- exploring, developing, & settling the red planet -


There is a misunderstanding about space settlement. People commonly assume that it is very difficult (if even possible) and that it will occur only in the distant future. But is this really the case?

At its core, space settlement means "settling down" off Earth. It means selling one's home and establishing a new home with one's family in a new location. The simplest form of family is a couple without their children (e.g. retirees). And settlement starts with the first people settling down.

Ultimately space settlement will become a private matter. But these pages describe a straightforward process where governmental development of a base would naturally align and transition to a growing private settlement. The development that governments do for their base(s) will apply direct and immediately to settlement. Both bases and settlements require transportation, power, habitats, food production, etc. So, about the only difference is whether the stay is considered temporary or indefinite.

A roundtrip to the Moon would take about 11 days whereas the Mars departure window opens up only every 26 months. For each Starship, SpaceX would sell about lunar 72 tickets for each Martian ticket. For this reason, humanity's first and fastest growing settlement will probably be on the Moon. However, there will be people interested in going to Mars and the lessons learned on the Moon will be immediately applicable to Mars.

The very first crew to Mars could be the first settlers if they are "private" company employees fulfilling a government contract to build up and maintain infrastructure which would reduce and sustain government exploration operations. This initial phase would be the Initial Crew phase and would be very historic in nature.

The second phase of settlers could be American and international astronauts who choose to remain behind on the Mars as part of a growing, permanent, international base.

With the increased flight rate, per-seat prices would come down to where wealthy private individuals would start arriving. This would break down into two phases: The Early Private Settlers & the Latter Private Settlers. The first group would be willing to sacrifice some convenience in order to play their role in establishing humanity's first permanent foothold on the red planet. The second group (including their spouses) would want to have certain amenities (e.g. large garden areas, swimming, etc) before going. Tourism would be done by practically all settlers but would probably not be a huge external market.

There might also be working settlers who pay back their transit by working for the other, more wealthy settlers and eventually, depending upon animal studies, settlers might be born within the settlement.

If Starship succeeds and there is a large public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX then the first crew to the Mars could occur shortly after the first crew on the Moon -- so perhaps around the mid to late 2020s. If those crew were private workers, having sold their homes on Earth with plans to stay indefinitely then that is when history will point back to as when space settlement started.

The development of an international Mars base will do much of the early development work for settlement. That development will largely be funded by NASA and other countries for government purposes.

There is too much anxiety in space advocate circles about how settlement will pay for itself. Mining what "unobtanium" will it take to make settlement possible? This for-profit, resource-oriented perspective is misleading. Elon's settlement business plan is based upon people's savings. Retirement communities flourish despite no mining, intellectual property, or reality TV shows. Why should initial space settlement be any different? People will use their savings, made in Earth markets at other times and places to fund their own settlement. But also, the more local resources reduce shipping costs the cheaper space settlement will become.

The motivation to send national astronauts to a permanent base includes national pride / prestige and science. If the cost of transport is low enough then this is sufficient motivation for them. For private settlers, an opportunity to play an historic role in helping humanity to move off Earth will give personal significance and a reputation for those motivated by these things. Latter settlers will primarily be motivated by the opportunity to be part of an exclusive community, the uniqueness activities which 1/6th gravity allows, and the opportunity to tour Mars.

Later settlers will need a high enough quality of living to be willing to use their savings to move off Earth. This helps us understand that we need to focus on making the settlement experience as attractive as possible for "normal" people.

A growing colony would need a master plan for growth eventually growing into independent, off-Earth countries. As settlement grow, they would need to ensure that the medical needs and quality of life were met and a plan for governance.

There is a logical, step-wise approach to the settlement of Mars.

Next: Independence