The Red planet has long intrigued the curiosity of many scientists and astrophysicists since the search for extra-terrestrial life gained momentum. Now there are many organizations like SETI that are eminently involved with research in finding alien life forms on different galaxies and within our solar system as well. But why was Mars considered as the most interesting option for possible extra-terrestrial life among all of the other planets in our solar system? Surely, it was not the red colour!

The data gathered from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission has provided compelling evidence that Mars was habitable in the past and might still be, for the future, under specific environments. The discovery of ice, salts, and potential nutrients at the Phoenix landing site, and orbiters observation of abundant subsurface ice and geologically recent volcanic activity that could have provided water and energy are all indications of life that existed in the past on Mars, and might have survived till present day, which has initiated geological and morphological characterization of underground habitats on the planet where caves might have been formed possibly sheltering microbial life. NASA is seriously considering the idea that caves could be used as a foundation for human habitats on the Moon and Mars. As a result, it is critical to develop the tools and skills to detect them.

Elon Musk, the founder & CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, recently announced his detailed plan to make Mars mission a reality by driving the development and research needed to send an unmanned space craft to the red planet by 2018 and colonists by 2024, thus giving NASA a competition in its own task by a decade! This highly ambitious plan by Musk, raises a lot of concerns among the people regarding laws of governance on mars and the monetary costs associated with such a perilous mission. He estimates that the first colonists will have to pay about $10 billion/person. NASA currently pays $70 million a seat to fly on a Russian spacecraft to the International Space Station. Certain projections predict that it will cost NASA around $100 billion over 30 years to send astronauts back and forth on Mars, some even go as far as $500 billion for the entire trip. To make colonization sustainable Musk says that it will require reducing the cost to $200,000 per person or approximately the median cost of a house in the U.S. This would involve making the rockets highly efficient and reusable along with higher capacity for the journey.  Musk further outlines the details by saying that SpaceX would initially need to build a fleet of about 1,000 ships, carrying 100 people, departing from Earth every 26 months to make the venture economically viable.

Laws of governance on the red planet would be different from those of the earth in certain ways. Experts indicate that Mars would most likely have a direct democracy wherein decisions would be made as a group rather than electing a leader. Certain scientists have proposed establishing national parks on Mars before colonists get there to protect and preserve the land. Other ideas have ranged from taxing Martian settlers on behalf of the nations of Earth, to establishing a United Nations-type of body to help resolve conflict on the red planet. Attempts to outline a basic constitutional rights specific to the desert climate of Mars have been made for example as the right to breathe.  The ownership of Mars as a public or private estate is still up for debate with a lot of people supporting both sides of the picture. According to the 1967, Outer Space Treaty, drafted during the Cold War era and validated by 104 countries, no country can claim or occupy any celestial body and space exploration as well as its use has to benefit all countries. But SpaceX is not a country, so its unclear whether the international law would apply to it, if it landed on Mars. Dennis Hope, the owner of a real estate company called  Lunar Embassy ,  sold parcels of land on the moon and other planets to nearly 4 million people, according to a 2009 National Geographic report. Mr. Hope claims the OST (Outer Space Treaty) doesn’t apply to individuals, though the United Nations says it does.

The moon, Hope told National Geographic at the time, “is just another continent across a different kind of sea.” Most think tanks and scientists, however, are inclined to proposing the planet be used as a “new beginning for humanity”. Therefore, we should give a good thought to the Mars mission for human establishment and rethink about what we want to achieve from it.