Mars Society Note: In the past week, Dr. Robert Zubrin, with the help of Joe Webster and Chris
Carberry, authored testimony that was submitted to the United States Senate
VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, regarding the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration budget for FY 2002 (the VA-HUD Appropriations
Subcommittee has jurisdiction over NASA’s budget). In the testimony, Dr.
Zubrin explains to Congress why our Nation should commit at least one
percent of NASA’s budget (about $140 million) to a program that would
investigate technologies that will be necessary to send humans to Mars.

In addition to the VA-HUD Subcommittee, we will be sending copies of this
testimony to numerous other members of Congress as well as the Bush

We hope that this testimony, combined with our ongoing political outreach
efforts, will help to show Congress the value of creating such a modest

Below is the text of Dr. Robert Zubrin’s testimony:

The Mars Society
Dr. Robert Zubrin, President
P.O. Box 273
Indian Hills, Colorado


May 31, 2001

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

My name is Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of The Mars Society. I would like
to thank you for this opportunity to offer comments regarding the Fiscal
Year 2002 budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(“NASA”). As detailed below, we strongly believe that NASA’s budget should
include a program funded at a level of at least $140 million per year (about
1% of NASA’s current budget) within the NASA Human Exploration and
Development of Space (“HEDS”) organization to develop the technologies
necessary to lay the groundwork for future human Mars exploration missions.

I. The Mars Society.

The Mars Society is an international grassroots organization created to
further the goal of the exploration of the planet Mars. Our efforts to
further this goal have involved broad public outreach to instill the vision
of pioneering Mars, support of ever more aggressive government funded Mars
exploration programs around the world, and conducting Mars related research
on a private basis. Our first major project was building the Flashline Mars
Arctic Research Station in the Canadian Arctic last year to serve as a
test-bed for technologies and practices that will be needed for human Mars
exploration. We recently secured funding for, and are in the process of
building, a second research station, which will be located in the American

I am the author of The Case for Mars and Entering Space, as well as dozens
of technical papers and articles. In the early 1990s, I developed a plan
(“Mars Direct”) that showed how a robust mission to Mars could be achieved
for $20-30 billion and in 10 years or less, by maximizing the use of
existing technologies and resources found on Mars.

II. Need for Technology Development Funding.

We believe there is no question that eventually this Nation’s scientific
curiosity and pioneering spirit will lead to a decision to send people to
Mars — a world of spectacular mountains three times as tall as Mount
Everest, canyons three times as deep and five times as long as the Grand
Canyon, vast ice fields, and thousands of kilometers of mysterious dry
riverbeds. The planet’s unexplored surface may hold unimagined riches and
resources for future humanity, as well as answers to some of the deepest
philosophical questions that thinking men and women have pondered for
millennia. The discovery last year of surface features that may have been
produced by the recent flow of liquid water further supports the idea that
Mars once had (and may still have) conditions conducive to life. To find
evidence life, though, will likely take more than robotic eyes and remote
control. In fact, all that Mars holds will remain beyond our grasp until
men and women–agile, autonomous, intuitive beings–walk upon its surface.

Whether the decision to send people to Mars is made tomorrow or in 10 years,
there are many technologies that need to be developed in order to conduct
such a mission in a safe and cost-effective manner. By investing a modest
amount of money now to develop these technologies, both the ultimate cost
and the time needed to assemble such a mission could be significantly
reduced. In addition, such a program would provide the core of the talent
and expertise that will be required to achieve such an ambitious goal.

Until a few months ago, a very modest amount of NASA funds (primarily agency
discretionary funds) were used to fund such a program. However, after the
recent disclosure of Space Station cost overruns, an order was issued to
stop or eliminate all technology development projects supporting eventual
human Mars exploration. While The Mars Society is in full agreement that
many hard choices have to be made to remedy the cost overruns relating to
the Space Station, we believe that this technology development program is
too important to this Nation’s future in space to be sacrificed to feed
Space Station overruns. In our opinion, Space Station overruns must be
dealt with within the Space Station’s own budget.

Rather than shut down the tiny amount of human Mars technology development
work that was underway, such funding should be significantly expanded. A
program should be funded at a level of at least $140 million per year (about
1% of NASA’s current budget) within the NASA HEDS organization, to develop
the technologies necessary for human Mars exploration missions. When our
Nation is ready to make a commitment to send humans to Mars, this modest
program will have already laid a portion of the technological groundwork for
the mission, saving both time and money.

Below are some of the technologies that should be investigated in such a

1. In-Situ Resource Utilization: Cost effectiveness is a necessity for
future human space exploration. Mars provides us with a tremendous
opportunity to lower the cost of exploration by ìliving off the land.î The
atmosphere of Mars, composed largely of carbon dioxide, is the resource that
makes this possible. Using a century-old technology, it should be possible
to use the Martian atmosphere, as well as a relatively small amount of
hydrogen brought from Earth, to create oxygen, water, and all of the fuel
(methane) for the return trip. This would dramatically reduce the mission
mass and save billions of dollars in mission costs. The cost-cutting
potential of this technology certainly justifies further investigation and

2. Propulsion: Using current chemical rocket technology, it would take
least six months for a crew to reach Mars and at least another six months
for them to return after their stay on the surface. With improved
propulsion systems, transit times could be reduced, which would increase the
safety and reduce the cost of human missions to Mars. In addition to
improved chemical propulsion systems, we should look at new propulsion
ideas, such as plasma technology, ion drives, nuclear rockets, and many
other possibilities that have the potential to take months off the voyage.
Creating a technology research program would allow us to examine the best
way to approach this technological problem.

