This week, I’ve been working on a new short story set at a Martian colony. I’ve been fascinated by Mars ever since I saw the first images of the red planet sent back by the Viking lander. Since then, the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers have added to our picture of Mars. What strikes me in all these images is how much Mars looks like the Southern California desert where I grew up. By extension, it’s never been hard for me to imagine someone making a life there. Here we see a Martian landscape from the Curiosity rover.
In fact, Mars would be a difficult place to make a life. Not only is it a desert, it has a very thin atmosphere and it’s at the outer edge of our solar system’s habitable zone. The average global temperature is around -60 degrees C. That’s about as cold as it gets on the highest mountain peaks in Antarctica.
Despite the challenges, Mars is an easy planet to explore compared to planets like Venus or Jupiter. It would be great to allow geologists, hydrologists, and chemists a chance to rove the planet and learn what they could. A base would make long term study practical. Of course, if Mars proved to have useful resources that could be inexpensively extracted, a colony might prove inevitable. There are indications that Mars could have deposits of gold, silver, and platinum, all of which have important industrial applications.
In the long run, I believe that humanity’s best bet toward long-term survival is colonizing space. There are several possible approaches including a space station or a lunar base. Inhospitable as Mars is, though, it’s still more hospitable than either Earth orbit or the surface of the Moon. The primary downside is the distance. However, there are inexpensive technologies being developed, such as solar sails, that may make transporting supplies to Mars more practical.
As it turns out, several groups are working toward the goal of manned Mars exploration and even colonization. Most recognize that this is a process that will take many small steps. One team at Arizona State University is raising money to build a construction rover for Mars. I’ve helped to support this project by donating copies of A Kepler’s Dozen and The Solar Sea as giveaways for their Indigogo campaign. They have a lot of other great giveaways as well. If you share the dream of constructing a base on Mars for further exploration, you should visit the website: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/building-on-mars-with-mars-trac-the-open-source-construction-rover
As for my short story imagining a Martian Colony, I’ll be sure to pass along news if and when it’s accepted for publication.