Robert Zubrin


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 CO2acquisition 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.

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Recent Articles

Centauri Dreams

  • A Method for Creating Enormous Space Telescopes
  • Excerpt:: As we follow the progress of the James Webb Space Telescope through performance tests in preparation for launch, Robert Zubrin has been thinking of far larger instruments. The president of Pioneer Astronautics and founder of the Mars Society thinks we can create telescopes of extremely large aperture — and sharply lower cost — by using the physics of spinning gossamer membranes, a method suitable for early testing as a CubeSat demonstration mission. Continue to Full Article

International Journal of Astrobiology | Cambridge University Press

  • Exchange of material between solar systems by random stellar encounters
  • Excerpt:: It is shown that a mechanism involving only random motion of the sun with respect to the surrounding star field can account for the ~1 per 25 Myr characteristic frequency of large cometary impacts on Earth. In the proposed mechanism, the sun travels through the Oort Cloud of an encounter star, most typically a Type M dwarf, while the dwarf flies through the Oort cloud of our Sun. As a result, Oort Cloud objects from our Solar System are precipitated in large numbers to impact planets in the dwarf star system, while the dwarf’s Oort Cloud objects are destabilized to impact planets in our Solar System. It is shown that it is this exchange of Oort cloud object between stellar systems, rather than the precipitation of Oort Cloud objects within a stellar system, that can account for the apparent periodicity of mass extinctions. Continue to Full Article

National Review Online

  • At Today’s NASA, Success Is Not an Option
  • Excerpt:: The Trump administration has proposed a bold new initiative, dubbed the Artemis Program, that will send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 and Mars by 2033. As detailed by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine in a presentation on May 23, the program will include some 37 launches by 2028, kicked off by the maiden launch of the agency’s new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster in October 2020.  Continue to Full Article

National Review Online

  • Yale Professor Explains Hitler’s Malthusianism, Thinks There’s Something to It
  • Excerpt:: In my 2012 book, Merchants of Despair, I exposed the role that Malthusian thought — the belief that the world can not support a growing human population — has had in motivating most of the worst atrocities of the past two centuries, notably including those of Nazism and more recent antihuman movements operating under the “population control” and “environmentalist” banners. Now prominent Yale historian Timothy Snyder has written Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, which also lays out the Malthusian ideology behind the Holocaust.Continue to Full Article

National Review Online

  • The Source of All Resources
  • Excerpt:: On October 7, we held the grand opening of the factory of my new company, Pioneer Energy, in Lakewood, Colorado. This is the speech I gave to commemorate the occasion. | “We are here today to celebrate the opening of a new factory, a place for making things. Such an event is always cause for celebration, but in this case it is especially so, because the things that this factory is going to make are themselves something new. They are fully mobile, fully integrated gas-processing plants that will take wet flare gas that is now being burned as waste and turn it into useful products: natural-gas liquids that can be shipped to the market – or even used to propel cars at less than half the price we are now paying for gasoline – and dry pipeline-quality natural gas that can be used to drive field generators at a fraction of the price operators are now paying for diesel fuel. It does this, while running itself on the ethane part of the flare gas that nobody wants. It does all this, while doing the public the favor of getting rid of an annoying flare.” Continue to Full Article

Articles by Robert Zubrin

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Mark Berggren

Senior Engineer

Mark Berggren has a B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He has over 28 years of experience in research and development, pilot-scale demonstration, and commercial operations involving terrestrial gas-solid reactions, mineral and metal separations and refining, resource utilization, energy topics, and recycling. He worked at Amax Research & Development and Hazen Research prior to joining Pioneer Astronautics. Since joining Pioneer in 2000, he has been applying his experience to lunar and Martian in-situ resource utilization.

Mark was principal investigator on a NASA JSC Phase I SBIR program entitled “Mars Aqueous Processing System”, which demonstrated the ability to extract and selectively recover iron, silicon, aluminum, and magnesium oxides as high quality products from Mars simulants. During Phase II, the technology is being refined in support of the preparation of process designs for lunar oxygen generation and Mars materials production.

