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on 12 January 2008
The review guide states that the review is to be relevant to the content and/or context. In this case, they're two rather different reviews. Personally, I find Zubrin's Mars Direct/Mars Colony plan (the content part) flawed in quite a few ways, here are a couple: 1) the "frontier spirit" arguement is used often, and I agree that humanity is at its best when challenged and exploration and colonisation certainly serves this goal. But the specific case for Mars, as opposed to the moons of Saturn/Jupiter, asteroid belts etc are not made. 2) Assumptions about the industry of a Mars colony, deuterium mining for use in fusion for example, are founded on an unproven theoretical industry and also, due to the prevelance of Helium 3, encourage a settlement on the moon instead. Asteroid mining is posited but this is an arguement for mining asteroids, Mars is superfluous to this. 3) The Mars Direct mission itself is a tight rope and although Zubrin convincingly deals with many of the dangers the book is, perhaps necessarily lean on specifics regards crew details (men? women? age?) and logistic details, I personally doubt the craft has enough space for food, water, spare parts etc although I happen to know many of these details have been worked out at later dates, the crewing level has now been raised to 6, those ammendments are not present here. And on and on. However, Zubrin is making a case, not a watertight arguement and would doubtless concede that the debate is far from over so, in the spirit of the context side of the review I would say buy this book, absolutely, the Mars Direct plan is an excellent, ingenious basic idea that deserves publicity and this book should be bought and debated by scientists, students, policymakers and the general public alike.
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on 29 September 2011
Robert Zubrin combines genuine enthusiasm for space exploration with the levelheaded pragmatism you want in an engineer (which he is). That second quality is essential, as skeptical readers may find themselves shaking their heads at the matter-of-fact way in which Zubrin dispels objections to going to Mars. He makes the journey sound not only easy but logical and inspiring. The book has just two minor weaknesses: First, Zubrin can seem partisan - arguing not just for Mars but against alternative projects, like lunar exploration. Second, occasionally he goes into more detail than really necessary. For instance, plans to name Martian months seem premature, albeit interesting. getAbstract recommends his fascinating book to skeptics who don't see why society should bother with space, to those old enough to remember the glory days of the "Apollo" missions, and to anyone interested in bold scientific exploration. This is a trip you can take.
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on 10 December 2013
An excellent introduction - if a little optimistic given the current state of technology. I like the view that we can get there for $50 billion.

However, he makes a good case for why we need to get to Mars. It is written very much from the perpective of why America needs this and is currently the only country which can get there. But even the updated version does not take account of the fact that the USA could probably not make the attempt given the financial state of that country.

The only way it will happen though is via another space race - as in the race to the Moon where money was no object. The only way that will happen is after the Chinese annex the Moon in the late 2020s.

That may wake up America but I somewhat doubt it. The Red Planet will eventually be the Yellow one.

The book is a little technical in parts but not to a degree where the average person could not follow the reasoning or understand what is being said. The tone can be somewhat 'evangelical' but he believes what he is saying so can be forgiven.
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on 30 October 2000
Zubrin clearly outlines how a martian exploration may be possible using existing technology. He wigs out a bit when he tries to carry this thesis forward to a discussion of terraforming but if you have any interest in space exploration this is a must read, with some penetrating insight in to why NASA is probably not going to fulfill our aspirations in this direction anytime soon. So, if you can find anybody nuts enough to actually fly the thing . . . .
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on 21 December 1998
THE CASE FOR MARS is one of the best books I have read this year. When Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 1969, I remember sitting glued to our TV. It was one of the most memorable moments in my life. I had been fascinated with space and the possibility that any of us might soon be able to go there since I was 9 or 10.
I was convinced that, by the time I was 25 or 30, I personally would have that chance. I'm now 48 and I've given up any hope that John Q. Citizen will make regular trips into space in my lifetime.
Once we, as a nation, had "won" the space race, our government felt we could better spend our money on "important" things like the arms race.
Our citizens, too, seemed to have lost the vision of new worlds to explore and, yes, new worlds to settle. Some even seemed to believe that it was somehow immoral to consider settling new worlds when we'd made such a mess of our own.
