I was just wondering to myself "If Human colonization is possible on the Moon , will Mars be colonised in the near future?" The two primary documents regarding legal niceties on the Moon and often mentioned are:

According to the outer Space Treaty of 1967, which according to Wikipedia is essentially ratified by any country with a chance of getting there. Also, Mars is the focus of much speculation and serious study about possible human colonization. Its surface conditions and the likely availability of water make it arguably the most hospitable of the planets, other than Earth, it also requires less energy per unit mass to reach from Earth than any other planet apart from Venus, according to Wikipedia.

So, will human colonisation commence on Mars in the (somewhat) near future?


3 Answers 3


This has to be answered with speculation, because it comes down to a question of will. We have the technology to colonize the Moon, or Mars, or actually Venus as well (by placing floating habitats in the atmosphere). The issue is expense and motivation.

Once Heavy Lift vehicles again exist, sometime in the 2020s, we shall see what the market is inclined to do with them. NASA's SLS rockets and/or SpaceX's Falcon Super Heavy rockets are needed to even begin considering creation of off-world colonies. The SLS rockets would be capable of landing about 20 tons of payload on the Moon. The capacity of the Falcon Super Heavy is not yet clear.

There is no financial profit in going to Mars. SpaceX may be able to fund an expedition anyhow, out of their own pockets with the long-term hope of breaking even. See What is the largest hurdle of the mission to Mars? for extensive commentary on this. Colonizing Mars has to be entirely justified as something with sufficient merit in itself, and that is the argument SpaceX CEO Elon Musk makes - it would protect the human race against extinction in the event of catastrophe on Earth.

The long-term profitability of a colony on the Moon is probable. The approach would be media and tourism. This has not been explored formally as far as I know, however the entertainment industry in US$ is close to 2 trillion and tourism is over 1 trillion. Annual revenues sufficient to support development of a Moon colony is highly debatable, however something under 1% of this combined market should do nicely. The environment of the Moon offers ample possibilities for highly entertaining broadcast or film productions, and has obvious appeal as a destination for the super rich. It is only 3 days away at any time, and signals reach Earth from there in under 2 seconds. Neither Mars nor Venus could support such businesses, but the Moon can. The Moon would also be very useful in the development of other bases in the Earth-Moon system, such as space stations and fuel depots at the Lagrange points or in orbit around either body. Over the very long term, the Moon would be a hub for traffic around the solar system.

  • $\begingroup$ I take issue with "We have the technology to colonize the Moon, or Mars, or actually Venus." Also, there is plenty of profit to be made in space. The energy alone available in GEO via solar power could easily fund most of what anyone might dream of doing in the near term in space. All that is needed is the tech to beam it down in large quantities. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jan 8, 2015 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik What technology would you say is missing? $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Jan 8, 2015 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Erik I agree there is tremendous profit potential in space, but all such projects take many years to turn a profit. Outside of the Earth Moon system, though, i have my doubts. Asteroid mining, yes, planetary settlements, no. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Jan 8, 2015 at 23:53
  • $\begingroup$ I think if you had solar dynamic generators, rectennas, and heavy lift you could open up the solar system. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jan 9, 2015 at 1:14
  • $\begingroup$ Your entertainment industry numbers are global, not US. So are the tourism numbers. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Jan 9, 2015 at 6:51

There is a project called Mars One that is trying to start the process of colonizing Mars. However they need to raise fairly large amounts of money and have not. They have not built any hardware (They do plan to rely on commercial providers where possible).

Beyond that Elon Musk of SpaceX has repeatedly said that his goal with SpaceX is to colonize Mars. He is demonstrably farthest along for several reasons.

  1. He has capital to fund at least some of it personally. (Tesla valuation puts him in the $10 billion range). He HAS used his personal capital to save both Tesla and SpaceX when they needed it, in the several hundred million dollar range.
  2. He has a valid business model making money (SpaceX and satellite launch) working in the right direction.
  3. He has a space related company building relevant hardware needed to colonize Mars. They have a seemingly reasonable plan to move forward. They are developing an engine (Raptor) and eventually a booster.
  4. He has a record of success.
  • $\begingroup$ I am a huge supporter of SpaceX and Elon Musk. Having said that, his business entirely relies on government contracts at the moment. Until someone finds an economic reason to go to Mars, it will not happen. Until then Martian voyages will be limited to (very) small-scale scientific missions. The fastest way to make a millionaire is to get a billionaire interested in spaceflight. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jan 8, 2015 at 21:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @erik "Entirely Reliant on government contracts" is demonstrably false. They have 40 some odd flight contracts on the manifest, of which only 7 more are government funded. (CRS missions.) Sure CRS pays well. But it is a development contract, CRS-2 will have to be cheaper to NASA. Commercial Crew is a nice contract they got, but still they have a large commercial backlog. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jan 8, 2015 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ We aren't talking about satellite launches here -- we are talking about manned and/or planetary missions. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Jan 8, 2015 at 21:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Erik You said "his business entirely relies on government contracts at the moment" now you say "We aren't talking about satellite launches here". By that very narrow definition, sure NASA is mostly funding his manned space program. But NASA is not funding Raptor or BFR or MCT development. Their general revenues are funding their general development work. When you look at the companies revenue stream, NASA Is a major customer, but not majority. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jan 8, 2015 at 21:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Erik Agreed 6 billion won't get you very far. But my point in the answer is that their 6 billion is pretty close to 6 billion dollars more than anyone else. Not saying they will succeed, but they are clearly farther ahead than anyone else. $\endgroup$
    – geoffc
    Jan 8, 2015 at 21:51

"If Human colonization is possible on the Moon , will Mars be colonised in the near future?"

If you made an expedition to Sahara (the Moon), then you'll probably learn many things about operations and such which is useful in order to make an expedition to the Antarctic (Mars) next. But I think you'd have to redevelop almost all of your equipment from scratch, at least:

Transfer spacecraft - because of 100:1 travel time Mars:Moon.

Landing system - Mars has an atmosphere and twice the gravity.

Surface habitat - temperature variations are smaller on Mars. Gravity load differs by a factor of 2.

Energy (solar) - the Moon has 14½ Earth day long nights. Mars surface has about 1/3 the solar intensity per square meter.

Communication - from the Moon, Earth is always in sight and 1½ radio second away. But Mars is on average about 1,000 times further away and rotates to hide line of sight.

Resources on site - Primarily water on the Moon, primarily methane from the CO2 atmosphere on Mars. That's fuel for two different rocket engines or surface power plants.

Self-sufficiency - a Moon mission can be recalled to Earth, or resupplied if prepared, within a few days. That takes up to 2 years for Mars. Real-time remote control is available from Earth to the Moon.

Setting up an infrastructure for going to the Moon would make it cheaper and more useful to go to the Moon again. The cliff between going to the Moon or going to Mars, in the eye of the commercial/settlement people, would increase with every new investment in the Lunar infrastructure. While it would facilitate going to Mars, it would facilitate returning to the Moon even more in the early stages. On the other hand, if science and enthusiasm takes the upper hand, then the opposite effect would dominate and the relatively lesser known Mars would become more and more attractive and valuable. We'll see where the money is, I think I know ;-)


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