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Robert Zubrin    

Aerospace Engineer, Best-Selling Author & Founder of Pioneer Astronautics

Robert Zubrin is President of Pioneer Astronautics, an aerospace R&D company located in Lakewood, Colorado. He is also the founder and President of the Mars Society. Formerly a Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, he holds a Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Washington. Zubrin is the author of 20 patents and over 200 published technical and non-technical papers in the field of space exploration and technology.

In addition to his many technical publications, Dr. Zubrin is the author of nine books, including "The Case for Mars: How We Shall Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must," published by Simon and Schuster’s Free Press Division in Oct. 1996, “Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization,” published by Tarcher Putnam in Aug. 1999, “Mars on Earth: Adventures of Space Pioneers in the High Arctic,” published by Tarcher Penguin in Sept. 2003, “Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror,” published by Prometheus Books in November 2007, the humorous “How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surving and Thriving on the Red Planet,” published by Random House in December 2008,“Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudoscientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism,” published by Encounter Books in 2012, and “The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility,” published by Prometheus Books in 2019.

Since founding Pioneer Astronautics in January 1996, Dr. Zubrin has served as the Principal Investigator of over fifty research and development projects in areas including spacecraft and launch vehicle propulsion systems, Mars and Lunar in-situ resource utilization technology, EVA life support and propulsion, and robotic exploration systems. As leader of the Mars Society he led the construction of two Mars analog research stations – one in the Canadian high Arctic in 2000 and the other in the American desert in 2001 - and has overseen a program involving over 200 simulated Mars exploration missions at those stations during the period since. Prior to working at Lockheed Martin he worked in a number of areas, including thermonuclear fusion, nuclear power plant safety, and as a high school science teacher.

Speech Topics

The Case for Space: The Revolution is at Hand

Things have changed. The world’s government-led space efforts, begun so proudly in the eras of Sputnik and the Apollo Moon launches, stalled during the following four decades. The once proud Russian program virtually collapsed into a state of severe decay, and the American human spaceflight effort simply went round in circles for 45 years, enacting a spectacle of stagnation that could only induce pessimism in all those hoping for a human future in space. But now the ice has broken. In the midst of this decay, new forces have risen that are radically changing everything. Uniting the entrepreneurial genius of Silicon Valley with the hard-won technological expertise of the old aerospace industry, a new generation of space companies has been born whose upstart members are revolutionizing our prospects. Leading the way has been Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which started by showing that it could do what others had already done, but in one third the time and one tenth the cost, and which now has moved on to doing what no one else has ever done, including, most importantly, building rocket boosters than can be reused. This innovation promises to radically reduce spaceflight costs. The process of cost reduction won’t stop there, however, because Musk has competition from an alternative entrepreneurial effort, Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reportedly the second richest man in the world. As a result, the same competitive dynamic that turned airplane flight from an expensive curiosity to a central part of daily life has now been unleashed. Others will soon join the race. Provided we continue to foster these developments, spaceflight is going to become cheaper and cheaper – so much so that not merely exploratory expeditions, but actual human settlement of other planets in our solar system will soon become feasible. In this talk world-renowned astronautical engineer Robert Zubrin will examine the possibilities. Starting with a discussion of the present-day breakthroughs, we will take a deeper look at where it leads: to ultrafast global travel through suborbital space, to new industries on orbit, and to human settlement of the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, the outer solar system, and ultimately the stars. All these things are possible, and he will explain how to achieve them. Then he will look at what such mastery implies: what we will gain by undertaking this grand adventure, and what we would lose by failing to do so. There is immense knowledge to be gained in space, but also deadly hazards to be faced, which we need to control if we are to protect ourselves and all other life on Earth. The value of the challenge itself, both to stimulating the creative forces of society as a whole and particularly of our youth, will also be explored. There is also the question of the influence of an open frontier – or the lack thereof – on human freedom, and on the battle of ideas that can sustain it or defeat it. Finally, there is the question of the human future itself: Will we be limited to one world, with limited resources and limited prospects? Or will we become something far grander in space, time, diversity, and ultimate potential? A revolution is at hand that could open dramatic new possibilities for the human future. Let us seize the day.

Mars Direct

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