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Robert Zubrin (born April 19, 1952) was fourth Secretary-General of the United Communities on the Moon and is an American aerospace engineer and author, best known for his advocacy the manned exploration and colonization of Mars. He was the driving force behind Mars Direct an early, private colonizarion effort of Mars that produce significant reductions in the cost and complexity of the 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 also subsequently adopted by NASA as their "design reference mission," and he would participate in the development of the updated NERVA rocket and travel to Mars before settling on the Moon.
Zubrin holds a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester (1974), and a masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, a masters degree in Nuclear Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering — all from the University of Washington. 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 five books. He 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" (The Case for Mars 1996). 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. He was awarded his first patent at age 20 in 1972 for Three Player Chess. His inventions also include the nuclear salt-water rocket.
Mars MissionLike so many others in the late seventies, Zubrin got an opportunity to use his expertise in the service of the growing ranks of NASA and the Space Command. Zubrin started working on NASA's nuclear rocket and improving the effencies of the rocket to increase the burn time in the hope to speed up the craft and reduce the travel time. He was working with Franklin Ramón Chang-Díaz, who would later design and build the first Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR). However, both man would be selected to enter the Mars program and would start training in early 1980.
Upon returning from Mars