He served as lead engineer on the NASA JSC Phase II NOBOSS project to develop a thermal catalytic process for dissociation of nitrous oxide into personal breathing air for space, marine, and terrestrial applications. During the course of the project, a dissociation reactor and associated components were incorporated into a fully functional prototype backpack.

Mark is lead engineer on the Lift Gas Cracker program being conducted for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. During the Phase I program he led the design, fabrication, and testing of a portable methanol steam reformer including integrated combustion and heat exchange systems. The portable Lift Gas Cracker was used to inflate a stratospheric research balloon that carried smaller zero-pressure test balloons and a suite of telemetry and temperature instruments to 100,000 feet. During Phase II, technologies to increase the duration of stratospheric research balloon flight are being developed.

Mark participated on the Pioneer team to develop a Sea Glider based on an innovative ballast control system. He has also participated on Pioneer’s Phase I Carbon Monoxide Metal Oxide Reduction System project, Phase II Mars Microballoon project, Phase II Methane to Aromatics on Mars project, and several other NASA SBIR programs. In addition, he has worked on commercially-sponsored and in-house nitrous oxide conversion programs, in-situ resource utilization projects, and hydrocarbon conversion projects.

Mark has eight patents and is a Professional Engineer in the State of Colorado, a member of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), and a member of the Mars Society.

Heather Rose

Research Scientist

Mrs. Rose generally works in a laboratory and/or research scientist capacity. She aids in the design, coordination and implementation of laboratory testing, data acquisition, and data analysis to run prototype systems and help design testing regimens to optimize performance. She has worked on fabrication, design analysis and alterations; data acquisition and analysis; for laboratory testing and both low and high altitude field tests of stratospheric research and zero-pressure test balloons. Of note :

  • In lab work during the METAMARS Phase II we demonstrated that methane produced on Mars could be transformed with complete selectivity into benzene, thereby reducing the hydrogen importation requirements for Mars in-situ propellant production plants by a factor of 4.
  • During the LGC Phase I program Pioneer Astronautics designed, fabricated, and tested of a methanol reformer including integrated combustion and heat exchange systems. The portable Lift Gas Cracker was used to inflate a stratospheric research balloon that carried smaller zero-pressure test balloons and a suite of telemetry and temperature instruments to 100,000 feet.
  • Mrs. Rose completed a partial rework of the 300-liter vacuum chamber, including cleaning, new electrical pass-through, vacuum testing, and the creation of a user guide to the chamber from basic use to maintenance issues and logs. This re-work of the chamber created six reliable electrical pass-through, cut the total pump down time of the chamber in half and increased the total vacuum available in the chamber. The user guide insures that maintenance and overall performance of the chamber can be monitored from project to project.

Since joining the Pioneer Astronautics team in 2003 she has also worked on data acquisition systems for many Pioneer projects. Either taking the lead or assisting in the design, purchase, creation, implementation, or debugging steps for various projects data acquisition. Pioneer mainly relies upon either National Instruments – LabVIEW or Azeotech’s DAQFactory programs for data aquisition.

Professional Bio

Heather Rose graduated from the University of Denver in June 2003 with a BA in Physics and a minor in Astrophysics. In the fall of 2000 she was chosen for an internship with Equinox Interscience in Pinecliffe, Colorado. There she accelerated the construction of a battery-housing unit for the University of Denver’s Mt. Evans Meyer-Womble Observatory, completed company fundamental operational and safety training on milling equipment, and assisted the machining lead in basic maintenance and operation of milling equipment for various engineering and astronomy projects. During the summer of 2001 she was selected to participate in the Onyx Environmental Services Summer Internship program running at that time in Port Arthur, Texas. There she helped edit, update, and complete a customer service packet ahead of schedule. She was also able to assist the environmental department in compiling, editing, and completing government documentation and compliance reports. From June-August of 2003 she worked at Design Net Engineering supported laboratory technicians, the Test and Integration Team, and assisted the Analysis Lead on the Low Temperature Micro-gravity Physics Facility (LTMPF) project for the International Space Station.

