Mars Colonization Timeline
Predictions are optimistic, but based on more or less realistic evaluation of technological and social progress of humanity. Only the most important and innovative events are mentioned. Timeline is regularly updated taking into account latest developments.
Last update was made on 29th October, 2016.
2010s – The Mars hype is there
2016 – Elon Musk reveals SpaceX plans for the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS, formerly known as Mars Colonial Transporter).
2016 – ESA&Roscosmos’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter enters Mars orbit, but Schiaparelli lander crashes on the surface of Mars.
2018 – NASA’s InSight lander lands on Mars.
2018 – SpaceX’s Red Dragon becomes the first private spacecraft to land on Mars, and the largest overall.
2020s – Preparing for human arrival
2021 – ESA&Roscosmos’s ExoMars rover lands on Mars.
2021 – NASA’s Mars 2020 rover lands on Mars.
2021 – First Chinese orbiter, lander and rover reaches Mars.
2021 – 2nd Red Dragon lands on Mars with a drill and an experimental propellant plant to produce oxygen and methane from Martian atmosphere and soil.
2021 – United Arab Emirates Hope probe enters Mars orbit.
2022 – Two communications satellites are placed in Sun-Earth Lagrangian points L4 and L5 to overcome the problem of periodic communications blackout with spacecrafts temporary behind the Sun.
2022 – The location for SpaceX’s future “Mars Base Alpha” is selected.
2023 – NASA’s next generation (solar electric ion thrusters, broadband laser communications) satellite enters Mars orbit.
2023 – Japan’s Martian Moons Explorer lands on Phobos to collect samples and return them to Earth.
2023 – 3rd Red Dragon lands on Mars with deployable solar panels and In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) system containing a chemical plant to produce water and nitrogen and an improved propellant plant (capable to produce and store liquid methane and oxygen).
2024 – SpaceX’s ITS makes its first unmanned test flight.
2025 – A group of unmanned Red Dragons lands near the selected location of future Mars Base Alpha with an improved ISRU system, deployable solar panels and experimental greenhouse; they are automatically interconnected to make a single system.
2025 – Another Red Dragon lands on Mars to retrieve samples collected by Mars 2020 rover and launch them back to Earth.
2027 – The first unmanned demonstration ITS spaceship “Heart of Gold” lands on Mars near the location of future Mars Base Alpha; basic post-landing procedures are tested, the ship refills itself with propellant (by an upscaled automatic ISRU system) and launches back to Earth.
2029 – Several unmanned ITS spaceships lands at Mars Base Alpha: a backup crew ship (which can serve as a temporary habitat), a cargo ship with ISRU system, small nuclear power reactor and deployable solar panels and a few cargo ships with rovers, miner/tunneling droids and parts for a modular habitat and other equipment.
2029 – Some of modules for NASA’s Mars Base Camp (a manned station orbiting Mars built in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and Boeing) are prepositioned in Mars orbit.
2030s – First human bases on Mars
2031 – 12 SpaceX astronauts aboard an ITS spaceship lands at Mars Base Alpha becoming the first humans on Mars. The first modular habitat is built.
2031 – 6 astronauts aboard the Mars Base Camp reaches Mars orbit; first human missions to Phobos and Deimos.
2033 – NASA’s Mars Base Camp leaves Mars orbit to come back to Earth.
2033 – Half of SpaceX’s 1st crew leaves Mars but the other half stays to maintain Mars Base Alpha and become the first permanent human colonists on Mars.
2033 – 2nd SpaceX’s crew of ~30 astronauts aboard an ITS spaceship lands at Mars Base Alpha. A hydroponic greenhouse with artificial lighting is built to provide Mars Base Alpha with locally grown vegan food. “The Mars Society” establishes its first chapter on Mars 🙂
2033 – First unmanned landers lands at the chosen location of NASA’s Mars Surface Field Station a few thousand miles from Mars Base Alpha.
2033 – Blue Origin’s unmanned landers for its Blue Mars base lands on Mars several hundred miles from Mars Base Alpha.
2035 – First full-crew ITS spaceship with 100 human colonists and workers lands at Mars Base Alpha.
2036 – 1st Blue Origin’s astronaut crew lands at Blue Mars base.