For my part, I always believed that space exploration was one of the best purposes to which we could devote our collective efforts. Time and again, the space race had demonstrated that stretching into new frontiers requires new technologies, which in turn benefit everyday life. Furthermore, cooperative efforts between nations on so grand a scale could help to break down those barriers of distrust and prejudice which have plagued mankind since the beginning of time.
By the 1980s and 90s, what was being done in the way of space exploration had turned into very large, very expensive projects and all too often, very expensive failures. The idea of going to and settling someplace like Mars, with this mindset, seemed prohibitively expensive.
To my thinking, the International Space Station is typical of that type of shortsighted planning. Very expensive, very small advance, if any, from where we've already gone. Perhaps the only thing I see in its favor is that it is an international, cooperative effort.
In THE CASE FOR MARS Robert Zubrin and Richard Wagner make a compelling argument that going to Mars, settling Mars, and even terraforming Mars are not only reasonable goals, but they are goals that do not require vast new technologies. Existing technologies, with some modifications, can take us to the Red Planet and even convert it into a second Earth.
The book is written as an appeal to common citizens to reclaim their heritage of exploration and the wonder that comes with it and to step once and for all out of the cradle in which we have too long spent our infancy.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to read this book. Zubrin is a rocket scientist and his talent for explaining step by step how to get to and settle Mars is impressive.
"Earth is the cradle of humanity but we can not stay in the cradle forever."
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
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on 26 July 1998
The past generation has responded to the mounting pressures of overpopulation, global warming ('98 has been the hottest year in recorded history - radar images of satellite observations show glacier shrinking in Anartica), nuclear and biological catastrophe, pollution, and plant and animal extinction with a succession of hopeful and spirited movements that call for the reduction of carbon monoxide emissions and the saving of a number of endangerd species, ranging from whales, spotted owls, to trees and even crustaceans (yes, there is a Hollywood group committed to saving the lobster). During this same period, billions of dollars have been committed towards AIDS research.
Regardless of the effectiveness of any number of theses strategies, one thing is certain: ulitmately, if humanity is to perputuate itself, it must one day leave this planet and colonize the galaxy. We must become extra-terrestrials. But we only have a limited window. Pessimists have concluded tha! t the earth has never been visited from outer space because no civilization has yet to survive its own technology. This could be our fate.
However, through the creation of a multi-planet species, Robert Zubrin's plan to colonize Mars is the best chance mankind has right now to insure its perpetuity. The stakes are huge. Humans may be destined to know the farthest reaches of the universe and become something more than man, perhaps a kind of superman. Or we may simply become curious fossils for the next higher being to evolve from mud, slime, and the radiation resistant cockroach (try cooking one in the microwave).
Given the precarious state of life on this planet, the technology we now possess (your home PC is about is powerful as the one that directed Apollo from Mission Control) and the proximity of a cool, Red Planet once capable of supporting life just three to six months away, I am at a loss to understand why Mars colonization is not at the top of the global agenda! ...except for its implausibility.
Robert Zubrin's, The ! Case For Mars, is a practical guide and plan that makes truth sometimes, as the saying goes, stranger than fiction. Computational studies by NASA scientist Chris MaKay and Zubrin demonstrate that a small but sustained rise in temperature at the Martian south pole - 4 C - can intiate a runaway greenhouse effect that will melt the ice cap. The Red Planet would soon be awash with oceans and riverbeds.
The Case For Mars is pregnant with possibilty. This book should be on the desk of every congressman, senator, CEO, and celebrity. --James Pruett
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on 24 July 1998
This book makes a promising case for the authors "Mars Direct" plan for an affordable manned mars mission using current technology. His proposal has great merit, and he illustrates its strengths well. But he definitely has a plan to sell, and one gets the feeling that surely there must be a tradeoff in this scheme SOMEWHERE! In short Zubrin's energy and optimism are contagious, and he carries himself along to positions that are almost certainly over-optimistic. Eventually the reader may even wonder if he's getting the whole story. The latter half of the book proposes methods for the colonization and eventual terraforming of mars. Necessarily, this involves speculations that at this point in time can only be very imaginative and rather wild. Still, the author has, I think, the right idea about the potential here, and makes a good case for at least the Mars Direct plan. In all, this is a very thought-provoking and stimulating book. It's not often that the gre! at events of history can be so clearly laid out ahead of time; even if things do not unfold as described in The Case For Mars, it lays out a marvelous vision worth the viewing.
