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In the series it is stated numerous times that Mars has more advanced military technology, while Earth has numerical superiority.

Tech advantage for Mars seems counter–intuitive to me:

  1. Earth would have advantage in fundamental research, wouldn't it?
  2. Mars seems very busy not dying / terraforming, which doesn’t seem like something that would directly translate into space military applications.
  3. Epstein drive discovery at Mars is described as random and "lucky", rather than outcome of their superior research.

In the earliest instance of combat between the two in the series:

Donnager gets taken out by smaller ships of Earth origin, which are clearly on par, if not superior, technologically. To a degree that everyone seems to find nearly unbelievable.

So what exactly makes / made Mars military tech perceived as "better" one?

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    In other fiction, off-world colonies often end up with a sizeable tech advantage because they're high-tech societies populated by the cream of Earth's scientific community. – Valorum Aug 14 '16 at 10:27
  • But at the time of the series every military–related technology Mars has (fusion reactors, Epstein drive, stealth ships, PDC/torpedo/rail weaponry, powered marine armor) Earth is shown to possess as well. – Rarst Aug 14 '16 at 10:34
  • I've not seen the show, I'm just offering a perspective. – Valorum Aug 14 '16 at 10:49
  • Yeah, I am just covering context (from book series as well as the show). It's more puzzling why Mars has (?) military advantage because it doesn't really display one in the series. – Rarst Aug 14 '16 at 10:50
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    Don't know the books but in the TV show it's mentioned that Mars society is very regimented - has to be, as the whole planet is hostile to life. That threat, plus the threat of Earth, and a disciplined society makes for a strong military. It's also mentioned that an Earth/Mars war almost broke out many years before. Since Earth is the bigger force, it would make sense for Mars to seek any tech advantage they can, while Earth can afford be more complacent – Flambino Feb 5 '17 at 11:08
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I think epilogue of the Nemesis Games comes closest so far to a glimpse into origins of Martian military:

“Now that we are taking initiative,” he said, “it is more important than ever that we maintain strict discipline. We’re like the first long-haul missions back before anyone had an Epstein drive. Months, maybe years, as a community of warriors and explorers. There’s not room for outsiders when there is no outside.

While the character uses this to justify their actions and it no longer seems to be quite the case for modern Mars, it strongly implies that in the past Mars space program was strongly militaristic and insular.

This very well might have been their motivation for military research and breaking ahead of Earth in it.

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In addition to the answer already given, I would like to point out a couple of traditional economic/political factors.

If Earth already has a big fleet and they discover a new technology they may choose to keep their old ship for a while because they are "good enough". Scrapping all the old ships and building new ones will be very expensive, but if Mars has to build a navy from scratch they can choose to use the newest technology available. This could give Mars a real technological advantage.


The Earth navy want new ships, but the politicians will point out that they have ships already. The admirals can then counter by telling(lying if they have to) about how the Mars navy is a threat and they need more funding for new ships. The admirals will make sure this is done in public to put pressure on the politicians and the average man in the street(or the belt) will hear about it.

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