2037 – First child is born on Mars at Mars Base Alpha. His voyage to Earth later in his life would be dangerous because of his bones and organs not being fit for Earth’s gravity. Exoskeleton could be the solution.
2037 – Blue Origin’s 1st crew leaves Mars.
2037 – NASA’s Mars Transfer Vehicle with nuclear powered VASIMR engine
reaches Mars in record-breaking time. 6 NASA’s astronauts lands at Mars Surface Field Station.
2037 – Second full-crew ITS spaceship with 100 human colonists and workers lands at Mars Base Alpha, which now has a population of more than 200. Among them is SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk who now takes responsibility for the administration of Mars Base Alpha.
2038 – More powerful modular nuclear power reactor is installed at Mars Base Alpha.
2038 – 2nd Blue Origin’s crew consisting of permanent colonists lands at Blue Mars base.
2038 – Cyanobacteria is introduced into the ISRU processes for Mars Base Alpha.
2038 – A fish farm is built at Mars Base Alpha to provide more diverse local food for the colonists. The greenhouse is vastly expanded.
2039 – Work begins to build a new underground section of Mars Base Alpha with larger habitats and working areas to boost the population capacity of Mars Base Alpha to 1000.
2039 – NASA’s 1st crew leaves Mars.
2040s – When bases grow into colonies
2040 – Two more ITS spaceships with 200 human colonists, workers and some wealthy tourists lands at Mars Base Alpha.
2040 – 3rd Blue Origin’s crew lands at Blue Mars base, which now has a population of ~50.
2041 – The new underground section of Mars Base Alpha is finished. Now the colonists have a lot spacier living and working quarters and the first domed plaza on Mars.
2041 – Cultured meat “farm” is built at Mars Base Alpha, adding meat (although artificial) to the diet of the colonists.
2042 – Virgin Galactic establishes the first luxury hotel at the outskirts of Mars Base Alpha.
2042 – 2nd NASA’s crew of 6 astronauts lands at Mars Surface Field Station.
2042 – Two more ITS spaceships with 200 passengers lands at Mars Base Alpha, which now has a population of more than 500.
2042 – Blue Origin is starting to construct its Mars Orbital Station (a spining station with artificial gravity of 0.38g) to receive/send spaceships from/to Earth and shuttle passengers up and down to Mars surface.
2043 – Several small proxy bases for scientific, mining and other purposes are established within a few tens of miles from Mars Base Alpha.
2043 – A regular transport route between Mars Base Alpha and Blue Mars base is established.
2043 – NASA’s 2nd crew leaves Mars.
2044 – Two more ITS spaceships with 200 passengers lands at Mars Base Alpha.
2044 – Blue Origin’s Mars Orbital Station is constructed and the first shuttle lands at Blue Mars base.
2045 – Large deposit of minerals with high concentration of rare metals is discovered a few hundred miles from Mars Base Alpha. A research Mining Base Beta is established.
2046 – 3rd NASA’s crew of 12 astronauts and scientists lands at Mars Surface Field Station. It is now reorganized into a permanent international scientific research base with scientist crews rotating every Earth-Mars synod (780 days).
2046 – Three more ITS spaceships with 300 passengers lands at Mars Base Alpha bringing a nuclear fusion reactor as well.
2046 – Several more Blue Origin’s shuttles lands at Blue Mars base, boosting its population to more than 200.
2047 – The landing field a few miles from Mars Base Alpha where ITS crew and cargo spaceships has landed and taken off for two decades now is transformed into a small spaceport with pressurized hatchways for both passengers and cargo.
2047 – A regular transport route between Mars Base Alpha and Mining Base Beta is established.
2048 – Four ITS spaceships with 400 passengers lands at Mars Base Alpha and one more with 100 (mostly miners) at the Mining Base Beta. The population of the Mars Base Alpha now surpasses 1000 with 200 more colonists living at nearby proxy bases.
2048 – In a joint effort NASA, ESA, India, Japan, SpaceX and several asteroid mining companies are starting to build the Free Spaceport of Phobos which will serve as a logistics center, way station and fuel depot for manned and unmanned spaceships heading for Mars, Main asteroid belt and beyond.
2048 – 100 more colonists arrive at Blue Mars base.
2049 – A nuclear fusion power station is operational at Mars Base Alpha.
2049 – A new underground section of Mars Base Alpha is finished, boosting its population capacity to 3000.
