- exploring, developing, & settling the red planet -


The space advocacy community is divided according to the individual's primary interest. As a result, there are large "Moon First" and "Mars First" groups. The Space Development Network believes that the Moon will be developed sooner and at a faster rate than Mars for the following reasons.

Each round trip to Mars takes 26 months. Each round trip to the Moon takes only 1/2 month. Even if the Starship took a more rapid trajectory it still couldn't launch from Earth to Mars until the next Earth-to-Mars window opened each 26 months. So SpaceX could sell far more passenger tickets if they were to use their Starship for lunar exploration and development than if they used the same number of Starships for Martian exploration and settlement. Even with the long term goal of Martian settlement, it seems that lunar development would pay a far greater return and it seems that dramatically more revenue would interest SpaceX.

The Moon is within telerobotic distance to Earth with a 2.6 second speed-of-light round trip time. If metals could be harvested on the Moon and used to produce an expanding telerobotic workforce, then very large operations could be ongoing on the Moon utilizing teleoperators based on Earth. Mars could likewise develop its own robotic workforce but they would have to be largely, fully autonomous. That day will come but is not here yet. This telerobotic workforce will help balance the cost difference between harvesting resources on the Moon compared to Mars.

The countries of the world will be very interested in watching their national astronauts exploring both the Moon and Mars on behalf of their citizens and in their own languages. Due to the quick reuse of the Starship, the cost of going to the Moon will be significantly less than going to Mars. It also makes logical sense for a country to start by exploring the Moon than to start with Mars. For these reasons the International Lunar Exploration Phase will likely be started before many countries send their astronauts to Mars.

The Moon has some characteristics which will cause private settlers to favor lunar settlement over Mars settlement. Perhaps the biggest factor will be how grandparents can remain in interactive communication with the children and grandchildren from the Moon but not from Mars. This is discussed further in the Private Settlement section. Another factor is that the Moon's 1/6th gravity will allow significantly greater mobility (e.g. back flips) on the Moon than on Mars. The lifestyle of significantly greater mobility will be a significant draw for the Moon.

However Mars certainly has more easily accessed and ultimately a greater quantity of resources than the Moon. This is often cited by Mars first advocates as to why we should primarily settle Mars. As discussed elsewhere, the Moon has all of the resources necessary and in large enough quantities to support a very large and growing settlement for a long time. None-the-less, the resources of Mars are more easily accessible from the get-go than the Moon. It will be interesting to see how the ease of accessing resources will impact the rate of development of these two sites for space development.

Due to its short travel time, the Moon will be settled a bit earlier and much faster than Mars.

Next: Initial Mars Missions