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Robert Zubrin loves NASA

He may be known one of the agency’s greatest critics, but in his new book, How To Live on Mars from Three River Press, Robert Zubrin pays NASA the best possible compliment any bureaucracy can expect: he assumes that, a hundred years from now, it will still exist. Zubrin does not expect it to have improved much as an engineering organization and he assumes that the big contractors will still be calling the shots, but it will exist and that, to a government entity, makes it all worthwhile.

Robert Zubrin pays NASA the best possible compliment any bureaucracy can expect: he assumes that, a hundred years from now, it will still exist.

A century from now NASA may be more or less the same organization it is today, except that it has gone into business selling useless and dangerous goods and services to naive and ignorant Martians and would-be Martians. He also assumes that NASA management will be far stupider than anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s hard enough today for a self-respecting con artist to sell ancient ceramics on Earth, but a hundred years from now some bright entrepreneurial archeologist will have come up with a pocket size thermo-luminescent detector that will be able to tell when a bit of pottery was fired in a few seconds. Anyone thinking of buying a piece of ancient pottery on Mars will have one of these things, if only to avoid the cost of shipping a fake back to Earth.

In Zubrin’s opinion, NASA did get a few things right, probably by accident. The basic Apollo-era spacesuit design is still the one that any sane Martian will choose over the skinsuit sold by alluring supermodel types.

As befits the founder of the Mars Society, Zubrin brings some practical experience to the subject of living on the Red Planet. His little chapter on the flaws in bioregenerative life support systems is based on the Society’s hard earned experience and is alone worth the price of the book.

When it comes to Mars food, Zubrin anticipates some problems. He imagines that NASA will ship goats and chickens out there. In one-third Earth gravity these animals will be far more nimble and harder to control than they ever were on Earth. For example: “goats have repeatedly proven to be of great value when released in New Plymouth to keep the Mars Authority security patrols busy while important business is being transacted by serious people.” Chickens on Mars will not be “flightless” birds, but will be just as disgusting, at least when they are alive, there as they are on Earth.

The most important thing to do when you get to Mars is to “get a job that pays well and doesn’t kill you.” This rules out working for the government, for organized crime, or for a big corporation. This leaves you with the choice of working for a construction crew, prospecting for precious minerals, or selling stuff to the prospectors. This last job is by far the most lucrative.

Social life on Mars revolves around the oldest and most important of all human activities and the book provides a sampling of pick up lines that may or may not work. A few of the better ones include:

“Cold today isn’t it?”

“Hi I’m looking for a lost baby goat. I think it ran into your hab. Can we go look for it?”

“Excuse me, didn’t you used to be in movies on Earth?”

“Excuse me, but are you paramagnetic?”

“Did I get on the wrong ship, I thought I was going to Mars, but this must be heaven.”

The most important thing to do when you get to Mars is to “get a job that pays well and doesn’t kill you.” This rules out working for the government, for organized crime, or for a big corporation.

According to Zubrin, the future of our species is not exactly going to be a happy one. We will avoid being turned into a giant version of North Korea, but only at the cost of becoming a less free and more taxed version of Sweden. He anticipates that the future bureaucratic rulers of Earth will be much like the 18th century aristocrats, “Except that they were more open and honest about their contempt for the public, and that they had better musical and artistic taste.”

Fortunately the Martians will find ways to subvert their rulers and will economically defeat the Earth tyrants using giant tomatoes. So buy the book and find out how it’s done.


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