"To the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness of strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grip of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance that comes from freedom—these are the traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier.
"What if the frontier is truly gone?
"What happens to America and all that it has stood for? . . .
"Currently we see around us an ever more apparent loss of vigor of our society: increasing fixity of the power structure and bureaucratization of all levels of life; impotence of political institutions to carry off great projects; the proliferation of regulations affecting all aspects of public, private, and commercial life; the spread of irrationalism; the banalization of popular culture; the loss of willingness by individuals to take risks, to find for themselves or think for themselves; economic stagnation and decline the declaration of the rate of technological innovation. . . .
"Without a frontier from which to breathe new life, the spirit that gave rise to the progressive humanistic culture that America has represented for the past two centuries is fading. The issue is not just one of national loss-human progress needs a vanguard and no replacement is in sight. The creation of a new frontier thus presents itself as America’s and humanity’s greatest social need. Nothing is more important. . .
"Without a frontier to grow in, not only American society, but the entire global civilization based upon values of humanism, science, and progress will ultimately die. . . .
"I believe that humanity’s new frontier can only be on Mars. . . .
"The universe is vast. Its resources, if we can access them, truly are infinite. During the four centuries of the open frontier on Earth, science and technology have advanced at an astonishing pace. The technological capability achieved during the twentieth century would dwarf the expectation of any observer from the nineteenth, exceed the dreams of one from the eighteenth, and appear outright magical to someone from the seventeenth. The nearest stars are incredibly distant, about 100,000 times as far away as Mars. Yet, Mars itself is about 100,000 times as far from Earth as American is from Europe. If the past four centuries of progress have multiplied our reach by so great a ratio, might not four more centuries of freedom do the same again?"
From The Case for Mars by aerospace engineer Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society