Staking a Claim on the Moon and Mars:
Property Rights in Outer Space

by Alan Wasser

Bob Zubrin should be very proud of the wonderful cover story about Mars that Newsweek ran September 23rd. It illustrates the tremendous power of his brilliant vision of human settlement of Mars in the near future.
     Also in September, a meeting of National Space Society directors adopted a Mars policy statement supporting Bob's vision. That statement says "An exploration program based upon a permanent human presence on the Red Planet will not only unlock the secrets of possible past life there, but will also establish the rich promise of a human future on Mars." The statement "calls upon the Administration and Congress to set a clear goal of establishing human explorers on Mars by the end of the first decade of the 21st Century."
     Unfortunately, in the same month, the White House moved in the opposite direction. It issued a new space policy document which almost seemed to be a deliberate rebuttal to Newsweek and the rest of the groundswell of support for Bob's vision, saying, in effect: "not with the taxpayers' money, you don't!"
     The NSS Mars policy avoids specifying funding details, saying optimistically "cost is not really the central issue." But the truth is taxpayers' money is currently our only suggestion, whether directly or through a tax-funded prize.
     I believe we need to hedge our bets. Our proposals should include some way to pay at least part of the cost of settlement from something other than taxes; an option that might still produce a settlement on Mars or the moon even if we fail to get full government funding.
[Image of moonwalker]     We should call for U.S. recognition of extra-terrestrial land claims as a reward for private investment in a settlement and a space line going to and from that settlement.
     Although it is now often forgotten, the international law created by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty is not the norm in human history. The right to claim newly settled property has always provided the economic incentive for human expansion. (Would Europeans have settled America if they couldn't claim ownership of the land they settled?) In this case, immediately re- saleable property deeds are the only possible "product" that can be profitably brought back from space at currently foreseeable launch costs. There could be a privately funded settlement on Mars or the moon if we could restore the historically normal condition by establishing a rule of law something like this:
     Any private entity (presumably a consortium of companies) which establishes a permanently inhabited base on Mars or the moon or an asteroid, with guaranteed regular transportation shuttling between the base and the Earth, open to any paying passenger, immediately acquires full legally recognized and saleable title to hundreds of thousands of square miles around the base.
     The land grant for the first such base on the moon would need to be no less than the size of Alaska which, at even $10 an acre, would be worth almost four billion dollars. That should be big enough to allow the winning consortium to begin earning back their expenditure immediately by selling off pieces of it, but would still be less than 4% of the moon's surface. On Mars the land grant would have to be more like the size of the United States, worth about 23 billion dollars at $10 per acre. If those turn out to be insufficient to pay for settlement, there is plenty of room to enlarge the grants.
     Of course, the establishment of the space transport service, which would enable the consortium to win the land grant in the first place, would dramatically increase the value of the land by making it accessible. As with the land grants that paid for building America's trans-continental railroads, vast wealth would be created (out of thin vacuum, so to speak) by giving formerly worthless land real value and an owner.
     There are many ways in which extra- terrestrial property rights might be instituted. The least difficult would be to get a member of Congress to introduce legislation saying that, while the U.S. makes no claim of national sovereignty, until and unless a new treaty on outer space property rights is adopted, all U.S. courts are to recognize and defend the validity of a land claim by any private company (or group of companies) which met the specified conditions.
     The legislation should urge other countries to adopt similar laws and should instruct the State Department to try to negotiate a new treaty making the same rules international law. The U.S. law could encourage other nations to pass similar laws by limiting the recognition of claims to entities based in countries which offer reciprocity to U.S. companies. The law could pledge to defend extra-terrestrial properties by imposing sanctions against aggressors.
