for utilizing resources found on Mars to provide the life support and propellant needs of the majority of the mission. This system has never been proven under actual use, therefore it is erroneous to state that Mars is currently within reach.
But the chemical reactions he describes in his book were first discovered 150+ years ago, the Sabatier reaction.

Mr. Zubrin states later in his testimony, "If we can go to Mars, and find fossils of past life on its surface, we will have good reason to believe that we are not alone in the universe." We already have good reason to believe that we are not alone in the universe, merely from the statistical chance that life would arise on only one planet among the trillions of stars that we can see.
That is just a statistical argument, if we found fossils on Mars, we would have objective proof that life has existed outside of this planet. Many of us SUSPECT that life exists outside of the Earth, but we have no proof that life has ever existed beyond it.

Basing our choice of destinations upon purely scientific goals also leaves our space program vulnerable to deep cuts, because science is never considered essential to our economic survival.
True, and that's why it is just one of many reasons Zubrin and myself think we (NASA) should go to Mars.

We see the primary reason as being that of economic conquest: going to a New World and using its resources to further the glory of the United States of America, the greatest nation in the history of the world.

I firmly believe that people will live on Mars someday. I also firmly believe that it will not happen until after we have begun extracting resources from the Moon, asteroids, and possibly Mercury, and have established industrial space stations processing those resources. The costs of space flight will come down drastically as we move our industrial base off planet, which will make colonization much more affordable. Considering that the government has absolutely no place establishing colonies, that will be a critical factor.
Well, before private actors established colonies in the New World, the government sent missions of exploration there. Same with Mars. I see NASA's role on Mars as being analogous to that of US Army Captain Meriwether Lewis and US Army Ensign William Clark. Government expeditions which lead to the chartering of colonies.

--Brian
 
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