Journey to the first colony on the red planet

The year 2100. It has been sixty years since the first manned human missions left for Mars. The first city of the red planet, In the world, has been making its way between the rocks of the cliff of ‘Tempe Mensa’ until becoming the first extraterrestrial colony of humanity. The records already speak of one million Martian inhabitants. Most are immigrants from Earth. Many others, children of the red planet. Their lives could seem surprisingly normal. But hundreds of millions of miles from the ‘blue marble’, civilization arises on radically different pillars. Everything has to change for life to continue as usual. Thus begins his story.

Yes back to the year 2020, remembered in the future as the year the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down, Nüwa’s first sketches they began to take shape during the fateful months of confinement. Locked up in their homes, several researchers then began to imagine what the first human settlements outside the Earth. “The next time we set foot in another world, we have to do it sustainably,” agreed the members of the Sustainable Offworld Network (SONet).

Your idea of ​​a martian city it was built from the ground up taking into account scientific, architectural, economic, social and human aspects. The project was selected among the 10 finalists in the Mars Society competition. And, from there, the eternal dream of conquering borders beyond Earth finally took off.


Designing a city on Mars is not only a challenge for the imagination, but it also challenges our gaze on Earth. “You have to think, on the one hand, in the physical concept of the city. And, on the other, in the needs of the people,” he explains. Guillem Anglada-Escudé, one of the founders of the project and scientist at the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC-CSIC). “We are not thinking of planting a flag and that’s it. We are raising a sustainable development model long term, “he adds.

The project is the following. The foundations of the Martian city of Nüwa, which takes its name from the Chinese goddess who created mankind, should be carved out of the rock to protect the inhabitants from the extreme temperatures of the planet (where the average is -55 degrees), an atmosphere with hardly any oxygen and the intense solar radiation. On the cliff face, the living quarters and offices would be built. And in the valley, the leisure areas sheltered under transparent domes. This is how they would build five urban centers of 200,000 inhabitants each, until reaching one million Martians.

The goal is to build a colony of one million inhabitants

The design of this extraterrestrial city is also accompanied by a model of economic and social development. The idea, explain its creators, is that the ‘Martian state’ covers the basic needs of its inhabitants, such as the home, food and basic services. From there, citizens should dedicate a part of their time to projects aimed at the common good and the maintenance of the colony. And another, to activities of your liking. If the model generates surpluses, the Martians will be able to keep a portion. From there, the foundations of the circular economy on the red planet.


“On Mars we are going to need a cohesive and supportive society. Individualism does not work on such a hostile planet, “he reflects. Miquel Sureda, founder of Nüwa and aerospace engineer at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC). Las first manned missions to Mars, predicts, They will be made up of the scientific and technical personnel who begin to prepare the settlement. “But over time, the colonies will also need doctors, teachers and artists,” he argues.

He ‘human factor’ It is, in fact, one of the main stumbling blocks facing space exploration today. Because the technology to go to Mars is more or less ready (or will be in the next few years). It remains to be seen if humans would physically and psychologically support life on another planet. “If the same process is followed that occurs now with astronauts, people in good physical condition will be selected who, in addition, are mentally prepared to live in a hostile and distant environment,” says Sureda. “But the day will come when native inhabitants are born, the true Martians, and then the challenges will be different,” he adds.

The first Martian inhabitants will have to be scientists, but over time other profiles will be needed

The future of Mars will also be built in schools. Martian children will not have subjects as such, but will they must learn to find their lives. “Instead of focusing on encyclopedic knowledge, students should learn to use available resources to adapt quickly to innovations“emphasizes Nüwa’s educational plan. Universities, designed for young people and adults, will be a place to learn specific technical skills. How to design robots, program artificial intelligence algorithms and build solar panels.


In Nüwa everything is thought out. Even the food. The Martian menu should include terrestrial fruit and vegetables kilometer zero grown on Mars. But also some ‘delicatessens’ like algae, insects and synthetic meat. “We have to think about a more efficient food system,” he argues. Gisela detrell, Head of Life Support Systems at Nüwa and researcher at the Institute of Space Systems at the University of Stuttgart (Germany). So no agriculture, cattle ranching or extensive fishing in space. “It is an unsustainable model”, defends the scientist.

Many of the habitable spaces of Nüwa would be excavated between the rocks, to protect the inhabitants of the hostile climate of Mars / ABIBOO Studio / SONet (Gonzalo Rojas / Sebastián Rodriguez)

“The main challenge when planning an alien settlement is quantify all the resources necessary for life. Here on Earth we take many things for granted, but on Mars we will have to start from scratch, “explains Detrell. 10,000 tons of water per day, 1,500 food Y 40 million kilowatts to support a million Martian inhabitants. And that without taking into account the additional needs of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and leisure areas …

The Martians’ menu will include algae, insects and synthetic meat

Life in Nüwa would move forward thanks to a combination of solar and nuclear energy. The cities would be built with local mineral resources. And even tools would be developed to convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into useful materials for the colony. All this, minimizing costs and avoiding waste as much as possible.


At this point, many may be wondering what is the use of imagining a life on Mars if we are still stuck on Earth. The creators of Nüwa have it clear. “Is a reflection exercise which also serves to put into perspective some of the challenges we face today in our own world “, they argue as a conclusion to their project. The life plan for the red planet, in fact, has a lot to do with the proposals that today they are launched for cope with the climate crisis. “It is not about fleeing from Earth, but about starting to think about how we can achieve a better planet,” reflects Detrell.

Imagining what life will be like outside of Earth helps to see the problems of the planet in perspective

Imagining what life could be like beyond Earth is also part of the human spirit. So in the long term, if extra-planetary human missions are successful, these kinds of projects could lay the groundwork for future extraterrestrial colonies. “You have to think about scientific, technical and social aspects from now on. Open horizons. Imagine what type of company we want to export to other planets “, argues, dreamer, Sureda.

Nüwa would have several green spaces located in the common areas of the Martian metropolis / ABIBOO Studio / SONet (Gonzalo Rojas / Sebastián Rodriguez)

If the Nüwa project succeeds, the seed of the first Martian city could soon begin to be tested from the earth’s soil. “Someday we might build a simulator to test some of the technologies we plan to bring to Mars, “says Anglada-Escudé. So who knows. The journey to the first Martian colony may start soon on Earth.


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