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5.0 out of 5 stars Today's Visionary
I have had the unique opportunity to meet Robert Zubrin at a couple of conferences. He is a brilliant, funny, visionary, cantankerous engineer who has become a serious leader in the space advocacy community. His personal style comes across in his writing. He's a bright guy with a serious ax to grind about Mars, how we should get there, and how NASA is screwing up...
Published on March 13 2004 by Bart Leahy

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3.0 out of 5 stars To Mars? Yes, but by this route?
Hmmm... this is a difficult one to review.
This book is basically an advertisement for the author's "Mars Direct" scheme for manned mars missions.
On the one hand I laud Zubrin for all the time and effort he has placed into thinking up his "Mars Direct" plan for manned mars missions. The idea is certainly appealing and contians much that...
Published on Aug. 28 2000 by Jim Kirk


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5.0 out of 5 stars Today's Visionary, March 13 2004
By 
Bart Leahy (Huntsville, AL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I have had the unique opportunity to meet Robert Zubrin at a couple of conferences. He is a brilliant, funny, visionary, cantankerous engineer who has become a serious leader in the space advocacy community. His personal style comes across in his writing. He's a bright guy with a serious ax to grind about Mars, how we should get there, and how NASA is screwing up.
Most of his criticism is based upon NASA's handling of "the 90-Day Report," the report the agency submitted to President Bush after he called for a manned mission to Mars. What the scientists at NASA came up with was a huge, visionary program that would require every new technology known to manned space activity, from solar power to zero-gravity construction to cold fusion. Oh yeah, a lot of that hasn't been invented yet, will take 30 years to accomplish, and will cost taxpayers $450 billion. It is the bureaucratic mindset that sets Zubrin off.
Mixed in with all the specific technical information are history lessons about exploration and its difficulties, as well as insights on why we need to explore and the value of Mars itself. Since the release of "The Case for Mars," Dr. Zubrin has formed his own space advocacy group called The Mars Society, which is already setting up its own Mars habitat simulator in an arctic desert of Canada.
He has also taken to describing ways in which the government can best fund the mission, such as offering a "Mars Prize" of $30 billion that would only be awarded to a successful mission. Zubrin shamelessly invokes Kennedy, Lindbergh, Frederick Jackson Turner, and others, and jumps in with a "can-do" attitude that will remind the reader of NASA or "Star Trek" in their better days. After reading Zubrin, you find yourself wondering, "Jeez, why AREN'T we going?"
Zubrin also articulates his belief in the value of frontiers. A frontier provides the hope for escape from current problems--government, social hierarchies, ennui. A frontier can generate new materials (like the gold out of California), new ideas of government and freedom, and more potential for innovation and upward mobility. Governments that have to cope with an expanding, dynamic society cannot turn their energies toward controlling limited resources and a stable population. Anyhow, that's one theory. If you'd like the how and WHY for space exploration, this is a good place to start.
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2.0 out of 5 stars A good read, but the ideas are not his, Dec 8 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
I'm a strong proponent of Mars travel, and the U.S. really needed a book like this one. The book is well written and brings the audience in. I could only dream of writing such a coherent book on this subject.
But, here's a big issue that I have with the book. Many people have come to believe that Mr. Zubrin came up with these ideas for ISRU, and other Mars propulsion related topics. In actuality, these great ideas came from a series of conferences called "the case for Mars" ('80's) and published work prior to that ('70's); all of which came about without his input.
All of the engineering and scientific ideas detailed within the book are not his by any means. He's simply an Engineer with charisma that voiced the ideas of others and tried to apply them. I thank Zubrin's predecessors for their ingenuity.
On another note, I must mention my admiration for NASA. NASA ended up receiving harsh criticism from Zubrin, but they later supported his proposals because it was important to their overall goal. It's tough for any organization to do that, but NASA would never let it's mission be stopped by criticism. Go NASA!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Inspiring, Oct. 14 2003
By 
William Rhea (MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
I have been interested in the space program for years, and after several years of wondering if Mars would ever be within human reach, I am thoroughly convinced. Contrary to readers who apparently skimmed the book, Zubrin does indicate a variety of launch vehicles, including the Saturn V but also a number of Russian and recent American developments. He also calculates the costs of restarting the Saturn V program and figures them into his equations. He gives weight to monetary concerns that NASA officials seem to have neglected, concerns that deter some politicians and solutions that could make believers of them.
His reasons for going to Mars also make sense. One element, found in five times the abundance on Mars as on Earth, sells on the free market at thousands of US dollars to the kilo. Scientific research is also a benefit, and the discovery of possible Martian life would provide insights into what genetic elements are universal to all life, and which are native to Terra Prima. The medical implications for the global community are staggering.
