Sending Humans to Mars; The Future of Space Exploration; Scientific American Presents; by Zubrin; 6 Page(s)
"Space is there, and we are going to climb it." These words from President John F. Kennedy in 1962 set forth the goal of sending an American to the moon within the decade. But for most of the 30 years since the Apollo moon landing, the U.S. space program has lacked a coherent vision of what its next target should be. The answer is simple: the human exploration and settlement of Mars.
This goal is not beyond our reach. No giant spaceship built with exotic equipment is required. Indeed, all the technologies needed for sending humans to Mars are available today. We can reach the Red Planet with relatively small spacecraft launched directly to Mars by booster rockets embodying the same technology that carried astronauts to the moon more than a quartercentury ago. The key to success lies with the same strategy that served the earliest explorers of our own planet: travel light and live off the land. The first piloted mission to Mars could reach the planet within a decade. Here is how the proposed plan-what I call the Mars Direct project-would work.