Becoming Martians: NASA’s 25-year Plan for Humans to Inhabit the Red Planet

Mars in opposition. [(Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute) ]

NPC  Newsmaker Event
Date: November 13, 2018
Time: 10:00 a.m. EST
Location: Bloomberg Room

This event is open only to members of The National Press Club and credentialed press.

WASHINGTON (National Press Club PR) — Humans are on the precipice of becoming an interplanetary species. We earthlings are on our way to becoming Martians. In fact, the future Martians are here on Earth now, training for Mars missions using new technological developments following a strict timeline that will get us there within 25 years.

At 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 13 the National Press Club will host a Headliners press conference featuring four presenters directly responsible for creating and implementing elements of a mission to Mars and serving a new vision of mankind as a visitor – then resident – of the red planet.

Once limited to the imaginations of sci-fi enthusiasts, NASA now has mission-specific technology in development, and a hard deadline for humans landing on Mars following a series of robot landers that have mapped out the terrain and other features of what could soon be our new world – the latest is InSight, scheduled to land on Mars on November 26, and drill deeply into the Martian soil to deliver clues about the planet’s core and interior structure.

Presenters will include:

  • Astronaut Tom Jones, a former B-52 U.S. Air Force, space resource researcher, NASA space shuttle mission specialist and payload commander for four space shuttle flights, who has logged over 52 days (1,272 hours) in space, including 3 space walks totaling over 19 hours.
  • James Garvin, chief scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who also served as chief scientist for Mars exploration from 2000 until 2004 and spearheaded the development of the scientific strategy that led NASA to select such missions as the Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix polar lander, and the Mars Science Laboratory.
  • Richard Davis, assistant director for science and exploration, and executive secretary of the International Mars Exploration Working Group – Planetary Science Division Science Mission Directorate for NASA, who co-leads a science mission directorate study to begin the process of identifying potential human landing sites on Mars.
  • Finally, adding background about the human side of being an interplanetary species for the humans likely to be the first residents of Mars will be Janet Ivey, creator of a children’s science series, Janet’s Planet, and a member of the Board of Governors for the National Space Society.

The press conference will be held in the Bloomberg Room of the National Press Club, located at 529 14th Street, NW, 13th floor. This news conference is open to credentialed media and members of the National Press Club free of charge, however registration is required.

  • Robert G. Oler


  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I’d argue not. Pioneers don’t always dominate. Space X and Blue Origin will probably pave the way for the first operating bases on the Moon and Mars, however they’ll need business from anyone who can pay who wants to play the same game, and governments will be players with money and staying power. Getting there first, is essential, but being there last is ownership.

  • Robert G. Oler

    getting there is the least of the problem. the reality is that at least on Mars there is no economic system imagineable now that keeps us there

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Even the development of the US frontier was based on con-jobs, flash in the pan economics (1849 gold rush as an example, mineral boom towns all over the West as another.), sketchy funding models (Rail Roads), and outright lies (the farming manuals written to convince farmers to leave the East Coast or the Ohio Valley to go farm in the new lands West.). On top of all that human wreckage functional economies eventually emerge. We’ve already even seen a proposed funding model to get immigrants to Mars. Sell everything you own on Earth, give that money to Space X for passage to Mars, and then make it work. What can go wrong with that?

  • Robert G. Oler

    We’ve already even seen a proposed funding model to get immigrants to
    Mars. Sell everything you own on Earth, give that money to Space X for
    passage to Mars, and then make it work. What can go wrong with that?
    Mars will be a paradise for psycho and socio-paths.”


    I think a functional space economy for humans will emerge, what I am unclear about is how extensive it is.

    It is starting to strike me that the “look” of it is at best Alaska and at worse ‘the ocean” …so either a very small (compared to the totality of humans) permanent presence…or none at all ie its all temporary (OK discounting pacific islands here)

    I no longer see “massive numbers” (at least in the 100 year cycle) in large measure because life will be so darned hard and different in space than what is the norm for industrial developed civilizations here

    take Mars for instance. Mars is a fiction dream. from Robinson Cursoe on Mars to the Martian (or what was the latest guy alone who survives anyway movie) or even the nat geo series.

    while there are some dangers they are always negated by “miracles”. Commander Draper was on a Mars where well you could live without spacesuits. Mark Watney was on Mars where duct tape and a clear tarp solved everything. the nat geo thing has miracle space suits that are easy to get on, never fail and very tough

    If Mars were as easy as Chris Draper found it,….we would be there. or some of us would. its about like living in Equador on a really high mountain.

