'The New World on Mars' offers a Red Planet settlement guide (exclusive)

a book cover showing a planet growing in reddish soil behind the text "the new world on mars"
Cover of "The New World on Mars" and a shot of Jezero Crater, the Red Planet site being explored by NASA's Perseverance rover. (Image credit: Diversion Books/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

To say that Dr. Robert Zubrin, the esteemed Colorado-based aerospace engineer, author, lecturer and founding president of the Mars Society, has the Red Planet on his mind is a colossal understatement.   

This pioneering educational voice and influential space authority has written many books on the timely topic of Mars and Mars settlement over the years as interest in humankind's role in its ultimate development has risen exponentially. 

Now Zubrin adds to his impressive catalog of visionary volumes about our mysterious planetary neighbor with the recent release of "The New World on Mars" (Diversion Books, 2024), a fascinating and infinitely readable peek into Mars' inestimably rosy future.

Related: Mars Society proposes institute to develop tech needed for Red Planet settlement

The New World on Mars: $28.99 $25.99 from Amazon

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Robert Zubrin's latest book explores how humanity can settle Mars, using the Red Planet's resources to tackle the challenges we face there.

Cover for "The New World On Mars." (Image credit: Diversion Books)

Here's the official description:

"When Robert Zubrin published his classic book 'The Case for Mars' a quarter century ago, setting foot on the Red Planet seemed a fantasy. Today, manned exploration is certain, and as Zubrin affirms in 'The New World on Mars,' so too is colonization. From the astronautical engineer venerated by NASA and today's space entrepreneurs, here is what we will achieve on Mars and how.

"SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are building fleets of space vehicles to make interplanetary travel as affordable as Old-World passage to America. We will settle on Mars, and with our knowledge of the planet, analyzed in depth by Dr. Zubrin, we will utilize the resources and tackle the challenges that await us. What we will we build? Populous Martian city-states producing air, water, food, power, and more. Zubrin's Martian economy will pay for necessary imports and generate income from varied enterprises, such as real estate sales—homes that are airtight and protect against cosmic space radiation, with fish-farm aquariums positioned overhead, letting in sunlight and blocking cosmic rays while providing fascinating views. 

"Zubrin even predicts the Red Planet customs, social relations, and government—of the people, by the people, for the people, with inalienable individual rights—that will overcome traditional forms of oppression to draw Earth immigrants. After all, Mars needs talent." 

Dr. Robert Zubrin. (Image credit: Diversion Books)

Always fully armed with provocative opinions, Dr. Zubrin spoke to us on this intriguing new guidebook to learn what keeps him invigorated concerning Mars colonization, and how that planet can be successfully transformed for human habitation and prosperity in the coming centuries.

Space.com: How does this project differ from your previous works on Mars?

Dr. Robert Zubrin: This book takes a longer view than "The Case for Mars," which is really mostly about how we can get humans to Mars and have an effective exploration program there. 

"The New World On Mars" is much more focused on the future. This book says it's evident that people will be able to go to Mars in the near future. The question is what will we be able to create on Mars? What kinds of human societies are likely to emerge on Mars and what do they mean for the human future as a whole?

Space.com: One of the most interesting chapters deals with the psychological aspects of leaving Earth and establishing an identifiable Martian culture with its own customs, rites and rituals and the importance of that process. Can you elaborate on that subject more?

Zubrin: The Mars Society over the past couple years held two contests asking people to design a 1,000-person Mars colony and a one-million-person Mars city-state. And by design we meant not just the technology or the economy, but the social system, political system, what kind of sports are likely to be played, as well as the aesthetics. 

Between the two contests, there were something like 300 entries. The ideas proposed spanned a huge range of political systems from socialist, to democratic and libertarian. Rather than attempt to choose my favorite system for a Martian utopia, I took the point of view that there will be many Martian cities founded by different people with very different ideas on what the ideal state should be, and it's going to be sorted out by natural selection.  

Some of the answers I came up with I like a lot, like human liberty. But this is in contradiction to many visions of science fiction colonies that are totally controlled because no one would immigrate to one. The ones that will outgrow the others will clearly be the ones that are most attractive to immigrants. Freedom is a great attractor. North Korea does not have an illegal immigrant problem. Martian colonies will have to be highly inventive and invention only thrives under freedom. I believe a Mars colony will also require a great deal of social solidarity, so it will not be multi-cultural and will need to have a strong sense of community and common identity.

In my life I haven't had much use for organized sports, let alone organized religion. Yet these are things that help form common identity, and I think they'll be prominent in the successful Mars cities. They will also have to be aesthetically beautiful to attract immigrants, female immigrants in particular, because if you're going to have a population that grows on Mars, you're going to have to attract women to Mars.

The founders of America called it a noble experiment. Mars will be a place where there will be dozens of noble experiments, and that's where you'll get the answers.

(Image credit: NASA)

Space.com: What keeps you energized and inspired to do your best work with the Mars Society, exploring new book projects, or planning the next lecture, science talk or convention appearance?

Zubrin: I always feel that I need a purpose. That I should be doing something that's going to do some good. What is going on in the world today where I can do some good? In addition to fighting for Mars, I've been writing a lot of articles calling for aid to the Ukraine. 