Personal Bio

Mrs. Rose has been an avid amateur Astronomer since 1992, having been in the Astronomical Society of Southeast Texas (a division of the Astronomical League) for ten years, and has won several national awards for her achievements and educational outreach in Astronomy including:

  • Messier Award :Certificate 1160 in May 1994, The Astronomical League offers special recognition in the form of a Messier Club Certificate for those that have observed all 110 Messier objects
  • The Jack Horkheimer Award :The first winner of the Horkheimer Award in 1998. Award is presented to an Astronomical League member under the age of 19 on the date of the application. The Award is based upon service to the League, either directly or service to any Astronomical League society. Service could be in the form of educational outreach, knowledge and skills at public star parties or other astronomical service. Young astronomers could apply for both National Young Astronomer Award and the Horkheimer award. This award is supported by Jack Horkheimer, The Star Gazer
  • National Young Astronomer Award : 4th Place in 1998, To encourage our nation’s younger students, the Astronomical League established the National Young Astronomer Award. N.Y.A.A. designed to recognize the outstanding achievements by high school aged astronomers throughout the United States

She has ten years of deeply involved experience in astronomy and space educational, and has visited countless schools, conventions, malls, and parks for Astronomy and space outreach. She has also worked with many outreach organizations such as the Challenger Center, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Houston Museum of Natural Science, George Observatory, and the Astronomical League.

Stacy Carrera

Senior Scientist / Project Manager

Dr. Stacy received her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She then worked for Motorola Semiconductor in Austin, Texas for four years. T he first year she was in their Engineering Rotation Program, which allowed her access to a wide variety of jobs within the company including product engineering, technical marketing, device engineering, and failure analysis. After her four three-month rotations, she elected to continue working in the destructive analysis laboratory evaluating the cause of failures in microcontrollers primarily for automotive industry. Her interest in Material Science grew from working in the FA laboratory and ultimately resulted in her deciding to return to graduate school at the Colorado School of Mines to pursue a doctorate in Material Science and Engineering.

Stacy completed her doctorate in the Spring of 2005 concentrating on mechanical properties of thin films using finite element modeling and laboratory techniques. The title of her thesis is The Role of Finite Element Modeling and Closed Field Unbalanced Magnetron Sputtering on Developing a Coating System for Die Casting.

She began working for Pioneer Astronautics while in the finishing stages of completing her thesis and began working full time on the Phase I project entitled Carbon Monoxide Silicate Reduction System, which is aimed at removing oxygen from lunar solar for use as a breathing aid as well as propellant. Also, the work focuses on recovering metals from lunar soil such as silicon for use as potential sources of materials for building or energy; one example being solar cells. In her free time, Stacy enjoys all aspects of the outdoors, music, and literature. Her primary passion is rock climbing, which she has been able to do all across Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, the Potrero Chico of Mexico and the Peak District of England. Recently, she has also been exploring rafting.

Carie Fay

Director, Administration & Human Resources

The Case for Mars

The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must


The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must is a nonfiction science book by Robert Zubrin, first published in 1996, and revised and updated in 2011. The book details Zubrin’s Mars Direct plan to make the first human landing on Mars.

Since the beginning of human history, Mars has been an alluring dream—the stuff of legends, gods, and mystery. The planet most like ours, it has still been thought impossible to reach, let alone explore and inhabit. But all that changed when leading space exploration authority Robert Zubrin crafted a daring new blueprint, Mars Direct. When it was first published in 1996, The Case for Mars became an instant classic, lauded widely for its game-changing perspective by those who would see the American space program rise to the challenge of Mars; Carl Sagan called Zubrin the man who, “nearly alone, changed our thinking on this issue.” Now, fifteen years later, Zubrin brings readers up to date in this revised and updated anniversary edition filled with spectacular illustrations, extraordinary photographs, and one-of-a-kind anecdotes.

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