Debating Aldridge

Virtually all the public comments made by space advocacy groups after the release of the Aldridge Commission’s final report were overwhelming positive. However, as I note in an article in The Space Review, the Mars Society and its leader, Robert Zubrin, are actually quite negative about the report. The article goes into the details of Zubrin’s opposition to the report, as well as his claim that the report has been “instantly forgotten”. That assessment may be premature—it’s been only two and a half months since the report’s release, and progress implementing the report’s recommendations was bound to be slow, particularly this time of year—but it does raise the question of just how effective the report will be in the long run.

6 comments to Debating Aldridge

  • Bill White

    Has NASA said anything about the Aldridge recommendations?

    Such as the need for heavy lift? ;-)

  • ken murphy

    I love the delicious irony of an article appearing on the same day over at SpaceDaily.com. It’s a reprint from Astrobiology Magazine entitled “Footprints on the Moon” (no authorship atributed).

    It’s a good article outlining the scientific merits of the Moon, and about halfway through is a small comment:

    “Similarly, there exists the potential for finding ancient samples from Mars or even Venus, as well as unweathered carbonaceous chondrites.”

    The Universe does work in mysterious ways.

  • Mark Zinthefer

    Sigh. This is classic Zubrin. I was at the session in which he expressed his displeasure with the report. You’re going to love this Keith. He went so far as to call one of the commission members a “lunar charlatan” and a “crank”. Robert seems to have been born without tact and it’s this kind of thing that puts his foot in the collective mouths of the Mars Society.

    George Whitesides was quick to retort that calling someone a charlatan while they were not there was grossly inappropriate and that got him a round of cheers from the audience. Nice to know that the Mars Society is not composed entirely of firebrands.

    Now why did he call this Aldridge member a crank? He had a good point here. The guy claimed that looking on the Moon for Martian life was a good way to go about it. I’m sorry but Robert was right to call bullshit on that. Robert pointed out that looking for a rock on the Moon is effectively the same as looking for a particular chunk of stone in a huge stone quarry. Again, if you want to look for Mars rocks, go to Mars. Don’t hide your Moon-bias by saying you can do Mars research effectively there. You might as well just go to Antarctica if you want to look for rocks that left Mars. It’s a lot cheaper than going to the moon to do it.

    Zubrin’s directness is colorful but he’s not making any friends by speaking like this. I just wish he had cloaked his disgust into constructive criticism. He had a lot of excelent points but the whole “crank” thing just made him look like a lunatic. I think that he wanted the commission report to read like this: “We are going to go to Mars using Robert Zubrin’s Mars Direct mission plan.” Anything less would have made him blow his top.

  • Keith Cowing


    Zubrin is an exceptionally smart and gifted fellow. That has yet to stop him from saying some very stupid things however.

  • Jason Rhian

    Zubrin is a frothing at the mouth madman. Space enthusiasts have been waiting for this for thirty years and what does he do? He decides if he can’t get it his way he will throw a tantrum. He is spoiling it for the rest of us and should be summarily ignored. Kerry will endorse a plan that is “as good” as this one? Please! Obviously old Bob Zubrin does not check Kerry’s voting record. Keith Cowling has it nailed in one. Too much book learnin’ has left Bob with no common sense. You don’t pass up on a definite ride, for one that “might” come down the road. Whatever happened to the Space Exploration Alliance? The Mars Society is supposed to be part of it, can’t THEY keep Bob in line?

  • James

    The President’s Vision for Space Exploration is no “definite ride”, Jason – it hasn’t even been funded. I agree with you about Kerry, though – so far the evidence doesn’t support the assertion that he would push for a strong space program. Also, I’ve seen Zubrin speak at a number of occasions, and think he’s quite intelligent and technically very gifted – he just hasn’t gotten the hang of diplomacy…you know, “the art of letting someone else have it your way”.