3. Life support: Without proper life support systems, any future Mars
explorers could not survive. We should build on the systems already
developed for the Space Station to achieve systems that can more fully
recycle wastes and withstand the rigors of a long-duration mission where
re-supply from earth is not feasible.

4. EVA suits: We currently do not have space suits that would be
useful on
Mars. Our current EVA suits are designed for zero gravity conditions. They
would be far too heavy and unwieldy on the surface of Mars. A Mars EVA suit
must be light, durable, and allow itís occupant to move around freely and
perform such simple tasks as bending over and getting back up without
difficulty. Without a new EVA suit design, the astronauts would not be able
to leave their habitat.

5. Human habitats for interplanetary transit and surface use: As noted
above, The Mars Society is currently using private funds to investigate
various aspects of this technology. Although we hope to make significant
contributions to habitat design, our projects will not address many of the
technological requirements for these habitats. In addition, The Mars
Society does not have the means to examine the needs for a habitat during
interplanetary transit. A technology program would be able to focus on
these critical issues.

6. Human surface mobility systems (manned rovers): While the first
on Mars would be able to make innumerable discoveries on foot, their range
would be limited. Because of this, it would be prudent to study various
options for a pressurized rover, which would give the astronauts a vastly
larger exploration range, allowing them to explore tens or even hundreds of
kilometers from their habitat module.

7. Heavy lift vehicles: Such a mission would be much more expensive
without heavy lift capabilities. Our Nation has not had a heavy lift
vehicle capable of launching such a mission since the Saturn 5 rocket. In
addition to a Mars mission, such a vehicle would be useful in numerous
civilian and military space-related endeavors. Such a vehicle could be
designed to make use of existing Space Shuttle facilities and hardware.

8. Advanced power systems, both nuclear and non-nuclear: We need to
determine the best source of power during Mars surface habitation. This is
more challenging than any power issue we have had to deal with in the
history of the space program. We will be on the surface of Mars for at
least a year, so a reliable power supply is a critical technology that will
need to be developed.

III. Some Reasons to Support Human Mars Exploration

1. Economic/Social/Technology: Some will say that we need to solve
at home before we invest in space exploration. In reality, it is just the
opposite. Dollar for dollar, the space program has provided more benefits to
our Nation and the world than any program in United States history; the
largest number of benefits coming as a result of the Apollo program. A Mars
exploration program will likely accelerate economic and social benefits as
Apollo did. By investing in space, we benefit Earth.

2. Education: Apollo inspired children around the country to pursue
and math careers. They saw that they could participate in events larger
than themselves. A human mission to Mars will certainly have the same
impact. Inspiring our children to learn is the best education program.

3. Science: The scientific ramifications of a human mission to Mars
enormous. The study of Martian geology and atmospheric conditions will not
only teach us much about the future habitability of Mars but also about our
own planet. By sending humans to Mars, we will be much more likely to
answer the question of whether there was ever life on Mars. In the search
for signs of fossilized life on Mars, a human crew could likely achieve in
their first few days more than what could be accomplished in many years by
any series of robotic probes.

4. Exploration: Without a great history of exploration the United
would not exist. We need to continue our great heritage of exploring the
unknown so that we can guarantee that our society will remain vital and will
not fall into stagnation. Mars is not just a scientific curiosity; it is a
world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined,
possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but
technological society. With the International Space Station operational, it
is time to lay the groundwork for the next logical step — the human
exploration of Mars.

5. National Optimism: We need to rekindle the national optimism
that made
the United States the greatest country on Earth. A human mission to Mars is
the natural vehicle for this revitalization. A strong sense of national
optimism is the best vehicle for continued prosperity.

6. Public Support: A recent Roper poll shows that about
two-thirds of the
American public support sending a human mission to Mars. The American
public has had an enormous appetite for Mars for years. This appetite has
fueled countless science fiction accounts of Mars and unprecedented interest
in NASA exploration missions to Mars. When Mars Pathfinder landed in 1997,
there were over 100 million hits on the Pathfinder website in the first day.
There have been well over half a billion hits since. All together, NASA’s
Mars related websites have received over 1.2 billion hits since 1997.

7. Self Definition: A humans to Mars program would be a forceful
reaffirmation of the fundamental nature of America as a nation of pioneers.
We Americans owe everything we have today to our predecessors who were
willing to go to a wilderness and build where no one had built before, to
take on challenges that had never been faced, and to do what had never been
done. Were we to abandon that tradition, we would become something less.
That is a form of decline that we cannot afford and cannot accept.
Ultimately the issue of whether we embrace the challenge of Mars is one of
who we are.

IV. A New Direction

Our space program has been literally and figuratively going around in
circles since the end of the Apollo Program. Few people under the age of 40
have any direct recollection of our Nation’s greatest technological and
exploration achievement; landing humans on the Moon. In addition, more
people are even beginning to deny that the Moon landing ever took place.
While this opinion used to be limited to fringe elements of our society, it
has now become main stream.

Should we be surprised by this phenomenon? Absolutely not! In the late
1960s and early 1970s, the possibilities in space exploration looked
limitless. What should have been ìone giant leap for mankind,î the Moon
landings have turned out to be just a few ìsmall steps.î After launching
the Nation, and the world, into what looked like our greatest age of
exploration and learning, we retreated and have never returned.
We now need to engage in a new and great age of exploration and discovery —
an age that will again inspire our Nation and the world.


As the past few years have demonstrated, Mars is an extraordinary planet
that yields her mysteries only grudgingly. If we are ever to gain a
complete understanding of its complexities, we will need to send human
explorers to that world to fill in the enormous gaps in knowledge left by
our robotic probes. We urge Congress to establish a modest program (at
least $140 million per year) to develop the technologies necessary to lay
the groundwork for what will certainly be the next great Age of Discovery.

Once again, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present this