LP03: Zubrin Reviews Mars Plan
by Ari Armstrong, May 7, 2003
Outgoing state chair John Berntson said April 5 that Robert Zubrin is known as "the Thomas Paine of space." Zubrin said libertarians and spacers are "two pieces of the puzzle" that need each other.
Zubrin reviewed his basic plan for getting to Mars and contrasted it with the "Death Star" plan once favored by government officials. We can get to Mars with "junkyard technology," such as old shuttle launch vehicles currently "lying around in California." ("Check the o-rings first," Zubrin quipped.) A continuous manned Mars program could be conducted for about 16% of the current space budget, Zubrin said. Americans are much better prepared for Mars today than we were to go to the Moon.
Why Mars? There might have been life on Mars, and there still may be in subsurface pools of water. The more important question, though, is, "Will there be life on Mars?" Mars is a "world of resources" that can support life and even civilization.
Zubrin dissed my idea to fund a Mars mission by selling advertising rights, saying it's "not that attractive an investment." It still seems to me advertising rights could fund at least a sizable portion of such a mission. Zubrin mentioned the possibility of funding the project directly with private donors, but the free-rider problem might prove difficult. The Mars Society has started some less-ambitious projects such as a million-dollar simulated Mars station.
Zubrin also reviewed the political reasons for going to Mars: there "the rules have not been written yet... You need to have that kind of open laboratory... If your ideas are true, then they will work." He said a "fundamental form of freedom [is] to be the makers of their own world."
What is most troublesome for libertarians is how such a mission might be funded. For Zubrin, it isn't central that a Mars mission be funded outside of government. After all, he said, England originally sponsored the American colonies. What he wants is a "viable way for things to begin on Mars." Whether the funding comes from private or government sources, "I'll take it either way," Zubrin said.
I suppose, then, that if libertarians want to get to Mars with private funds, it is up to them to make it happen.