And contrary to belief, the discovery of life off of the Earth does not discount religion, it is simply a blow to certain, and then only some, Creationists. As a religious person, a born-again Christian, in fact, I would not find the implications of alien life deterring, but exciting, and possibly, should there be intelligent life, an opportunity for evangelism. The religious argument is without merit.
The book is wholly inspiring, and the Mars Direct and Mars Semi-Direct programs needs to be heard in the halls of Congress. An excellent read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Economics, Economics, Economics. Cold War is Over., Sept. 11 2002
By 
Joe Walker (San Diego, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
Great Read. Dr. Zubrin is a true scientist and engineer and knows his subject. I read the book with breathless attention all through the night. Kept me up all night. Dr. Zubrin describes how to get there, who should go, how to "live off the land" when on Mars, and why Mars is so special and different than any other planet.
The first half of the book is a must read for any space enthusiast. The Space Shuttle, Space Station are earth orbits, non-exploration projects. We have not gone any further since Apollo 11 . Who gets excited about circulating around the Earth studying MicroGravity.
There are bigger fishes. Dr. Zubrin explains why Mars and only Mars has potential to have harbored life and may in the far future offer a second home for mankind. Dr. Zubrin goes into technical details in book.
However, Dr Zubrin like all smart scientist and engineers, they need to deal with lowly things like politics and economics. Economics is reason we are not going to Mars. The Cold War sent us to the moon because we did not want to sleep under a "Communist Moon" Dr. Zubrin, all space enthusiast out there, need an economics reason. The Cold War is over. Emotional arguments like, exploration, knowledge and curiosity does not cut it anymore.
In the 21st. century we will only go to Mars for one simple reason: Economics. We need a economic way to go there. Estimates range from $500 billion to $30 Billion. Range is too wide. What the hell are we going to do there besides kicking rocks and taking pictures. Are there mineral deposits we can bring back. Dr Zubrin was on the radio recently. All the callers "Joe Six Pack" are asking "what for me". Fortunately or Unfortunately, if we are able to answer this question to the public: we will then have a Missions to Mars. Science is great for Einstein and fellow scientist. The man, woman, child on the street wants to know "whats for me". If Dr. Zubrin can answer this question, we will go to Mars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Red Planet minus Van Damme, March 8 2002
By 
J. Edmonson "letoofdune" (Hanover, NH, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
Kiddies, put your sci fi books away. This is not your parent's Mars.
In this deep and enthralling book, Robert Zubrin lays out, point by point, his method of madness for traversing the intergalactic distances and heading to Mars. Using his Mars Direct plan, we seen a plausible situation in which we could take Mars within the next decade, and begin pushing our boundaries to the so called "final frontier."
Not only does he provide the means on a very achievable time table, he also makes arguments against the so called "dragons" on the way to Mars, namely the threats of solar radiation and other such impacts. Yet, the effect of these are so negligible on the overall mission, Zubrin has us believe that yes, Mars is attainable in our generation.
After we get there, however, Zubrin takes another ambitious step towards the future: terraforming. He sees Mars as an ecological playground. one that we can change and make habitable for the expansion of earth.
All in all, this book is the Mars Bible for the era. It shows us the most sound way to get across the vast distance, stay on the surface, and return safely, while maximizing our scientific payout for the mission. Hopefully, one day we can realize Robert Zubrin's dream and land on Mars within the next decade.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Half good, half bad, Feb. 7 2002
By 
LUCIO DE S COELHO (Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil) - See all my reviews
The first half of "The Case for Mars" convincingly describes an economically viable, technically sound and scientifically relevant plan for a manned mission to Mars. Period.
Unfortunately, there is also the other half of the book... In that part, Zubrin tries to proof why Mars is so much better than other venues (free-floating space settlements, lunar and asteroid colonies, etc) for space exploration and colonization. Nothing wrong with that, but the problem is that Zubrin is intellectually dishonest when building his arguments. They are clearly aimed at "converting" the uninformed general public, even though the price for that is keeping that public misinformed - and thrashing the scientifically sound work of other space researchers in the way. In that sense, Zubrin's arguments are much like those of pseudoscientific groups, like Creationists, for instance.
And, of course, there is the last part of the book, when Zubrin tries to justify Mars colonization in economical terms. Well, that part is so outlandish that I would classify it as science fiction. (And perhaps not even *hard* science fiction.) There *are* books with compelling arguments about economically profitable exploration of the space (e.g., "The High Frontier" and "Mining the Sky"), but certainly "The Case for Mars" is not one of them.
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3.0 out of 5 stars To Mars? Yes, but by this route?, Aug. 28 2000
By 
This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
Hmmm... this is a difficult one to review.
This book is basically an advertisement for the author's "Mars Direct" scheme for manned mars missions.
