New World on Mars

Category: Nonfiction
Reviewed by: Douglas G. Adler
Title: The New World on Mars: What We Can Create on the Red Planet
Author: Robert Zubrin          
Format: Hardcover/Kindle
Pages: 306
Publisher: Diversion
Date: Feb 2024
Retail price: $28.99/$17.99
ISBN: 978-1635768800
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The notion of humans traveling to, and subsequently colonizing, the planet Mars has consumed the imagination of a great many people, from the astronomer Percival Lowell to billionaire Elon Musk. Also included in this group is Robert Zubrin, who has been writing and speaking about Mars for over 30 years and is the founder of the Mars Society.

The New World on Mars is Zubrin’s latest book on all things related to what life on Mars might actually be like. Many readers are likely to be familiar with some of Zubrin’s prior works on the topic, especially his 1996 work, The Case for Mars. The new book shares some overlapping content with all of his prior books on Mars, which is not surprising.

The book is extremely broad in its content. Few topics related to life and work on Mars go unexplored. Zubrin, after giving a brief history of investigations into the red planet, moves on to the meat of the book. Different forms of transportation and propulsion that could move people from Earth to Mars are discussed, as are how people could “get rich” on Mars (primarily through mining, tourism, and real estate), what life in a domed or underground Martian city might be like, how human society might adapt to the rigors of Mars, and if/when Mars might ultimately be terraformed.

On the one hand, Zubrin is to be complimented for producing yet another volume on Mars colonization. Clearly, the author has devoted his life to thinking about this particular topic and he brings a tremendous amount of passion and verve to all aspects of potential human life on Mars. Space enthusiasts in general, and Mars enthusiasts in particular, will certainly like these aspects of the book.

From another point of view, however, the extreme breadth of topics covered in The New World on Mars has the potential to overwhelm the reader. The book is written in a breathless tone that makes the reader feel as if they have to run just to keep up with Zubrin’s pace. There are also numerous and extensive digressions from the main topic as Zubrin looks for historical parallels to Mars colonization, many of which could have been shortened or deleted to streamline the text. Finally, the chapter on “Social Customs on Mars” will certainly raise some eyebrows as it takes the reader through a speculative deep dive on potential religions which might flourish on Mars, as well as hypothetical social and sexual mores on Mars, including marriage, divorce, childbearing, and even briefly touches on polygamy and polyandry.

Overall, this is an interesting work by a devoted author. Clearly, Zubrin cares about the future of humanity and believes that we must colonize Mars for a great many reasons. The book would have been improved by additional discussion of the real-world challenges facing potential human travel to Mars, including the extreme cost of such a venture, political realities facing the funding of space travel, the struggles of NASA’s Artemis program to return humans to the Moon (which many view as critical to plans to colonize Mars), and other realpolitik issues.

© 2024 Douglas G. Adler

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