    Musk? I wish I knew him better (I’ve only met him twice and than briefly) but a good friend who has worked with him (my friend works for another company) on space issues defines him more or less as Lawarence of Arabia was pictured in the great movie …a guy who really believes to the point that the reality of the situation just doesnt exist

    he truly believes that people can someday sell all their stuff and be a plumber on Mars

    where is RAH? 🙂

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I think the Norwegians came up with a real world solution to the questions you raise in Svalbard. It’s a good history to read, one that I find easy to believe will be repeated on Mars, and came to a well functional solution. With one caviet. The Norwegians have turned off private property rights in practice with the declaration of nature preserves, and on Mars I think you’ll need property rights. Actually, I think you need INDIVIDUAL property and tool requirements, but that’s a long exchange for another day. I’m just saying give a good look at the history of Svalbard, I think you’ll find it a interesting experiment from the 20th cen.

  • Robert G. Oler

    its a fascinating place. A group I am a part of is on a kind of mission to install Amateur radio packet, ABS air traffic control monitoring, weather stations and a few other things that are nearly totally self contained (ie power etc) at remote locations around the world. and Svalbard is one of them. We have the entire shipping container near one of the old sky hook lines with the antennas/etc mounted on it… (we also have one on Wake and a few other islands, the south pole etc)

    the problem is that the money to do all this is “not a lot” compared to what works on say Mars. I see a earth lunar economy I dont see one on Mars…but then again that is at least 50 years in the future 🙂

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I don’t disagree. To you and me an additional 50 or even 70 years seems like an eternity. To history, it’s nothing. Look at how easy it is to mash together Plymouth Rock and 1750’s Boston. However, the gap between the types of people is a chasm, and it’s a chasm again from the 1750’s to the 1770’s. There might be a ‘huge gap’ between Lunar and Martian development. Give it a few generations after both colonies are going, and subsequent generations will look back at them as being simultaneous.

  • mike shupp

    I’ve been thinking the last decade or so that large populations in outer
    space aren’t especially likely. We don’t need large hierarchial
    socities with a hundred or a thousand muck-dwelling inferior souls who
    live and die to provide each proper aristocrat with an adequate income.

    not going to need say 200 million low income farmers on Mars to support
    10 million priests and scientists and aristocrats; we won’t need 50
    million coal miners where nuclear power plants are available; we won’t
    need whalers when all the fish swim in hydroponic
    tanks supervised by Ph. D.s; there’ll be more robots than apprentices and journeymen at
    sites. We won’t need school teachers when children are scarce and
    computerized instruction really gets good and cheap or home schooling
    has become
    routinized, nor administrators, nor elected school
    boards, nor janitors, nor basketball coaches, nor crossing guards, nor
    armed patrols to protect the kids against crazies — and for a long
    while the instructional programs can be imported from Earth to run on
    Earth-designed computers using Earth-written operating systems.

    with a small population, maybe we can skip over much of the initial
    stages of industrialization. Maybe a country with 300 million people
    needs a dozen factories where 30
    million auto engines are built each
    year; a world with 3000 people can possibly get by half a dozen
    garage-sized companies using 3D manufacturing to produce one engine a
    week. More expensive engines, no doubt, but perhaps with fewer duds.

    course this suggests Outer Space as an elitist preserve. There’ll be
    room for novelists and painters and composers of music annd
    entrepreneurs and scientists and lawyers and physicians, And likely
    decorative but unpproductive trophy wives and boyfriends. But no space
    for the common people who set type and run printing presses and drive
    trucks full of books to stores or Amazon distribution centers. No
    cleaning ladies working late at night in tall buildings holding offices.
    No pistol carrying security guards standing in bank lobbies in a world
    where all the fund transfers are electronic. No standing armies where
    few soldiers can be supported to wait in readiness. No health insurance
    agents in societies which which do not tolerate wide spread illnesses
    in the lower classes. No office managers (invariably male, middle aged)
    to supervise roomfuls of busy clerks (young and female). No visible
    sales staff in a realm of online shopping. But all the village priests
    will be archbishops!

    Socieities would be different, but maybe
    familiar at the same time. Think of early to mid Victorian England, in
    the upper and “middle” classes, just as we’ve all seen it on television.
    Well to do people, busy, self-important, sociable, often eccentric,
    future-oriented …. It’s Masterpiece Theatre — afater we subtract the
    distractions, like scullery maids and footmen and sheepsteaders and
    tradesmen chimney sweeps and factory hands and the ill-clad
    unemployable poor waiting at the piers for the ships that would take
    them as emigrants to Australia or Africa or the New World…

    My guess is, after a century or so, space colonists and Earthlings
    might not see eye to eye on a lot of issues. Wonder if there might be
    consequences …

  • ThomasLMatula

    SpaceX may need to have a paying customer, but Blue Origin doesn’t. Jeff Bezos has the money to build a retirement home on the if he wishes. More likely he will explore how best to industrialize for building space settlements.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Free markets often result in booms and busts, but just compare that to the state controlled settlement of Siberia starting with the Czars and continuing to the present day. Space will be no different, but then we have already seen that with the numerous space launch businesses.

