Why we should go to Mars

Why We Should Go To Mars

There's a reason this guy gets so much attention...

Dr. Robert Zubrin is best known for his revolutionary plan to get to Mars - called Mars Direct.  And his follow-up book called The Case for Mars not only outlined how we cold get to Mars, but why.

Dr. Robert Zubrin

Dr. Robert Zubrin

It was so well thought out that NASA adapted much of Zubrin's plan​ in the late 1990's and dubbed their new plan 'Mars Semi-Direct'. The ideas have evolved further in the last 15-20 years, -- just look at NASA's current Journey to Mars plan -- but the basics remain the same.

Why we should go to Mars​

In this video, Zubrin talks again about why the Red Planet should be the focal point of our space program and why we should go to Mars. His argument is based on three main points. As he says ...

Mars is where:​

  • The science​ is
  • The challenge is, and
  • the future is.

The Science

The 'Holy Grail' of Mars exploration has always been the search for life.  It has been the underlying, fundamental reason, since the first Viking landers, of ​why scientists want to go to Mars. And Zubrin thinks the same.

As he mentions:

...life should have appeared on Mars even if it subsequently went extinct, and if we can go to Mars and find fossils of past life, we will have proven the development of life is a general phenomenon of the universe.​

Looking for -- and perhaps finding -- signs of life, is indeed extremely exciting and important.  As Zubrin continues:

This is the fundamental question that thinking men and women have wondered about for thousands of years.​

But I have to disagree with Dr. Zubrin there's a flaw in this thinking.​

For fifty years we have been ​talking about putting humans on Mars to search for life. But the argument against that has always been, and continues to be, that putting humans on Mars is extremely risky and extremely expensive.

For much less money -- and at much less risk -- we can send robots and probes instead.

Whether or not you agree with this argument, the point is that it has been the reason why we have not sent people to Mars.   Convincing politicians to fund a probe or lander is much easier, and much more likely to succeed, than convincing an entire congressional body to fund a human to Mars program.

I mean - why risk it?

Even though humans may be much more efficient than probes, the costs and the risks, both financial and political, make it an easy choice for funding.

Getting to Mars needs to be about much more than just the science.

Which is why Zubrin continues with ...​

The Challenge

As Zubrin comments:

Societies are like individuals. We grow when we're challenged. We stagnate when we are not.

​... and a humans to Mars program would be incredibly challenging.

The challenge would also inspire - particularly today's youth.​ The desire to explore a new world would launch a tremendous number of careers into science and technology. The intellectual capital alone, Zubrin adds, would be worth it.

But more than just the intellectual and societal challenge, Mars is simply ...​

The Future

Zubrin points out that:

Mars is the closest planet that has on it all the resources needed to support life and therefore civilization. If we do what we can do, in our time, to establish that little 'Plymouth Rock' settlement on Mars, then 500 years from now, there will be new branches of human civilization...

​And this may be the most compelling reason of all to go to Mars.

In other words, if you wonder why we should go to Mars, it's for us -- for humanity and our future. Not the science (at least, not just the science...)​

It's a great point​

Watch the video now and see what you think.  And don't forget to leave your comments below.


  1. Robert Hutchison 10 December, 2015 at 13:07 Reply

    Time is the great killer of ambition…years ago I was almost a space junkie, reading everything and was a subscriber to half a dozen or more magazine and was a member of The Planet Society and others (this was before Internet). But I kind of lost that Zest after THEY cancelled the Apollo Project and started to develop the Shuttle. But now that I am my 70s my enthusiasm for Mars is kind of on low boil because now I am pretty sure before we get to Mars, I may not be around to witness it. Even so, I still believe a Mars Mission is not unreachable and should be tried. We, and not just the United States, should do something that the US did when we went to the Moon and, as President Kennedy said, we do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard!

    • Joel Ammons 10 December, 2015 at 14:02 Reply

      I totally share that frustration, Robert! And agree wholeheartedly. It’s one of the reasons M4M was created. –JA

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