Dr. Robert Zubrin is an American aerospace engineer.  He is the brains behind the dream and the concept of exploration and colonization of Mars.  While working at Martin Marietta he and his colleague David Baker were responsible for creating, in 1990, the initiative called Mars Direct. 

The aim of the project was to find a way, using existing technology, to send a manned flight from Earth to Mars without having to build way stations in either space or on the Moon.  Mars Direct would allow NASA to accomplish its goals in a shorter time span and cheaper than anything else being brought forward.  Zubrin was confident that these goals could be accomplished by 1999.  Since that would require buy-in by NASA and congress, the hope of accomplishing his goals by the turn of the century never materialized, but the concept is still being looked at by the scientific community.   

“The Mars Underground” was released in 2007 and was directed by Scott J. Gill.  2007.  It is an American documentary.  The film explores Zubrin’s vision of the program and how he believes it can be accomplished.  The movie is an interesting and rather detailed look at Zubrin’s ideas and solutions to the problem of cost-efficient space travel to Mars.

The first manned flight to land on the Moon was in 1969.  The last flight occurred in 1972.  Since then, very little has been done to create initiatives, other than the Mars Rover, for space explorations.  In 2004 George W. Bush announced a plan to return to the Moon.  The cost of the project was more than congress would fund and the project was terminated.  Various other projects were considered and eventually abandoned.  Zubrin was concerned that NASA had gone stagnant and that the course of space exploration was in jeopardy.

Zubrin’s main challenge was in convincing congress and the scientific community that his proposal was sound.  In a political arena where most politicians are only concerned with what is best for themselves, getting their approval on a project that doesn’t have immediate gratification may be a little difficult.  Should Zubrin be successful in his bid for Mars exploration, hopefully we’ll come out of it with something more to brag about than “Tang” and pens that write upside down.  Perhaps Elon Musk and SpaceX will pick up the gauntlet and incorporate some of Zubrin’s ideas.

The film is highlighted by state-of-the-art special effects and animation.  There are no actors in the film, but various scientists are interviewed giving their opinions, challenges, and or concerns about sending humans to Mars.

Included in the documentary are quotes by John F. Kennedy, John McCain, Barack Obama, George H. and George W. Bush, Neil Armstrong and various other NASA engineers and scientists.  It is an interesting film and a bit of a time capsule when it comes to space aspirations.

The term astronaut was originally used to describe American space crewmen, but a few other countries have adopted the name.  In Russia they are called cosmonauts, in China they are called taikonauts and in various European countries they are referred to as spationauts.

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