     Since it would not require any appropriation, such legislation might pass as a minor revision of property law, without much publicity, which is probably best considering the "giggle factor" problem. After it was enacted we could start publicizing it, probably by getting someone to announce an attempt to meet the conditions and make a claim.
     That White House space policy document, which removed support for a taxpayer funded human Mars mission, did offer something that helps the land grant idea. It says: "The United States rejects any claims to sovereignty by any nation over outer space or celestial bodies, or any portion thereof... The United States considers the space systems of any nation to be national property..." Although it is not talking about land, that supports the legal principle that there can be "property" in space, even without a claim of "national sovereignty". This is a necessary legal premise for establishing the right of settlers to claim private ownership of extra-terrestrial land, without the need to amend or violate the 1967 treaty, which prohibits "national sovereignty" but says nothing at all about "land ownership".
     The framers of the '67 treaty understood that perhaps it should not be permanent. They allowed any nation to opt out on one year's notice. Some suggest the U.S. should exercise that right, for the whole treaty or just the "national sovereignty" provision. While I would be happy to see that happen, many people love the treaty for its other provisions, and it is not worth fighting them. A better alternative would be the opposite approach; to accommodate the provision by requiring that claimants be consortia of companies (or citizens) from several different countries. To bring the UN on board, it could even be required that at least one of the partners in each consortium be from a developing country.
     If we could get something like this enacted into U.S., and preferably international, law the space race would quickly resume, this time among consortia of private companies. After the first announcement of an attempt to set up a lunar base, others, all over the world, would say, "we can't let THEM claim the moon, WE must get there first". Fear of competitors is still the best motivator.
     Although neither has realized it yet, such a law would be a huge plum Congress could give the aerospace companies, without costing the taxpayers anything. Imagine if it led to a consortium of respected companies, headed by, say, KKR or Mitsubishi, asking Boeing, Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas for bids on a rocket capable of shuttling back and forth to the moon or Mars.
     Once competition began, companies all around the world would seek their governments' help and investment, perhaps reestablishing a healthy spirit of national competitiveness in space, despite the ban on national sovereignty.
[Clementime image of south pole of Moon]     The recent report from the Clementine team finally put to rest one of the most common arguments against the use of land grants as an incentive for privately funded space settlement; the argument that there is no such thing as "valuable property" on the Moon.
     Think of private ownership, officially recognized by the US government, of a Lunar Land Grant the size of Alaska, including that crater of permanently frozen water and the mountain on its shore with the almost permanently sunlit top, (which Ben Bova, in his wonderful new book "Moonrise" was kind enough to call "Mt. Wasser"). Such a land grant would be worth a fortune right now, with no way to get there. How many times more than that would such a land grant be worth once there really was a privately owned settlement on the mountain, with a space line going back and forth open to any paying passenger.
     Another problem is the feeling, left over from the socialist value system, that property ownership in space is somehow immoral...that space development should be a case of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need". Of course, that doesn't work in space, either.
     Even the Newsweek article gives a tiny nod to the idea of private property on Mars. It includes the phrase: "Now people are listening. It's too soon to apply for a mortgage on your own little acre in the Valles Marineris. But..."
     Activists are not qualified to solve the technical problems or raise the financing for a space settlement. What we can do is influence governmental actions to restore an environment in which opening the frontier will make investors a healthy profit. After many years of studying the question, I'm convinced this is the way to do that; the way WE could make a real difference?