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on 4 April 1999
As an aerospace engineering student highly interested in space exploration (and wishing to go professional with this also) , I really found this book to be a real treat. Definitely was inspiring coming from an author that wishes to advance mankind technologically into the realm of space.. A view that I have concurred with ever since I was in grade school. The book was not just some bored rocket engineer's (or scientist's) science fiction memo, I found his plan extremely plausible and do-able. I especially liked the historical allusions he made throughout the account proving that the grand majority of the technologies used in Mars Direct have been done before in the past(and many for thousands of years). If they have done before, there is no reason why they can not be done again. I loved the clear explanation of his plan. He did not go into too much math , but he gave a clear picture in my mind the concepts involved. Zubrin is very knowledgable and while I was reading this book I knew that what he was saying was well-founded. A MUST READ for those interested in space exploration, astronomy, or aerospace engineering!
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on 20 April 2013
This review refers to the 1996 hardback edition - a well-rounded, blatantly partisan book arguing why Mars should be the aim of space exploration and how to do it. It provides a layman's guide to the design of spacecraft to get there, the issues encountered and also what to do there once we arrive, ultimately 'terraforming' the planet to make it habitable. The author manages the mix of technical/non-technical really well and provides detailed extracts regarding specific technical issues. I also liked how 'the case for Mars' was placed in a wider context, including internal NASA politics, to potential ways of managing and funding the programme. My only criticism is the Epilogue where the authors attempts to inspire a movement to help lobby the US government and slips into the mythology of the US 'Frontier Spirit' however, given that the US potentially remains the only country capable of doing this and the author is American you can sympathize with his approach.
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on 26 April 2016
Subtitled, The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, this extraordinary work by Robert Zubrin, with Richard Wagner, is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Mars either as an observer or as, in my case, a writer of science fiction.
In researching for my novel about Mars, I’ve read a great deal of the literature both in books and online. Zubrin’s book has proved the most thought-provoking, and the most inspirational. An aerospace engineer and writer, he’s also the founder of the Mars Society and a driving force behind Mars Direct, a proposal designed to produce real reductions in the cost and complexity of such a mission.
The book is, in some senses, a technical manual for creating a project to get to Mars and colonise the planet. There is fascinating history revealed here. But, primarily, there is much technical detail of the chemistry, physics, biology and engineering involved in the process of reaching and staying on the red planet.
He is sceptical of the recent projects currently undertaken by NASA and singularly frustrated by the small-minded attitudes of the politicians in the USA who dictate the what and the where of space exploration. He is also scathing of some of the ideas put forward by contemporaries. But he backs up his concerns with evidence and rational argument.
I’m no scientist, though I have a more than average interest in space and the science of space exploration. I read, and took copious notes from, this book in order to be as technically informed about matters Martian to allow me to write a credible story set on the red planet. The content has certainly allowed me to feel I’ve done that, when taken together with the other research I’ve undertaken. This book, however, provides more than mere facts and formulae. It’s full of ideas about how certain difficult tasks might be achieved using current technology and knowledge, and how others may be managed in the future using developing technology.
For the amateur, the person without deep science training, this is not an easy book. In parts it describes processes and chemical reactions that will be well outside the experience of such readers. But the information is given in such a manner that, with a little application, the gist, if not an absolute detailed understanding, can be gained.
As part of my research, I also watched the recent movie, The Martian, as I’d heard its science was very good. It was entertaining, certainly, but some of the science was clearly not as good as it could have been. Since I’d employed certain aspects of folklore about Mars as elements of the story I’ve already produced in first draft form, I’m very glad I undertook this additional research prior to editing. Some of those elements I took as factual turn out to be based on fallacies. No matter; rewriting is an essential part of any fiction writer’s skill. And I shall now rewrite with the knowledge and confidence of an informed storyteller as a result of reading this excellent book.
There is passion as well as erudition in this lengthy read. The author clearly knows what he is talking about and has a deep understanding of the technical issues as well as the social aspects of colonising a distant world. He debunks certain fondly-held theories, explains why others are flawed and inoperable, and presents his own solutions to the many problems in terms that are credible and inspiring. If you have any interest in the only other planet in our solar system that may be made capable of sustaining complex life, I suggest you give this book a go. I’m very pleased I did.
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