2050s – From first factory to first domed city
2050 – The ISRU and industrial capabilities of Mars Base Alpha are greatly extended, using the resources harvested in nearby proxy bases. The rover repair factory is upgraded to an actual factory.
2050 – Earth and Mars is the closest ever since the beginning of the colonization. The largest colonization fleet ever arrives at Mars with 1000 colonists landing at Mars Base Alpha and 200 more at Mining Base Beta. Blue Origin’s spaceship fleet with 300 passengers arrives at Mars Orbital Station; the passengers are shuttled down to Blue Mars base, bringing its population to more than 500.
2050 – With China and Russia focusing on the Moon, India is the first Asian superpower to establish its own base on Mars.
2051 – Rail line from Mars Base Alpha to its spaceport is finished.
2052 – The Free Spaceport of Phobos is being finished. Robotic asteroid mining in Main asteroid belt now is rapidly expanding.
2052 – NASA’s human mission to Ceres (flying with a new generation nuclear fusion spaceship) stops at Free Spaceport of Phobos to resupply, drop some scientists at Mars Surface Field Station and take additional crew members from Mars.
2052 – There is a long-term staff of 30 now at NASA’s Mars Surface Field Station with 30 more scientists rotating every one or two Earth-Mars synods.
2052 – 1500 more colonists lands at Mars Base Alpha and Mining Base Beta and 400 more at Blue Mars base. There are now more than 4000 humans permanently or temporarily living on the surface of Mars.
2053 – Around halfway between Mars Base Alpha and Mining Base Beta work begins to build the first domed city on Mars, covering the entire small impact crater a mile across.
2053 – A deuterium separation facility becomes operational at Mars Base Alpha.
2054 – Rail tracks are laid down from the construction site of Dome City to Mars Base Alpha and to industrial complex at Mining Base Beta.
2055 – As more colonists lands at Mars Base Alpha it reaches its population capacity of 3000; temporary habitats are built at the outskirts of Mars Base Alpha, at its proxy bases and Mining Base Beta.
2055 – The population of Blue Mars base surpasses 1000, but Indian Mars colony now has more than 200.
2055 – Using its strong presence on the Moon in its favor, China establishes its first colony on Mars which now is being expanded very fast.
2056 – Dome City’s transparent but radiation-filtering dome is finished and pressurized, covering an area of almost one square mile; its nuclear fusion power station is finished too; workers move in now to construct the buildings and gardens (with such features as artificial waterfalls) below the dome.
2057 – The new generation of SpaceX’s nuclear fusion powered spaceships arrive at the Free Spaceport of Phobos; passengers are shuttled down to the spaceports of Mars Base Alpha and Mining Base Beta. The ITS spaceships are retired from SpaceX fleet after 33 years of successful service and sold to Brazil.
2057 – United Arab Emirates establishes its first base on Mars – the New Dubai.
2058 – Dome City is finished and have a maksimum population capacity of 20’000. More than 3000 move in in the first year mostly from overpopulated Mars Base Alpha and its outskirts.
2058 – Dome City’s spaceport is finished.
2059 – SpaceX’s nuclear spaceships bring more colonists to Dome City.
2059 – First Brazilian ITS spaceship lands at Mars Base Alpha.
2060s – Nuclear fusion spaceships open up Mars
■ Dome City’s population reaches the level you can’t anymore made the decisions by corporate hierarchy or direct democracy only. First city council on Mars is elected.
■ The expanded Free Spaceport of Phobos more and more serves as a space logistics hub not only for colonies on Mars but for mining activities in Main asteroid belt as well. Korea, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia begins participating in the spaceport project.
■ First humans born on Mars travel to Earth using exoskeletons as body-support because of Earths heavier gravity.
■ United Kingdom, Canada and Australia establishes their research base on Mars.
■ Commercial companies from various nations open their branches and operations on Mars.
■ Tourism from Earth is expanding on Mars. Although the trip is still expensive and only the rich can afford it. Besides its high-tech cities and bases Mars can offer spectacular safari rides and if you are really wealthy you can hire some of the guides to take you to the caldera of Olympus Mons, depths of Valles Marineris or other exclusive locations.
■ More and more Brazilian colonists make Mars Base Alpha their new home.
■ Blue Mars is expanded into a second domed city on Mars. A high-speed railway line is built between Dome City and Blue Mars.
