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If Spacex succeeds, the first ship of colonists will arrive on Mars sometime during the 2020's. Developing the spacecraft is a monumental undertaking and I am amazed that a private company may be able to put it all together to get us there with potentially hundreds of people and a lot of cargo. But what do they do when they get there? Spacex may develop the transportation but there is a lot more new technology needed once we get there to support these people such as habitats, food farms, power plants, water and atmosphere generators, recycling systems, and a whole litany of other technologies to support the residents. The transporter design that Elon Musk presented was merely a shell. I suspect Spacex will spend all their development time and resources filling in the interior with all the vital systems needed to get there. Other innovators will need to step up to develop the infrastructure needed for the Mars village.

I know that NASA is working on various technologies, but I think none intended to support several astronauts for a short stay. Some companies are working on some aspects of a permanent settlement, such as Bigelow inflatable habitats, but I suspect there are many missing teeth in developing the necessary systems. So I have several related questions:

What organizations,companies, or research groups are working on major subsystems needed for a Mars village that readers on this site are aware of?

Are there any emerging organizations/leaders who can potentially coordinate the efforts of the many focused technology efforts to build a community consistent with scale or Spacex's transport plan?

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    $\begingroup$ It seems very unlikely that the first wave of Mars transports in the 2020s will be carrying colonists. More likely, a relatively small number of workers will be sent along with a lot of construction materials, supplies, and equipment to build habitats for future arrivals, and I expect that they will come home on the next transfer window until the infrastructure reaches a sustainable level of progress. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Sep 30 '16 at 2:14
  • $\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove I agree. What I am asking about is what groups/individuals are planning the components that they will assemble and who can take leadership in coordinating all of their efforts. $\endgroup$ – Ashlar Sep 30 '16 at 13:59
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As a Mars enthusiast, aware of the current affairs in space, I asked that very same question to myself.

The short answer is there are a few groups involved, and show potential, but still lack in expertise, willingness, or capability to step up and lead this on a large scale as you have asked. As a civilization, we have done little in terms of solving the challenges of colonizing Mars so far, and people are just starting to understand the situation.

Here are a few close candidates:

  • SpaceX: A great company that would be able to come up with designs if they had the resources. Right now they have no room in the budget for including a martian base within the scope of their design. Currently the ITS is only 5% of their resources, if they even wanted to pursue it.

  • NASA: Solid at the logistics of space programs. Potentially in the future, however it isn't currently part of their plans for Mars. Also, there are restrictions on funding due to being a government body.

  • Mars One: A small and passionate group who hopes to colonize Mars. While they have the desire to make it happen, currently they seem to be more of an astronaut selection company dealing with finding suitable colonists. They do not have detailed plans of their colony design, prototypes, or strong financial backing.

  • Mars Society: An organization with a simulated desert and Arctic base. It isn't a commercial enterprise, but a leader thus far in colony simulations.

There are very few organizations working on colonizing Mars. This is why it is so important to raise awareness of the fact we're going there in a few years. The challenges need to be sorted out as soon as possible for us to have better chances of survival . Companies need to start developing the technology to sustain a colony, because there are many challenges we are going to face living there.

The good news in all this is that there are now more student initiatives than ever pertaining to a Mars colony. For universities there are design team challenges such as R.A.S.C.A.L - which the upcoming project is on designing an airlock. As well, there is a new Mars City Design competition.

I realized that there are not many companies out there focused on bringing a Mars Colony into existence. This is why I created a new engineering team at my university called UBC Mars Colony. We need to show the world Mars is happening, and that we must solve the challenges of tomorrow - today. Even though we're only a group of 40 students, if we can show the world it's not that difficult to make an airlock, biosphere, or recycling system, then people will be motivated to make it happen for real.

Tl;DR There are no perfect leaders currently involved in establishing a Martian Colony. SpaceX or NASA would be ideal, however they are busy in other projects with tight budgets. Mars One is idealistic, but so far hasn't performed to their own expectations. The Mars Society is a good mix of both research and development, but the challenges will be making this on a larger scale. People need to start making a difference themselves, with companies developing the technology if they want to see a future on the Red Planet.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good research, upvoting :) $\endgroup$ – kubanczyk Oct 27 '16 at 9:57

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