And I think space is part of the fight for freedom too. By opening space we will prove that it's not true that there are limited resources, and therefore it's not true that there's a necessity for war, which means it's not true that there's a necessity for tyranny. Through my technical work and through my writing, I do whatever I can do.

"The New World on Mars" is available for purchase on Amazon.

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.

  • Fission
    I strongly support space exploration but, at this point in time, only on a robotic basis which provides far more information per dollar spent. I find it infinitely frustrating that, with all the problems on Earth, there is such a strong push to spend trillions of dollars on a sci-fi fantasy project that might take a century to unfold and will provide very little benefit to humanity and could up up as a disaster for the colonists.

    There are only two rationals for such an undertaking: first would be if there is a credible "end of a habitable Earth" scenario and this is planning for an escape by a few with the idea that humankind will be genetically preserved; second, if our geoscientists believe that the Earth is (or soon will be) all mined out and we need to begin solar system mining.

    We are so far from having the information necessary before moving forward. Perhaps a better (& cheaper by trillions) project would be to expand on the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Build a fleet of hundreds of ingenuity "hummingbirds" and send them all over the planet. Find out what is out there.
    Reply
  • HobartStinsonian
    Utopian goals are very nice. They are important to the uplifting of humankind. But let's get some engineering practicality into the discussion. First, any existence on Mars will depend on high technology to maintain life. Sustaining air, water, food, and mobility about the planet Mars can't be built up as humans did on Earth over thousands of years of our history. Agrarian farmers eking out a life of growing their own crops and livestock cannot happen on Mars. Martian life will depend on technology. What do you need to establish an independent, self-sustaining and technological civilization on Mars? Here is my short list. Try to imagine all of the following needs, but without resupply from Earth. Start with resources for manufacturing all items. Metals require sources of ores. Can we locate and exploit on Mars large deposits of copper, iron, aluminum, trace elements, etc, Where will you find those on Mars? The ores will need processing in factories, usually using huge amounts of energy, and using large amounts of other resources. Where will Martians find Gigawatts of electrical power? Solar? Plastics, electronic circuit boards, LED lamps, fertilizers, and fabrics require sources of hydrocarbons, usually from petroleum or natural gas. Where will you find those on Mars? How are you going to manufacture the range of microchips needed to maintain the existing electronic and digital equipment that you will rely on for survival? Surface or subsurface transportation and mobility are key to establishing any technological economy. Agriculture: where are you going to farm crops and livestock on a scale large enough to feed thousands, and then millions of Martians? You'll need millions of acres of crops and livestock. And people, equipment, and methods to harvest, process and transport them to the consumers. Then there is construction on Mars. We will need to map out where and how to build the foundations for building structures. Foundations that will have to survive decades of gravity loading on the Martian soil and rock. But, where thousands of people gather to live, there will be spills of liquids such as water, fuels, chemicals, wastes, etc onto the ancient soil beds of Mars. These ancient soils have been desiccated for billions of years. What do you think will happen to your structural foundations after some top layers of Martian soil becomes damp from water discharging, having not been exposed for those billions of years? It will seriously alter the strength and behavior of the soils, and that will seriously jeopardize the structures on Mars. Collapse is the immediate risk for any building on Mars, or any road or railway roadbed. These are structures that are needed for survival of the Martian population. These problems can be solved. However, solving these problems will take generations, decades, probably centuries. Building up a base of knowledge of what works, and what does not (remember all the catastrophic failures throughout human history on Earth). During those generations who are learning how to live on Mars, the Martians will continue to rely solely on resupply transportation from Earth. Millions of tons of resupply, constant resupply. Then there is the problem of waste handling. Where will the manufacturing and other waste be deposited on Mars? Few of these problems would be solved by the so-called "terraforming" ideas. More utopian dreams.
    Reply
  • Atlan0001
    I've said many times before in differing places, unless the surface of SPACE is colonized first by in-space colonization, and highways of the 'High Frontier' created from L-point city-state colonies to at least one cloud-city-state-like orbital colony supporting probably decades, possibly hundreds of years, of a human development on the surface of Mars before Mars colonization could reach take-off point to anything like surviving on its own, any colonization on the surface of that planet will be under a draconian Damocles Sword hanging by a single thread awaiting cutting by some dictatorial or catastrophic natural event on Earth.

    Neither Zubrin, at least in the past that I've known of his advocacy, nor anyone else understands that once there are manmade custom stations and colonies in L-point orbits, even just one or two in the beginning, being surrounded by growing industrial facilitations out from Earth to SPACE (particularly shuttle and shipbuilding, as well as a growing agricultural production in SPACE) accessing Moon and near Earth asteroid materials, and energies from SPACE, all with just trace-salting from Earth, there will be too many Earth connections too independently energetic and powerful (the islandic-like small maritime Greek city-states, the islandic-like small maritime Italian and Hanseatic city-states, Zanzibar, Singapore, Hong Kong, on and on) to be so simply cut. The Mars connection would have no immediately growing breadth and depths of energy exchange. Money wealth, real, more intrinsic money wealth, energy-positivity over energy-negativity (such as energy-less deficit spending and borrowing ever more from the future building ever accelerating black hole expansions of debt in-mass) as I've said many times before, being no more than a symbolic token of energy and energy exchange.

    With no energetic expansionary frontier -- and Mars isn't and never can be one of possible opportunity for billions to come out from Earth! -- you have a sink hole of decline and fall in place!
    Reply