    But as Eric D. Beinhocker points out in “The Origin of Wealth” that explores the application of systems evolutionary theory to economics that is why free market economies are successful in the long run. Different folks start firms, or as on the frontier, settlements. Some succeed, many fail, but overall a sufficient number take hold to develop a region.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Sounds like you have been reading Isaac Asimov’s robots series and are describing the Spacer worlds like Aurora. Space will be different than Earth and the filter determining who makes it or not will be much higher, Indeed, the closest analogy is probably Alaska/Beringia 20,000 years ago or Australia about 50,000 years ago. But you are right in that many thousands of the job categories that exist on Earth won’t be needed.

  • ThomasLMatula

    That may well be what happens to Mars if life is found there. its why I see the Moon, asteroids and outer planetary systems as the prime real estate in the Solar System.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I agree, but I’ll put it another way. We have such a weak handle on how to really do it, we need to use a shotgun style approach not knowing what will take and what will not. It has a similar conclusion to ‘What shall be done?”, but instead of saying the process is good and moral, I say it’s horrible, but the best we have.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I am not sure there is a spark to set it off

  • Robert G. Oler

    he doesnt have near enough money

  • Robert G. Oler

    there is more likely life on the moons of Saturn than on Mars

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I don’t totally disagree, but Musk does, and so do a lot of other people, they might make it work. Love him, or hate him, he’s a Columbus, he’s more than a Columbus, he’s a real industrialist. People like him might not be the best agents of history, but people like him are agents of history. People like you and me keep the machinery running and do it well, but that’s not the same as starting something new from scratch. That’s a very difficult proposition.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Musk is not Columbus…

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Look beyond the legend … from an industrial and institutional point of view he’s done more than Columbus. We don’t know how well the effects of SpaceX and Tesla will stick as individual institutions, but in the long term Musk’s assembled influences on space launch, ground transport, energy storage, and generation are going to be felt for a long time even if Tesla, and Space X went out of business today. If they do open up the Moon and/or Mars, you can better bet Musk will be remembered as a Columbus even in legend.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    Old Alaska/ Australia if our space settlers struggle. But if it goes easy and they really start to hit it off, look for rampant elitism to form. Aurora you say, I’m thinking Solaria.

  • windbourne

    Uh, no

  • windbourne

    No. At this moment, musk is more the Vikings that went centuries before Columbus.

  • windbourne

    SX will have multiple billions in yearly revenue in another 4-5 years.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, but remember, Saturn has well over 60 known moons, so the 2-3 that may have conditions for life will be not be critical to settlement of the system.

  • Robert G. Oler

    well we have a different viewpoint of Columbus I guess

    Columbus was not looking for a new world or new lands, he was looking for a trade route to the “old world” that had advantages over the one that currently was in use, ie the trip around Africa.

    What is impressive about “him” is that he reasoned out that the basic science of the day had become corrupted by religious myth and was in fact wrong. Ie that he was not dealing with a plate but with a sphere. His mistake of course is that he vastly underestimated the radius of the globe…even though there was plenty of science for real to tell him that he had done that.

    He was lucky he ran into “the new world” or he would have simply run out of food/water and all the other essentials and vanished into nothingness

    Columbus left port looking for riches…it took him quite a bit to figure out that he had not found a new way to the old world, but a new world. and then he spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make a buck there.

    as I said I wish I knew musk better to figure out what I think he really is doing.

    But Musk world seems to be divided up into two parts.

    the first is some rather, to me at least out of the box thinking in terms of modern technology and methods to try and create a new product (rockets) that can at least get him into the game in terms of being a launch provider and

    the second is some rather mystic theory that somehow he can lever this into colonizing Mars just by the notion that he has created very low cost lift to space

    its all great until one realizes that 1) he so far at least has not broken the “sound barrier” in terms of cost of lift to space and 2) its not cost of lift to space alone that is stopping Mars settlement.

    none of this is like Columbus

  • Robert G. Oler

    really? does he have a long boat? does he have Greenland?

