Mars maverick touts low-cost plan for moon bases

Robert Zubrin
Mars Society President Robert Zubrin provides a guided tour of future space missions during a talk at the University of Washington. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

For decades, rocket scientist Robert Zubrin has been a voice crying in the Martian wilderness. But now the president of the Mars Society is pleading the case for a cause that’s much closer than the Red Planet: low-cost lunar exploration and settlement.

Zubrin’s lays out his latest plan, known as “Moon Direct,” this week in a tech journal called The New Atlantis, and he’s in Seattle today to talk about it in conjunction with the Museum of Flight’s SpaceExpo 2018.

The expo also features demonstrations of a virtual reality project highlighting one of Zubrin’s longest-running projects, the Mars Desert Research Station, a testing ground for space settlement that was built in Utah back in 2001.

If Zubrin gets his way, such outposts could be built on the moon and on Mars as well, on time scales far sooner and at costs far lower than NASA projects.

The problem is, Zubrin doesn’t always get his way. Since the 1990s, he’s advocated for a mission architecture known as Mars Direct that would first send uncrewed rockets to Mars and follow up with later crewed missions. Each mission would make use of on-site materials to produce the fuel for the return trips.

The Mars Direct plan didn’t get much traction, and Zubrin says that’s NASA’s fault. “The manned space science program has been adrift in this period,” he said during a Friday night presentation at the University of Washington.

Now NASA is turning its attention to missions to the moon — but Zubrin is worried that, once again, NASA is taking the wrong approach.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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