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Sunday, August 15, 2010


Last week I attended a convention of the International Mars Society and had an opportunity to exchange some ideas with Robert Zubrin. A few weeks ago I had expressed the thought that, given the startling space budget proposed by the Obama administration, and particularly the ending of the Constellation Program that would have returned us to the Moon, it would take imaginative thinkers like Zubrin to come up with strategies that would permit us to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. I suggested then that perhaps going with a modular construction of space ships would permit us to get around the lack of the heavy-lift booster canceled by the administration. But Zubrin himself would have none of it, as he made quite clear to me. He thinks that a heavy-lift booster is essential. Once we have a booster in the class of the Saturn V again, we will be in a position to put an outpost on Mars. He insisted that modular technology has not been successful so far, and that there is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel when we already have the know-how to get the job of manned exploration done, the exploration of Mars included. His solution is to put political pressure on the House of Representatives to approve the space budget already approved by the Senate, which restores the heavy-lift booster and other capabilities we need to go to Mars. He would rather skip the Moon and go straight to Mars, but is willing to put up with the Moon delay as long as we are back to the technology level of the Apollo era. We could have been on Mars by 1985 or even earlier if we had kept up Kennedy's example of setting up ambitious missions and going all out to meet those goals. Indeed, for all the money, time and energy we have wasted on the Shuttle and the International Space Station, we could have thriving outposts on both the Moon and Mars by now. More on all this in a few weeks.

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