  • Robert G. Oler

    wow…so you assume all those things work… lol

  • ThomasLMatula

    Your thinking of NASA and old space costs of development. Blue Origin isn’t burden with those legacy costs and legacy approaches to doing things. Neither is SpaceX and the revenue streams from Tesla and Starlink will cover lunar industrialization investments.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Neither is SpaceX and the revenue streams from Tesla and Starlink will cover lunar industrialization investments”

    none of that makes any sense to me.

    the cost to do Starlink are going to preclude taking any substantial capital away from it for at least a decade…because doing it is going to cost a lot of money even on Musk dollars and Musk is going to be stuck trying to recoup that money from whatever profits are made. and its unclear that the effort is profitable period

    the same argument was always used for Falcon…ie as soon as we get it we get cheap access to space , ie at a cost factor far below the norm…and that has not happened. the argument “now” is that Musk cannot lower the price on F9 and FH because he has to repay the cost of making it re (furbishable or usable take your pick)

    although no one has a clue how much money it cost or is costing to get the F9 or FH first stages to the point we are at now…ie at least two uses.

    with Musk its always “the next project” is the one that generates the money that he is going to invest in this or that industrialization efforts

    BUT and I have said this for awhile…what efforts is he going to plough his money into? what product is he going to invest and sink capital into getting from the Moon(or Mars or whevever) and bring it back to earth and make money from?

  • windbourne

    spot on.
    SX and BO should talk to Bigelow about putting a base on the moon ASAP.
    BO will be ready in 2020.
    Obviously Falcon H is ready now.

  • windbourne

    I would say that he has the long board with F9/H. And he can grab America by putting a base on the moon.

  • windbourne

    musk is now the cheapest launcher, not by a little, but cutting it down to 25-10% of what others do. He continues to keep the price up so as to pay for things. And yet, you knock him for not cutting it down for others.

    As to starlink, the true cost of that, is NOT the sats, but the launches. Since SX owns the launchers and can drop the price down to cost. That likely means some 20M for an FH. Divide that by 64-100, and each $200-312K. So, each sat will likely cost less than 1M to put up there. As such, the network will costs between $2-12B.
    What you missed in this is that each sat will also carry other instruments, with the US DoD being the biggest buyer of these.
    He will get paid on each say by carrying data, but also by these side items.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I see much the same you do in Columbus. On the Mars front, if launch were free, we still would not be going to Mars NOW, or later. He, reflects the magical thinking that is fostered in the libertarian and entrepreneur community. Their hearts are in the right place …. sometimes.

    Why I like Musk. His attack on launch costs are quite real, have staying power and was the first in depth EELV effort to really cut launch costs. Atlas V and Delta IV came in at similar costs as Atlas III and Titan IV. He broke the business practice of outsourcing and subcontracting. He showed that owning your own means of production makes for a better business model than being a management shop and outsourcing to external shops that bid to the lowest contract cost. He broke the trend of foreign launch providers taking business from American launch providers. He put the Americans firmly back in control to a degree not seen since the 1970’s.

    Looking at my metrics, the comparison to Columbus is apples to oranges. Columbus was not an industrialist, Musk is. So by my measure, Musk is actually more impressive than Columbus. However, he has yet to open a ‘new world’. I’ll agree with you on that for now. If anyone is going to do it, Musk or Bezos will do it, and they’re both own the industrial base with which to do it it. They won’t be beggars like Columbus using someone else’s ships.

  • duheagle

    If you’re looking for something that requires being brought back to Earth to make money, you’re going to be looking a very long time. The point of extraterrestrial human settlement – whether on natural bodies or in manufactured habitats of whatever size – is to expand the entirety of the human economy into the Solar System. The only nations for which external trade outweighs internal trade are very small.

  • Robert G. Oler

    there is no economic expansion if the expansion does not grow the economy that spawned it

  • Robert G. Oler

    . He continues to keep the price up so as to pay for things.”

    that is what is claimed. I see no evidence one way or the other to support it (or not) BUT the point is that as long as prices stay high, there will be no expansion of the users of his products

    “As to starlink, the true cost of that, is NOT the sats, but the
    launches. Since SX owns the launchers and can drop the price down to
    cost. That likely means some 20M for an FH.”

    you can believe that. I dont.

    the true cost of Starlink is in no order 1) the satellites, 2) putting them in orbit and 3) the ground infrastructure the thing requires. there is no evidence that any of this makes money

  • Robert G. Oler

    what I like about Musk is that he has challenged the status quo

    what I am uncomfortable with…is that I am not sure that he has a grip on how “really” successful or not he has been

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    But isn’t that’s how leaders who base their leadership goals on their individual will work? At least in my observation. I would say your pro and con observations go hand and hand with Musk style ‘great man’ leadership. There’s a whole class of ‘great man’ followers out in humanity seeking them out who get emotionally worked up when they don’t find them, and then get emotionally worked up when they do. It’s a gift to the species from nature.