A Future on the Red Planet

Harman Dhillon
Mar 9 · 5 min read
Marek Piwnicki via Unsplash

Why Mars?

Life on the Red Planet — Many have dreamt about it, now it may actually happen. NASA is hard at work planning to send a man and a woman to Mars in 2024. They plan to use lessons from life on the Moon to colonize Mars (hopefully) by the 2030s. On their website, SpaceX explains the various reasons Mars is our perfect planet. The reasons all involve similarity to Earth: sunlight, temperature, gravity, day length, and potential for agriculture. Life on Mars will undoubtedly be different from life on Earth. Though future astronauts could get food, shelter, and water, they will wake up to a rocky red horizon and miles of open terrain — and that is only one difference between life on Earth and Mars.

What is work going to be like?

The absence of a skyline on Mars will not be the only difference seen there. According to 2021 industry analysis by IBISWorld, commercial real estate, car & automobile sales, and general insurance are among the most prominent industries on Earth; however shopping malls and long scenic drives may not be feasible in space. It makes sense that the most popular industries on Earth would provide people with entertainment, transportation, or financial security, but on Mars, the most popular projected industries are not for entertainment or leisure. At least in the beginning, Martians will be conducting experiments and doing research. They won’t have access to all the same amenities available on Earth. In an interview with the Oxford Martin School, Elon Musk said “There will likely be a lot of mining on Mars that’s useful for a Mars base.” The labor on Mars, then, could result in an industry for raw materials or precious metals. Astronaut Mae Jemison in December 2019 expressed her hopes for life on Mars: “I just assumed by the time I got to be old enough to go into the space program, you know we’d be living on Mars or I’d be working on Mars just as a scientist” (USA Today).

What about everyday life?

The bare necessities can be made available on Mars, but that does not mean future Martians will not want more. They would likely work as scientists, engineers, or as a part of the labor force, but the comforts of Earth would be needed to really make the red-planet home. In an ambitious announcement from the UAE’s Space Agency in 2014, they planned to “open the first shopping mall on the red planet by 2025” (The Pan-Arabia Enquirer). Though it seems unlikely in the short term, the UAE’s Space Agency was on track for making sure life on Mars would appeal to the public. Before announcing its bankruptcy, Mars-One Ventures AG, a small private Dutch organization, planned to have astronauts on Mars entertain themselves by doing “most of the indoor activities that people can do on Earth: read, play games, write, paint, work out in the gym, watch TV, use the Internet, contact friends at home and so on.” Though Mars-One may have not been successful, there are other organizations, such as Space X and NASA, aiming to sponsor Martian life someday. NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18th, 2021 to study the red planet, and their Artemis missions to the moon are actually preparation for life on Mars.

So are we good to go?

Of course, there are people who are opposed to future Martian life. In a July 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, 82% of Americans did not think sending astronauts to Mars should be one of NASA’s top priorities. But as stated by Antonia Jaramillo in a 2020 USA Today article, “The problem is money, or lack thereof.” Regardless of public opinion, going to Mars may not be feasible because of the prices of a Mars colony. According to Mike Brown for Inverse, “[Elon] Musk has pegged the ultimate price of establishing this city at somewhere between $100 billion and $10 trillion.” Though it is possible to raise enough money for a city of that price, Brown explains that it is a large figure for just a city. The question is then whether colonization is even worth it. In her article “Is exploring Mars worth the investment?” Eryn Brown writes that one major factor in deciding the value of a Mars colony is prestige — Colonizing Mars would increase the status of the country that pulls it off. Regardless of personal opinion and prices, however, Mars may need to be colonized simply because climate change is reducing the capacity in which Earth can sustain human life. Astronaut Al Worden put it simply: “I think we’re doing more damage to ourselves and the planet that it may be of such an extent that we don’t have to wait till the sun burns out — we’re going to do it ourselves” (USA Today).

Colonizing the red-planet would be a difficult, yet great, feat. Whether we use plans from Mars-One or Elon Musk, there will always be varying opinions on whether we should do it. The feasibility of life on the red-planet will only be under question until it is attempted. So dream on, because there is a chance you could lead future generations to Mars.


Junior Economist of Chicago

The official blog of the Junior Economic Club of Chicago

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