Dr. Zubrin is the president of Pioneer Astronautics. He has a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester (1974), a M.S. in Nuclear Engineering (1984), a M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics (1986), and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering (1992), all from the University of Washington. A former member of NASA's Mars Exploration Long Term Strategy Working Group, Dr. Zubrin has over 100 technical and non-technical publications in various areas of astronautical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, and is the editor for Mars Exploration of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. He is the holder of one US Patent, and has two more pending for advanced space transportation concepts.
Since founding Pioneer Astronautics in January 1996, Dr. Zubrin has served as the Principal Investigator on the Pioneer Astronautics SBIR Phase I and Phase II investigations of a methanol ejector ramjet. the Phase I and Phase II Mars Methanol ISPP programs and the Phase I and Phase II Mars Microballoon programs. Most recently, he is serving as Principal Investigator on NASA JSC sponsored Phase I and II SBIR programs which successfully demonstrated the use of the reverse water gas shift reaction for Mars in-situ propellant production of water, oxygen, methane, methanol, and higher hydrocarbons, as required. In 1999, he also was the Principal Investigator on a NASA SBIR Phase I project which demonstrated the use of refrigerators to acquire CO2 from the Martian atmosphere. While requiring power, such refrigerator systems are considerably less massive than sorption based CO2 acquisition systems of equal capacity.
Prior to that, for 7 years, Dr. Zubrin was employed as a Senior, and then Staff Engineer at Lockheed Martin (formerly Martin Marietta) Astronautics in Denver, working on the design of advanced space transportation and propulsion concepts. He won two Inventors awards from Martin Marietta for his design of a nuclear rocket engine that could use CO2 as propellant, allowing a vehicle so powered to have unlimited mobility on Mars, and for his design of the "Mars Direct" mission architecture. "Mars Direct" was a radical redesign of the strategy for a manned Mars mission which utilizes chemical propellant produced on Mars for Earth return; a 1994 study done by Johnson Space Center (ref: Humbolt Mandell, NASA JSC) showed that it reduced program costs by a factor of 8 compared to the more conventional approach embodied in NASA's 1989 "90 Day Report." From 1993 to January 1996 Zubrin was the lead engineer and Principal Investigator on a NASA (first JSC, then JPL) funded project to demonstrate a working brassboard system that performs the required chemical synthesis needed to accomplish the Mars Direct plan, manufacturing cryogenic methane and oxygen out of a small supply of imported hydrogen combined with Mars atmospheric simulant gas contained in a vessel at Mars ambient pressures. This program has been entirely successful. In 1994, Zubrin was the technical lead on Martin Marietta design study of the "Black Colt" a horizontal takeoff, horizontal landing spaceplane employing RP/O2 propulsion with aerial liquid oxygen transfer. In 1991, Zubrin teamed with Mike Jacox of the Idaho National Engineering Lab to design the SEHPTR reactor, the first thermionic heat-pipe reactor system capable of dual-mode direct thrust propulsion. The attractiveness of this system caused the USAF to subsequently initiate its bimodal reactor development program. In Feb. 1996, Dr. Zubrin was named as one of 8 Advanced Concepts Research Fellows chosen nationally by NASA for his work in Mars ISPP. In addition to his technical publications, Dr. Zubrin is the author of "The Case for Mars: How We shall Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must," published by Simon and Schuster’s Free Press Division in Oct. 1996, and "Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization," published by Tarcher Putnam in Aug. 1999.