Developing Space with Solar Thermal Rockets

by Steve Mickler

What follows is a plan for a space development company that doesn't exist yet. In my adult lifetime I have seen plans to develop the space frontier come and go. Remember how many L5 society chapters there used to be? The plans weren't flawed technologically, but they all were unable to secure funding to go beyond the planning and early development stage. The reasons for this varied, but one lesson that can be drawn is that any new proposal should start as small and cheap as possible and make money for its investors as fast as possible. By necessity then, we're talking about what are commonly called bootstrap concepts.
     The obvious analogy to bootstrap ideas is a seed that grows into a large plant by incorporating elements around it and using the energy source at hand. If that seed had to carry everything it needed with it over its lifetime, you'd need a forklift to move it. Most new proposals for space development aim at using what's there in a big way, only after a significant amount of payload has been launched from Earth and a large and heavily earth launch dependent infrastructure is in place. These plans, like those before them require billions of dollars to develop and put in place, and a large continuing investment thereafter. In today's climate this means the likelihood of funding success is low. The real problem though is the chilling combination of high risk and slow payoff they offer the potential investor. Another route has been the formation of groups such as the Artemis Society and the Millennial Project. Time will tell, but so far no such group is attracting large investment.
     A space development concept that started small, payed off quickly, and could then expand by using (primarily) the resources of space itself, would seem then, to have the greatest likelihood of success. That is the concept behind Space Recovery Systems. Beginning with the launch of a first generation solar thermal rocket powered telerobotic service and repair/orbital transfer vehicle, the development within five years delivers a large space transportation infrastructure including all propellent production and routine delivery of asteroid derived materials to geosynchronous orbit. This infrastructure could then expand using an ever decreasing amount of material from earth's gravity well and sending an ever increasing flow of ultrapure metals including gold and platinum, telerobotically manufactured goods, and perhaps even gasoline down. This would finance an ever increasing number of workers who would don their VR mask and gloves to telerobotically make an ever increasing variety of goods 22,000 miles up. Expansion would then become a political issue, but from a technological point of view could be almost exponential and unbounded, soon exceeding the world GNP.
     Solar thermal rockets use the focused heat of the sun to get a gas as hot as possible and shoot it out the nozzle. Its as simple as that. At earth's distance they need a large concentrator mirror so they can only operate in space. One one huntress of a gee is typical for a STR, and since this is all the mirror has to normally take, it can be pretty light weight. STR's consist of three parts: the solar concentrator, the engine, and the support systems such as attitude control, communications links, etc. And in this case telerobots.
     A few obvious questions arise about solar thermal rocket transfer vehicles, including what technological advances would be required and how difficult or expensive they are to achieve. In the way of advances, almost all the tech for a first generation solar thermal rocket has been demonstrated, but the preferred engine would require development, although it is a very straightforward design. The required telerobotic systems are in various stages of development at Lunacorp, Johnson Space Center, JPL, and the university of Maryland among others. Finally the successful May 1996 deployment of a large inflated antenna demonstrated key technologies for the proposed solar concentration system. None of this is terribly difficult or expensive, nor will it take more than 2-3yrs. Another question is about funding. This would be raised by a stock offering just like any other company.
     In low earth orbit particularly, there are pieces of space junk which are usually thought of as something for spacecraft to avoid. STR's would seek the larger ones out to refuel (or is it repropellent?). Using the intense heat at the solar concentrator mirror's focal point, a discarded upper stage or abandoned satellite could be cut to pieces and melted in a solar kiln. The liquid aluminum say, stored as solid or liquid until needed as propellent. The aluminum would enter the engine as a mixture of gas and droplets. The droplets would absorb the heat at the focus of the mirror through a window and as they vaporized, heat the surrounding gas and exit the nozzle. This would work with most or all materials satellites are made of, depending upon the temperature the concentrator mirror can reach.
     Once the first vehicle has been successfully launched, and telerobotic links tested, it will use its onboard lithium powder propellent to rendezvous with a large piece of space junk. Each vehicle will carry two or more telerobots capable of independent operation and capable of capturing and stabilizing a spinning, tumbling, satellite. Upon successful capture, the satellite will be returned to the main vehicle. There it will be cut up and melted with help from the telerobots using the solar rocket's concentrator mirrors and a solar kiln. The liquefied materials would then be stored in heated tanks or as solids. With the completion of this task it will have demonstrated all of the skills necessary for a service/repair mission to a communications satellite that could include refueling, installing new solar panels or perhaps even the replacement of defective parts with parts picked up from the Shuttle. If desired the comsat could be brought down to low earth orbit for return to earth by Shuttle or serviced at the space station by EVA, telerobots, or with the addition of a pressurized hanger to the station, by astronauts in a shirt sleeve environment. Restoring a hundred million dollar satellite to good health is obviously worth a lot to the owner or their insurance company!
     There's only so much space junk big enough to warrant the propellent expenditure required to get it, so to be a "bootstrap" idea, a new source of propellent must be quickly exploited. Almost miraculously such a resource exists in the form of near earth objects. With a transportation system based on a highly efficient rocket, the velocity changes to rendezvous with one of these asteroids or comets are not difficult and unlike the moon, there's virtually no gravity to deal with, so the standard telerobots should be adequate for mining support. It has recently been determined that the surface of asteroids is most likely a deep regolith that would be easy to scoop up. As with space junk, trips would be made back and forth to the main vehicle and the regolith processed by solar furnace to ultrapure composition.
