Life on Mars

In October, an international cohort of thinkers beamed into the virtual 2021 conference of the Mars Society, which has advocated colonizing the planet since 1998.

In an age of low-cost rocket launches and Shatner space jaunts, it was a sign of how attainable the possibility of reaching Mars suddenly seems that the discussions were often about mundane logistics. How would criminals be jailed? What would safe sex mean in a low-gravity, low-oxygen environment? Should Mars have a Catholic diocese?

For many people, putting boots on the dusty Martian soil, or regolith, feels closer than ever, or at least as close as something requiring a six-month, 140 million-mile flight can. Both NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX have said they’re aiming for a human touchdown on Mars within the next two decades. That’s led a growing group of urban planners, architects, designers, astrophysicists, entrepreneurs, and philosophers to start rolling out renderings of what Martian cities and homes could be like.

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