On the one hand I laud Zubrin for all the time and effort he has placed into thinking up his "Mars Direct" plan for manned mars missions. The idea is certainly appealing and contians much that had never been presented before. Most interesting is his idea to live off of the land to minimize the need for bringing unneeded supplies and fuel.
On the other hand, it is apparent on first inspection that there are no shortage of technical shortcomings for the Mars Direct plan despite it's advantages. Much (if not all) of the hardware that would be required for Zubrin's plan does not exist today or exits in a format that is so far from practical application that for all intents and purposes it cannot yet be applied to this idea. Zubrin seems to assume that everything will work smoothly and that one mission will just flow smoothly into another. Both the US and Soviet space programs have clearly shown that hardware mishaps occur, usually with disastrous results. Zubrin's dependence on unmanned vehicles to go on ahead in advance and land safely as well as on target time after time is very unrealistic. If these unmanned vehicles malfunctioned or crashed everything is on hold for months or years until the problem can be fixed. The text does not even mention possible problems with the Mars Direct approach, a serious editorial oversight.
I don't mean to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Zubrin means well, and if more of us gave this problem the amount of effort he has, we would have been on mars 20 years ago. Read this book for it's novel ideas, but don't buy into them hook, line, and sinker.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Firey Words Only Thing Burning Holes in Theory, July 26 2000
By 
Craig Remillard (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
Robert Zubrin lays out by far the most believable and technically feasible plan I've yet heard for space exploration in this masterpiece, backing it up with plethora tables, figures, and some (mostly pointless) photos. The book discusses a plan so flawless and effective that nothing can stand in the way of the reader lauding and accepting it. Mr. Zubrin does a good job of trying, though.
The book, in my opinion, is written far too much like a sales pitch, and not enough like a scientific discussion. Instead of curtly dismissing just about every plan, problem, and competitive idea that others put against the Mars Direct plan, I would have preferred a more mature and openly written approach that discussed in more detail alternatives to Mars Direct's exactitudes, the different ways of financing it, and the mission's size. After reading it, I felt like I wasn't given enough information to make a choice for myself that this was not only a GOOD way to go to Mars, but the BEST way.
In summary, reading the book was a bit like reading the American Constitution: vague in some areas, overly restrictive in others; but the underlying beauty of the ideas that were presented was obvious. I give Zubrin six out of five stars for his ingenuity and perseverance, and two out of five for his ability to present them. It all averages out to a very good book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Mars Does Indeed await!, Feb. 24 2000
By 
This review is from: The Case for Mars (Paperback)
The timing for such a publication as this couldn't be better. This is one of the most important books of the last ten years. I'm not kidding. Bob Zubrin will turn out to be somewhat of an exploration prophet in decades to come. Because, although he had a lot of help, Zubrin is largely responsible for transforming the Humans To Mars concept from a 'Flags And Footprints' $450 billion dollar boondoggle into a $30 billion dollar largely do-able thing that will change humanity. While mankind fluffs around in low Earth orbit, suffering from budget-strangled mediocrity, Zubrin sounds the battlecry to combat the harsh unknowns of the final frontier. This book is almost relentlessly optimistic but doesn't downplay the difficulties involved in such expeditions too much. But there IS, for the right reasons, a slight tendency to gloss over the very real risks of solar and cosmic radiation to the health of the crew, and the reliability of spacecraft systems. Some of the greatest engineering challenges of this coming century will be to create closed-loop life support, power and fuel factory systems that will function virtually flawlessly for YEARS on end. The only challenges greater than making those essential things work will be to raise funding from ignorant lawmakers! Regardless, Zubrin does at least address the problems and any reader, as I did, will walk away from this book energised and just KNOWING that going to Mars is a possible and increasingly more necessary thing to do. Come on, Congress and Private Industry: I wanna see IMAX footage of Valles Marineris SOONER rather than later! More power to you, Bob Zubrin. My actual rating for this book is 4.5 stars.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I changed careers because of this book!, Jan. 1 2000
I was frustrated and burned out running a bookstore when I read through this book in less than two days. Right then and there I decided to change careers with the sole purpose of getting humanity to Mars. Now I work in technology and am learning whatever I can to help get us to Mars, not a flag-and-footprints mission like we did for the moon, but a permanent branch of humanity. NASA would have us go slow and leave it to the hands of the "experts," where Zubrin argues that if experts were in charge of Earth colonization we would all still be feeding off each other in Europe.
The science aspects interested me less than the Vision Thing, the idea that we are entering a Golden Age for the Earth at large, in which the problems are solved, the borders are thrown down, and we gradually withdraw into ourselves into decay. The same has happened to Rome and Greece and every other "world"-conquering nation. The day the last challenge was met was the beginning of the end.
We need a Frontier! The challenges of the Frontier will push us, drive us, force us to break stagnate molds and outdated methods. The Earth has run out of frontiers -- Mars beckons!
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