     The most valuable commodity at first would be propellent and so only a small quantity of precious metals would be brought back at first to whet the appetite. The expansion into the American West in the last century was greatly accelerated by news of gold and I can't help but think that the image of tons of gold and platinum being unloaded from the Shuttle would have a similar impact today. Few got rich in the gold rush, mostly those who sold commodity items to the prospectors, but economies many times the gold's value were established much sooner than they would otherwise have been. At first, with a limited number of vehicles, it would not be cost effective to divert any for serious asteroid mining for precious metals because the satellite service/repair/transport business would be far more lucrative. With more vehicles in place the surplus capacity could be diverted for just such a purpose, thereby allowing expansion to continue beyond the satellite servicing business.
     At this point, telerobotic manufacture on- orbit can begin. For a variety of reasons, I believe geosynchronous orbit will be ideal for this, but low earth orbit may be preferred. Wherever these products are made they can use the available 5000+deg. K sunlight, ultrapure elements from asteroids, vacuum, telepresence, and zero-g to produce unique products of extremely high quality.
     One of the first products should be solar concentrator mirrors and as many spare vehicle parts as practical. As STR vehicles break down, they can be repaired by other STR vehicles and even their own telerobots in some cases. This will require spare parts to be lofted into low earth orbit and it will be desirable for cost reasons to reduce the quantity of material that must come from earth as quickly as possible. In addition, this allows an ever increasing number of vehicles to be produced on orbit without the launch cost but with the attendant increase in mining, refining, energy, and transport capacity that comes from having more vehicles.
     As manufacturing increases, it would be desirable to begin the laser transport network. Sunlight focused to very high intensities can produce a laser beam at 40% efficiency or higher. These solid state lasers can be relatively simple and cheap to produce in quantity on-orbit, and the concentrator mirrors already being made for transport vehicles, would also be cheap. Laser energy in quantity and at low cost raises all kinds of exciting possibilities.
     A solar thermal rocket becomes a laser rocket when you shine a laser on it, but if you design a different system to take full advantage of the higher focal temperatures lasers produce, efficiency more than ten times today's best chemical rockets or more is practical. This means Earth to Mars in under a month and perhaps as little as two weeks. It means Lunar landers powered with lasers and using lunar oxygen as propellent bringing about the beginning of the mining and tourist industries on the Moon. It could even mean powering airliners with AWACS style laser turbojets mounted on top of conventional airliners. The airliner would use the regular jets to reach altitude, the laser rectenna or absorber would lock onto the beam from the geostationary laser array, and then cruise on heated air alone, switching the regular engines off until landing. The reduction in pollution and fuel cost and weight could encourage the development of laser scramjet airliners or even laser to orbit systems. Travel to any destination would then be limited only by the availability of direct solar laser energy. With this demand as the driver, solar laser costs could drop even further. Eventually such arrays might move into orbit around Mercury as suggested by Dr. Robert Forward and support interstellar travel in laser lightsails. The first lightsail could carry the tools needed to turn asteroid or comet material into a laser array at the distant star. This greatly reduces the size of subsequent lightsails and makes for a faster trip. Relativistic speeds are only a matter of available energy, tens of iterates, and in time, may become practical. The human race could become starfaring much sooner than most people think.
     It may have come as a surprise, that the Moon became involved in this plan at such a late stage. There's a reason for that. The Moon has a gravity well fully one sixth as deep as earth's and practical solar rockets at earth's distance from the sun would be unable to do over half that. This means that another type of craft would have to be built to do that, and while there are ways to do that, the expense comes at the front end when funds are scarce. Asteroids or comets on the other hand, can be approached by a STR vehicle and the telerobots can touch down robotically and use specially designed mining equipment to scoop up and bag the dust and rock on the surface. The telerobots would then boost back to the main STR vehicle multiple times with regolith for further processing. At the main vehicle the regolith would undergo a baking process in a solar kiln that would separate out the constituent elements as gas and then store them as solid or liquid. Elements like iron that have little value for their mass either as commodity or propellent would be left behind on the asteroid for future use. The STR vehicle would return to earth orbit using the lightest elements as propellent in most cases, depending upon the market value of them at the time vs. the longer travel time back if heavier elements are used as propellent. Once it becomes feasible to build a system for a lunar surface shuttle, the Moon will become much cheaper to mine than the asteroids, although both will still be used. I believe the Moon shuttle will be a laser rocket powered vehicle and that lunar settlements may receive considerable energy from lasers in high, constantly sunlit, orbits.
     The benefits of cheap plentiful laser energy in space both for space development and transportation from the stratosphere on, argue for this being the next stage. Neither solar thermal or laser rockets carry their power sources with them, and with laser rockets this advantage can put them on par with advanced fusion rockets. Earth surface to orbit vehicles powered by lasers could use water and air as propellent for inexpensive routine access to orbit and beyond.
     Of course, it may not go that way for whatever reason, maybe the discovery of warp drive or something, but this isn't some grand plan that must go a certain way in order to be successful. Success in routinely sevicing comsats would be more than enough for a large profit even if asteroids are not mined and propellent has to be scavenged from space junk or mostly shipped from earth. Routinely bringing processed asteroid regolith to earth orbit for propellent and surplus materials for manufacturing though, would be a wonderful bonus and a huge step forward. The direction that such development would take subsequently would most likely be up to multinationals and governments at that point, so all bets are off from then on. The irreversibility of humanity's expansion into the solar system would however be assured even if only to provide the kind of fix- it capability that speed of light delayed telepresence cannot.

