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President Biden Should Push for the Human Exploration of Mars

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Robotic rovers like Perseverance are great, but they can’t answer the most fundamental questions about the Red Planet

NASA concept for a Mars base that could allow astronauts to stay for several months. Credit: NASA, Clouds AO and SEArch
aeroshells, parachutes and landing jets, or perhaps a miniature version of Starship. I won’t go into the details. But the bottom line is if we can land one ton on Mars, we can land 10. It requires no scientific breakthroughs, just engineering.

Once we have a 10-ton lander, we can use it send large robotic expeditions to Mars. Instead of landing one rover, we land a platoon of robots.  These could include science explorers like Perseverance, and much bigger versions of the Ingenuity helicopter capable of broad-ranging reconnaissance. A team of smaller rovers armed with high resolution cameras could create a high-definition map of the area and transmit it to Earth, allowing millions of people here to walk the landscape with virtual-reality gear, directly assisting the robots in exploration by calling their attention to features of interest.

But the expedition would also include construction robots, possibly humanoid in form with arms and legs, capable of building a Mars base. These would set up a power system and put in operation units for converting Martian carbon dioxide and water ice into methane and oxygen rocket propellant, which would be stored in tanks. With such a base set up and fully equipped with housing, power, a lab, a workshop and supplies in advance, all astronauts will need to do is show up with a credit card, and check in. Everything they need to live and work on Mars, and return from Mars, will be there waiting for them.

The is nothing in this plan that is beyond our capability, either technically or financially. Joe Biden could take the key step that would allow America to once again to astonish with world with what free people can do. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of science to our lives. Science comes from scientists, who come from children who want to become scientists. Youth loves adventure. As during the Apollo days, a bold space program would make science the great adventure, inspiring millions of young people to want to become scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and technological entrepreneurs—the ultimate resource we will need to meet whatever challenges the future may bring.

Seize the moment, Joe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Robert Zubrin

    Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer, is the founder of the Mars Society and the president of Pioneer Astronautics. He is the author of The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must, published by Simon and Schuster. Twitter: @robert_zubrin.

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