Magazine article The American Prospect

The Martian Plan

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Martian Plan

Article excerpt

Newt Gingrich thinks Americans need a new frontier to explore. He also believes in paying bounties to promote public objectives. Hence the proposal prepared at his invitation by space entrepreneur Robert Zubrin for a federal bounty of $20 billion payable to the first private organization that puts someone on Mars and brings that man or woman back to earth alive. The proposal is detailed in Zubrin's book, The Case for Mars: The Plan to Settle the Red Planet and Why We Must (Free Press), and at the "Headquarters for the Mars Direct Manned Mars Mission" on the Web site, www.magick.net/mars/.

I don't wish to disparage the idea of settling another planet; in fact, we all know a few people who might fit in better on Mars, and this would at least be a first step toward giving them the chance to relocate. But $20 billion is a steep price to pay, and members of Congress may be hesitating to set aside that much money in the federal budget for fear of being brought back to earth by the voters first.

So let me modestly suggest a few other incentives for Martian exploration that are more fiscally prudent and all highly consistent with Republican philosophy.

First, any company that sends someone to Mars could be given the right to rename the planet. We now have sports stadiums renamed after corporations, and some enthusiasts of commercial sponsorship have proposed giving national parks the names of firms that invest in them. The opportunity to rename the Red Planet would be the biggest sponsorship opportunity of all--a perpetual advertisement in the night sky and the human imagination. …

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