First City on Mars

First City on Mars

What would a city on Mars look like and why?

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Concept Art for first Mars City
Concept Art for first Mars City. Source: SpaceX (opens in a new tab)


Like mentioned before, building an entire city on mars isn't feasible for a company like SpaceX, most likely because they don't make money except for when they launch cargo or astronauts for other companies. That' exactly why a first city on Mars would most likely be a collaboration between multiple companies and eventually - although I hope not - governments.

There's many things that have to be taken into account when building a community on land that doesn't belong to a country yet: laws, form of government, currencies, policies and more. Usually, this is what a government is for. How are we gonna solve it on Mars, though?

Form of government

When trying to decide for a form of government, we have to remind ourselves of the benefits and reasons to decide for any given form of government in the first place. That's quite easy, though.

Dictatorships are "good" (please, go easy on me here and read the rest of the sentence) for communities where most of the citizen do not possess the cognitive capacity to make decisions that are beneficial to the community as a whole. If there is only one or just a very small amount of people that are capable of rational decisionmaking for the community, it would make sense to let them do it. Pretty straightforward.

Representational governments are governments that are chosen by citizens to make decisions for the community. If that sounds familiar to you, it's because this is the form of government that's running most countries nowadays. But what are they good for, really? Why don't we make all decisions democratically? 2 possible reasons here. Firstly, similarly to a dictatorship, citizens might simply not possess the ability or might miss crucial information that is necessary to make good decisions for the community, which is why they might prefer choosing someone who seems most capable to make those decisions. To understand the second reason, we might have to go back in time a bit. Back when countries like the US were formed, the instantaneous form of communication we use nowadays wasn't available. This made it a very tedious process to review all citizen's votes, so it was much easier and much more realistically feasible to set up a governmental representation for the community to make decisions in their names instead of having them run to mailboxes and send letters for every decision that had to be made.

In a direct democracy, citizens are asked to vote on every major decision that has to be made for the community. Taking into account that we currently possess the technical capability to review these amount of votes, this might be a reasonable form of government for newly formed communities. Now I said "might" because there's a very important thing to keep in mind: For this concept to work out okay, the majority of citizens need to be knowledgeable enough to be able to make these decisions in the first place. However, since only trained astronauts and specialists in their field are sent to Mars in the beginning, this is likely to be the case. Therefore, a direct democracy is a realistic form of government for a marsian city.

Quality of Life

Contrary to popular belief, living on Mars when the first city is still in the works isn't going to be too exciting most of the time. This is due to many factors.

An expanded Mars City
An expanded Mars City. Source: SpaceX (opens in a new tab)

Limits in cargo traffic

Due to the circumstance that almost all parts of our first Marsian city's infrastructure would have to be sent as cargo from Earth, there can only be that much of progress in building a city during the first couple of centuries. The long travel time to Mars and back, which is estimated to be roughly a year, doesn't help with that as it further limits the amount of cargo that can be sent in any given timeframe.

Being limited to housing

As we learned earlier, the marsian atmosphere doesn't support human lives that well. It doesn't at all, to be honest. It's not too big of an issue at first glance though, because we can absolutely build housing modules that are protecting us from the lethal conditions on Mars. However, as long as we haven't made the surface of mars and it's atmosphere endurable for humans, we have to build everything inside of a building. No skater parks, no grassy fields, no sunset at the beach that's waiting to be enjoyed.


You might be disappointed now, rightfully so, and so was I when I learned about that. However, as with almost all things, there is a solution to this. Let's terraform Mars into a second earth.

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Additional Resources

  1. You can get more detailed information on SpaceX dedicated Mars page.