Robert Zubrin describes just how transformative, and how profound, Starship could prove to be to our future in space, and to our understanding of life.
I’ve been in this business for a decent chunk of time. In the late 1980s, I was on the team at Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin, that did the preliminary design for what is now called the Space Launch System, NASA’s flagship vehicle. It was originally devised as a quick and dirty way to create a heavy-lift booster out of the then-operational Space Shuttle system components. Starship is nothing like the Space Launch System. It’s unlike anything NASA has made before. It represents an entirely new concept of space operations, and the impact it very well may have on science is extraordinary.
The benefits of Starship for both robotic and human exploration are hard to overstate. Mars’ recent arrival, Perseverance, can deliver one ton to the Red Planet’s surface. Starship, with its 100-ton capacity, can land a battalion of robots. These could include many Perseverance-like explorers, and much bigger versions of the Ingenuity helicopter. Smaller rovers armed with high-resolution cameras could map the area, transmit to Earth, and allow millions of citizen scientists to walk the landscape in virtual reality and point the machines toward anything interesting. Construction robots, too, possibly humanoid in form, could build a Mars base capable of converting Martian carbon dioxide and water ice into methane-and-oxygen rocket propellant to store in tanks. With such a set-up, fully supplied in advance, Starships could start sending humans.
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