Copyright © by Robert Zubrin. Published to the Marspapers archive with permission.
It was 100 years ago, 1893, at the annual conference of the American Historical Association, that a young professor of history from the then relatively obscure University of Wisconsin got up to speak. Frederick Jackson Turner's talk was scheduled as the last one in the evening session, preceded by a series of excruciatingly boring papers on topics so obscure that kindness forbids even the reprinting of their titles. Nevertheless, for some unexplained reason, the majority of the conference participants stayed up to hear him. Perhaps somehow a rumor had gotten afoot that something important was about to be said, if so it was correct, for in one bold sweep of brilliant insight Turner laid bare the source of the American soul. It was not legal theories, precedents, traditions, national or racial stock that was the source of the egalitarian democracy, individualism, and spirit of innovation that characterize America, it was the existence of the Frontier.
To see best why 21st Century humanity will desperately need an open frontier on Mars, we need to look at modern Western humanist culture and see what in it makes it so much more desirable a mode of society than anything that has ever existed before. Then we need to see how everything we hold dear will be wiped out if the frontier remains closed.