Steve Mickler is an engineer currently living in Atlanta. He is a long-time supporter of solar rockets.

A New Martian Frontier

by Robert Zubrin

(Part 2 of 2 -- Ed.)

Technological Innovation
Without the opening of a new frontier on Mars, continued Western civilization faces the risk of technological stagnation. To some this may appear to be an outrageous statement, as the present age is frequently cited as one of technological wonders. In fact, however, the rate of progress within our society has been decreasing, and at an alarming rate. To see this, it is only necessary to step back and compare the changes that have occurred in the past 30 years with those that occurred in the two preceding 30 periods.
     Between 1903 and 1933 the world was revolutionized: Cities were electrified; telephones and broadcast radio became common; talking motion pictures appeared; automobiles became practical; and aviation progressed from the Wright Flyer to the DC-3 and Hawker Hurricane. Between 1933 and 1963 the world changed again, with the introduction of color television, communication satellites and interplanetary spacecraft, computers, antibiotics, SCUBA gear, nuclear power, Atlas, Titan, and Saturn rockets, Boeing 727's and SR-71's.
     Compared to these changes, the technological innovations from 1963 to the present are insignificant. Immense changes should have occurred during this period, but did not. Had we been following the previous 60 years technological trajectory, we today would have videotelephones, solar powered cars, maglev trains, fusion reactors, hypersonic intercontinental travel, regular passenger transportation to orbit, undersea cities, open-sea mariculture and human settlements on the Moon and Mars.
[Illus. of Mars habitat]     Consider a nascent Martian civilization: Its future will depend critically upon the progress of science and technology. Just as the inventions of produced by the "Yankee Ingenuity" of frontier America were a powerful driving force on world-wide human progress in the 19th century, so the "Martian Ingenuity" born in a culture that puts the utmost premium on intelligence, practical education and the determination required to make real contributions will provide much more than its fair share of the scientific and technological breakthroughs that will dramatically advance the human condition in the 21st century.
     A prime example of the Martian frontier driving new technology will undoubtedly be found in the arena of energy production. As on Earth, a copious supply of energy will be crucial to the success of Mars settlements. The Red Planet does have one major energy resource that we currently know about: deuterium, which can be used as the fuel in nearly waste-free thermonuclear fusion reactors. Earth has large amounts of deuterium too, but with all of its existing investments in other, more polluting forms of energy production, the research that would make possible practical fusion power reactors has been allowed to stagnate. The Martian colonists are certain to be much more determined to get fusion on-line, and in doing so will massively benefit the mother planet as well.
     The parallel between the Martian frontier and that of 19th century America as technology drivers is, if anything, vastly understated. America drove technological progress in the last century because its western frontier created a perpetual labor shortage in the east, thus forcing the development of labor saving machinery and providing a strong incentive for improvement of public education so that the skills of the limited labor force available could be maximized. This condition no longer holds true in America. In fact far from prizing each additional citizen, immigrants are no longer welcome here and a vast "service sector" of bureaucrats and menials has been created to absorb the energies of the majority of the population which is excluded from the productive parts of the economy. Thus in the late 20th century, and increasingly in the 21st, each additional citizen is and will be regarded as a burden.
     On 21st century Mars, on the other hand, conditions of labor shortage will apply with a vengeance. Indeed, it can be safely said that no commodity on 21st century Mars will be more precious, more highly valued and more dearly paid for than human labor time. Workers on Mars will be paid more and treated better than their counterparts on Earth. Just as the example of 19th century America changed the way the common man was regarded and treated in Europe, so the impact of progressive Martian social conditions will be felt on Earthy as well as on Mars. A new standard will be set for a higher form of humanist civilization on Mars, and, viewing it from afar, the citizens of Earth will rightly demand nothing less for themselves.

