It is easy today to despair of the world and its future: The dot-com debacle, loss of 10% of the jobs in Silicon Valley, a terrorist attack on New York City and the Pentagon, two wars in the Middle East, Arabs blowing themselves up on public streets, the loss of another Shuttle craft.... Yet in this same period, the four years since 2000, the Mars Society has built three research stations and already operated two with thousands of crew person-days of simulated Mars missions. Hundreds of scientists and engineers have generated a copious web site of beautifully illustrated mission reports, produced Discovery Channel and National Geographic specials, published dozens of articles in trade journals such as Scientific American and Popular Science, and presented many inspirational talks in schools and museums.
All that since 1999, about 1500 days. All that while the world looked to be going to hell, when it seemed so easy to give up, to conclude that humans are indeed too limited, too battle hungry, too lost in vanity, greed, and nationalism.
Robert Zubrin and the Mars Society have shown another way. They have shown how to set a vision, creatively finance projects, endure physical challenges-and perhaps most difficult of all, work past their own emotional weaknesses and thirst for control. This group has actually built something: exalting futuristic "habitats" rising out of the Arctic and Southwest Desert. These research stations (Flashline Mars in the Arctic and the Desert Station in Utah) are not only symbols-for that they are, on a grand scale-these are places where real work has been done, where practical engineering and ideals have moved us measurably closer to living on Mars.
I claim that this step, what the Mars Society has done, is nothing less than a clarion call that we can defeat what is bad about humanity, that we can set a goal and a mission that makes life worth living, and gives real meaning to our time.
For in fact, all that the Mars Society has done in these four years, admirably well-told by Zubrin in this scholarly book, is a reminder of how far humanity has come in ten thousand years. The forces of the night have been defeated and can be set asunder, or we would not have come this far. Our ancestors have proven again and again that the ignorance and pettiness of the lizard brain within are no match for the spirit of human imagination, no match for the power of an enchanting vision, the cry of exploration and adventure-here, the thought of searching for fossils, walking on Mars.
The Mars Society and its thousands of supporters in universities, schools, media, and inside the space industry, have demonstrated faith and capable clarity of mind. These people, described throughout this inspiring book, are among the true leaders of our age. We meet Joe, an Inuit who guides us on Devon Island; Christine, a Canadian Chemist who plays Mozart in the hab, and Jim, former head of Kennedy Space Center's public outreach, who arranges to display a hab to 100,000 Cape Canaveral visitors. "Mars on Earth" tells of many more unbridled volunteers-architects, contractors, NASA scientists, reporters, giving their best. Despite moments of fear, equipment failure, and poor judgment, they pulled together, raised the habs, and filled them with imagination. I am proud to have participated, and in awe at the range of talent and creative joy I have found in the Arctic, in our habs, and conferences and local meetings.
If you don't know the story of the Mars Society, read this book, and you may discover a new meaning for your life. It is nothing less than that. And then go to [...] and join. Meet some of the best friends you will ever find. Show by your actions and support what humanity can be.