■ First measures to terraform Mars are made, spreading cyanobacteria and mathanogens around Mars and powdering Martian polar ice caps with black lichen to reduce their albedo and melt the ice.
■ The Free Spaceport of Phobos is a starting point for NASA’s human mission to Galilean moons of Jupiter.
■ Nuclear fusion powered spaceships (greatly reducing the travel time from Earth and widening the launch window) bring more colonists to Mars than ever before. In 2060s the human population on Mars expands from ~10’000 to more than 50’000 with Dome City alone having 20’000.
2070s – Human outposts spreading past Mars
■ The Free Spaceport of Phobos is the main supply node for human outposts on Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, asteroids in Main asteroid belt and Galilean moons of Jupiter.
■ First automatic halocarbon factories are set up throughout Mars to produce and release in Martian atmosphere super-greenhouse gases and further increase the terraformation processes.
■ Mars Base Alpha is finally sold to Brazil. Thou very few of the original colonists still live there.
■ The old workhorse of human colonization of Mars – the ITS spaceships – are finally retired completely. The oldest of them are 50 years old now.
■ Dome City is expanded with two more domes of similar size and several more smaller ones.
■ There are now 5 domed cities on Mars. All of them are interlinked with high-speed railway lines.
■ The cluster of Indian colonies on Mars are starting to specialize on growing food for human space outposts in Main asteroid belt and beyond, as Mars is the closest object to them with substantial gravity, which is needed for growing crops.
■ The Free Spaceport of Phobos is a starting point for NASA’s human mission to the moons of Saturn (Titan, Enceladus and other).
■ Now almost all of space-faring nations are represented on Mars with a base, a city block or a corporate enterprise.
■ In 2070s the human population on Mars expands from 50’000 to 200’000 with the largest colony – Dome City – having 50’000. Four more cities have a population of more than 15’000.
2080s – Mars gets its self-government
■ First Martian Council, consisting of proportionally drawn representatives from every Martian city and base, is assembled on the principle of self-government. The Council deals with the issues important for all of the Martians (as ongoing terraformation initiatives or building a space elevator) and acts as a representative for Martian population in relations with the corporations and governments of Earth.
■ As space elevators on Earth and on Moon becomes operational; the cost of launching any mass to Mars and elsewhere into space is slashed considerably, greatly speeding up the use of space resources and space colonization.
■ Tourism from Earth is becoming more and more mainstream. Now even a middle-class people can afford a trip to Mars if they save for that.
■ Despite criticism China builds the first prison on Mars. Soon other colonies are quietly sending there their criminals too.
■ More automatic halocarbon factories are set up throughout Mars. The bacterial and lichen coverage around Mars is further increased.
■ Connected base stations for downward and outward space elevators on Phobos
are built; work begins to build both space elevators. The downward elevator will cut short of the upper edge of Mars’s atmosphere with a shuttle platform at its tip. The outward elevator will have several platforms at different points to catch and release payloads (including spaceships) to Earth/Lunar orbit, to Main asteroid belt and to Galilean moons of Jupiter.
■ Work begins to build a large shuttle port at the summit of the Martian volcano practically on the equator – Pavonis Mons – for shuttles heading to and coming from Phobos space elevator.
2090s – The millionth Martian
■ The shuttle port at the summit of Pavonis Mons quickly expands into one of the largest human colonies on Mars – Pavonis City, which is soon connected with other major Martian cities by high-speed railway lines.
■ Establishment of Pavonis City greatly speeds up tourism in some of the most spectacular Martian regions nearby – Tharsis Montes, Olympus Mons, Noctis Labyrinthus and Valles Marineris. Tourist bases and hotels are popping up there fast. One of the high-speed railway lines runs through all the length of Valles Marineris.
■ Almost all colonists have left Mars Base Alpha with its obsolete infrastructure; it is declared now a national heritage site, preserving the 1st human colony on Mars as it was in the middle of 21st century.
■ As air pressure and temperature is slowly increasing in the result of terraformation activities, new human colonies are being set up mainly in the lower regions, particularly Hellas Planitia and Valles Marineris, where the results of terraformation can be felt first.
■ In 2090s the human population on Mars reaches 1 million. Finally Elon Musk’s goal to put 1 million people on Mars is reached.