Politics on Earth with Humans on Mars
The frontier drove the development of democracy in America by creating a self-reliant population which insisted on the right to self-government. It is doubtful that democracy can persist without such people. True, the trappings of democracy exist in abundance in America today, but meaningful public participation in the process has all but disappeared. Consider that no representative of a new political party has been elected President of the Unites States since 1860. Likewise, neighborhood political clubs and ward structures that once allowed citizen participation in party deliberations have vanished. And with re- election rates typically close to 95 percent, the U.S. Congress is hardly susceptible to the people's will. Regardless of the will of Congress, the real laws, covering ever broader areas of economic and social life, are increasingly being made by a plethora of regulatory agencies whose officials do not even pretend to have been elected by anyone.
     Democracy in America and elsewhere in western civilization needs a shot in the arm. That boost can only come from the example of a frontier people whose civilization incorporates the ethos that breathed the spirit into democracy in America in the first place. As Americans showed Europe in the last century, so in the next the Martians can show us the way away from oligarchy.
There are greater threats that a humanist society faces in a closed work than the return of oligarchy, and if the frontier remains closed we are certain to face them in the 21st century. These threats are the spread of various sorts of anti-human ideologies and the development of political institutions that incorporate the notions that spring from them as a basis of operation. At the top of the list of such pathological ideas that tend to spread naturally in a closed society is the Malthus theory, which holds that since the world's resources are more or less fixed, population growth must be restricted or all of us will descend into bottomless misery.
[Illus. of Mars spacecraft]     Malthusianism is scientifically bankrupt -- all predictions made upon it have been wrong, because human beings are not mere consumers of resources. Rather, we create resources by the development of new technologies that find use for new raw materials. The more people, the faster the rate of innovation. This is why (contrary to Malthus) as the world's population has increased, the standard of living has increased, and at an accelerating rate. Nevertheless, in a closed society Malthusianism has the appearance of self-evident truth, and herein lies the danger. It is not enough to argue against Malthusianism in the abstract -- such debates are not settled in academic journals. Unless people can see broad vistas of unused resources in front of them, the belief in limited resources tends to follow as a matter of course. If the idea is accepted that the world's resources are fixed, then each person is ultimately the enemy of every other person, and each race or nation is the enemy of every other race or nation. Only in a universe of unlimited resources can all men be brothers.
Mars Beckons
     Western humanist civilization as we know and value it today was born in expansion, grew in expansion, and can only exist in a dynamic expansion. While some form of human society might persist in a non-expanding world, that society will not feature freedom, creativity, individuality, of progress, and placing no value on those aspects of humanity that differentiate us from animals, it will place no value on human rights or human life as well.
     Such a dismal future might seem an outrageous prediction, except for the fact that for nearly all of its history most of humanity has been forced to endure static modes of social organization, and the experience has not been a happy one. Free societies are the exception in human history -- they have only existed during the four centuries of frontier expansion of the West. That history is now over. The frontier opened by the voyage of Christopher Columbus is now closed. If the era of western humanist society is not to be seen by future historians as some kind of transitory golden age, a brief shining moment in an otherwise endless chronicle of human misery, then a new frontier must be opened.
Mars Beckons.
     But Mars is only one planet, and with humanity's power over nature rising exponentially as they would in an age of progress that an open Martian frontier portends, the job of transforming and settling it is unlikely to occupy our energies for more than three or four centuries. Does the settling of Mars then simply represent an opportunity to "prolong but not save a civilization based upon dynamism?" Isn't it the case that humanist civilization is ultimately doomed anyway? I think not. The universe is vast. Its resources, if we can access them, are truly infinite. During the four centuries of the open frontier on Earth, science and technology have advanced at an astonishing pace. The technological capabilities achieved during the 20th century would dwarf the expectations of any observer from the 19th, seem like dreams to one from the 18th, and appear outright magical to someone from the 17th century. If the past four centuries of progress have multiplied our reach by so great a ratio, might not four more centuries of freedom do the same again? There is ample reason to believe that they would.
     Terraforming Mars will drive the development of new and more powerful sources of energy; settling the Red Planet will drive the development of ever faster modes of space transportation. Both of these capabilities in turn will open up new frontiers ever deeper into the outer solar system, and the harder challenges posed by these new environments will drive the two key technologies of power and propulsion ever more forcefully, opening the path to the stars. The key is not to let the process stop. If it is allowed to stop for any length of time, society will crystallize into a static form that is inimical to the resumption of progress. That is what defines the present age as one of crisis. Our old frontier is closed, the first signs of social crystallization are clearly visible. Yet, progress, while slowing, is still extant; our people still believe in it and our ruling institutions are not yet incompatible with it.
     We still possess the greatest gift of the inheritance of a 400-year long Renaissance: To wit, the capacity to initiate another by opening the Martian frontier. If we fail to do so, our culture will not have that capacity long. Mars is harsh. Its settlers will need not only technology, but the scientific outlook, creativity and free-thinking individualistic inventiveness that stand behind it. Mars will not allow itself to be settled by people from a static society -- those people won't have what it takes. We still do. Mars today waits for the children of the old frontier, but Mars will not wait forever.

Robert Zubrin, Ph.D., is the chairman of the executive committee of the National Space Society.

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