|Alma mater||University of Rochester|
University of Washington
|Known for||Mars Direct|
The Case for Mars
Robert Zubrin (//; born April 9, 1952) is an American aerospace engineer, author, and advocate for human exploration of Mars. He and his colleague at Martin Marietta, David Baker, were the driving force behind Mars Direct, a proposal in a 1990 research paper intended to produce significant reductions in the cost and complexity of such a mission. The key idea was to use the Martian atmosphere to produce oxygen, water, and rocket propellant for the surface stay and return journey. A modified version of the plan was subsequently adopted by NASA as their "design reference mission". He questions the delay and cost-to-benefit ratio of first establishing a base or outpost on an asteroid or another Apollo program-like return to the Moon, as neither would be able to provide all of its own oxygen, water, or energy; these resources are producible on Mars, and he expects people would be there thereafter.
Disappointed with the lack of interest from government in Mars exploration and after the success of his book The Case for Mars (1996), as well as leadership experience at the National Space Society, Zubrin established the Mars Society in 1998. This is an international organization advocating a human mission to Mars as a goal, by private funding if possible.
Zubrin was born in New York City's Brooklyn borough on April 9, 1952. His father was descended from Russian Jewish immigrants.
Zubrin was awarded his first patent at age 20 in 1972 for Three Player Chess.
Zubrin holds a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester (1974); he was a science teacher for 7 years before becoming an engineer. He earned a M.S. in Nuclear Engineering (1984), a M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1986), and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering (1992) — all from the University of Washington.[circular reference] He has developed a number of concepts for space propulsion and exploration, and is the author of over 200 technical and non-technical papers and several books. He is also President of both the Mars Society and Pioneer Astronautics, a private company that does research and development on innovative aerospace technologies. Zubrin is the co-inventor on a U.S. design patent and a U.S. utility patent on a hybrid rocket/airplane, and on a U.S. utility patent on an oxygen supply system (see links below).
Zubrin's inventions include the nuclear salt-water rocket and co-inventor (with Dana Andrews) of the magnetic sail. Zubrin is fellow at Center for Security Policy.
During his professional career, Zubrin was a member of Lockheed Martin's scenario development team charged with developing strategies for space exploration. He was also "a senior engineer with the Martin Marietta Astronautics company, working as one of its leaders in development of advanced concepts for interplanetary missions". During his time at Martin Marietta, he drafted ideas for a potential single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft, and developed the Black Colt. However, he would eventually leave Martin Marietta to co-form Pioneer Rocketplane with Mitchell Burnside Clapp, an aerospace engineer from the US Air Force, due to a perceived lack of interest in reducing launch costs at larger aerospace firms. In his book, Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization, Zubrin would write about how both large aerospace firms, and the US Government, would fail to reduce the costs of spaceflight.
In 1998, Zubrin founded the Mars Society, and in the following years, was able to attract large amounts of public interest to potential human colonisation on Mars. The work of the Mars Society was successful enough as to encourage the US Government to not cut funding for several Mars rover missions.
In 2008, Zubrin founded Pioneer Energy, a research and development firm headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado. The company's focus is to develop mobile Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) systems that can enable CO2-based EOR for both small and large oil producers in the United States. The company has also developed a number of new processes for manufacturing synthetic fuels.
Zubrin also formed Pioneer Astronautics (formerly Pioneer Invention) in 1996, a small, hands-on R&D company committed to developing innovative technologies to further space exploration and improve life on earth. The company relied primarily on small business research contracts and tackled a large variety of space-relevant problems.  In April 2023, the company was the subject of an OSHA investigation and received multiple serious safety citations; Zubrin was ultimately terminated from the company due to misconduct related to the investigation.
He continues to be involved with the Mars Society and is deeply invested in pro-Ukraine activism. 
Main article: Ethics of terraforming
Dr. Zubrin is known as an advocate of a moderately anthropocentric position in the ethics of terraforming. Discussions of the ethics of terraforming often make reference to a series of public debates Zubrin has held with his friend Christopher McKay, who advocates a moderately biocentric position on the ethics of terraforming. For example, a written account of some of these debates is available in On to Mars: Colonizing a New World, as a joint article, "Do indigenous Martian bacteria have precedence over human exploration?" (pp. 177–182)
An aged Robert Zubrin also appears as a background character in The Martian Race (1999) by Gregory Benford, a science fiction novel depicting early human explorers on Mars in the very near future. Benford, who is also an astrophysicist, is a longtime member of both the board of directors and the steering committee of the Mars Society.
In Martin Burckhardt's science fiction novel Score, the Mars Expedition Astronauts send 90-year-old Robert Zubrin a video reply thanking him for his work over the years after receiving a congratulatory one from him for their successful landing on Mars.[p. 227]
Zubrin was featured in a 2007 CBC News documentary special, The Passionate Eye, titled "The Mars Underground".
The songwriter and musician Frank Black (alias Black Francis of the Pixies) penned an homage to Zubrin, "Robert Onion", on the album Dog in the Sand. The lyrics are in the form of an acrostic, spelling "Robert The Case for Mars Zubrin".
In 2010 Robert Zubrin was featured in the Symphony of Science video "The Case for Mars" along with Carl Sagan, Brian Cox, and Penelope Boston.
The fictional character Dr. Zachary Walzer in the 2010–2011 independent VODO series Pioneer One was inspired by Zubrin.
In 2016, Zubrin was one of several scientists and engineers interviewed in the National Geographic miniseries Mars.
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