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From Your Front Door To Mars

written by Frank Stratford on June 09, 2005 | forum profile
number of views: 76951 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

A city on Mars.
A city on Mars.
Credit: Michele Elaine Wilson
You wake up one morning in 2035 truly ecstatic. This is the day you have been waiting for now for 5 years since you first applied to be a part of the Athena Dome City project, the first privately run city on Mars. You remember the first time you saw the ad for it on the back of some teenager's OLED TV shirt on the bus home from work.

It seemed astounding at the time but after 20 years of exploration by more and better equiped scientific teams since 2015, the government had decided to finally open Mars up to the private sector in a big way by seeking contract bids to build the first city for non-scientific citizens on Mars. They knew that to continue spending billions on a planet so far out of people's minds with no real direction was creating an increasing opposition so they either had to cut back human exploration or find a new way to fund it. By 2026 there was already a thriving scientific outpost on Mars much like the one at McMurdo Sound in the Antarctic but at the same time a fickle public were growing tired of the same old dry scientific activities on the Red Planet and it was beginning to look like another Apollo shutdown scenario. As it turned out a new vision of the future on Mars involving the private sector was also gaining popularity due to the now 30 year long record of private space enterprizes bringing tourists into space.

People were ready for more and when the first space tourists landed on the new Luna base in 2027 private corporations and politicians began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, when the new president was elected in 2028 her first speech set Mars firmly in the minds of all concerned and within weeks the proposal for the first city on Mars was passed and bidding for contracts began.

The Athena Consortium was formed from members and sponsors of groups like The Mars Society, The Planetary Society and Red Colony, who after 50 plus years of campaigning had managed to inspire the few wealthy individuals and a new generation of space savvy young people it would take to set up Mars first colony. Once a few billionaires had signed onto the project as major backers, the plan for Athena soon became the number one bid. It was to be a city for 5000 people to be constructed starting 2029 with teams of engineers, scientists and laborers working around the clock on transportation and the city itself for 6 earth years.

The city had 3 residential sectors, each containing 2 medium rise apartment complexes housing over 800 people in each. Each apartment building was built in the latest New Martian trends and were fully equipped with all the necessary safety measures. Each apartment had large floor to ceiling double strength windows opening out to a spectacular view of the entire city. In the eastern sector you could see the new Martian botanical gardens teeming with waterfalls and all manner of vibrant plant life. The commercial sector contained 3 office towers and Mars first shopping Mall, truly a sight to behold. There was also a light industrial sector just north of the three main office towers set up for the various research and development companies and a small suburban village in the northeast with 4 streets and 30 actual suburban style 2 storey homes. The large greenhouse sector was just outside the dome in it's own massive enclosure providing food and production facilities for supplying the needs of Athena's citizens. The main purpose of Athena was to be a base for the building of the first supercity housing 150,000 inhabitants. This larger project would take 15 years to build starting in 2040 and so everyone accepted as citizens of Athena were to have role in this future project. Besides your degree in engineering and outdoors experience the Athena Consortium chose you to be one of the main groundskeepers in the city while preparing for the new supercity project. It seemed a bit menial and trivial but you did put it down as one of your main interests. After 6 plus years of building in Low Earth Orbit a new fleet of Trans-Mars shuttles were completed to continually cycle between Earth and Mars each of the 4 ships holding 150 passengers.

The airport taxi pulls up to your house just as you finish off your breakfast and with your partner and child in tow you begin your journey. After a short 30 minute drive you arrive and after checking in decide to wait in the lounge area for your 10:30 flight to the Mojave Space Port which will take about 5 hours. Flicking through the OLED paper you see a story coming from Mars with some dignitaries and the President cutting the ribbon to open the city and space port. By now all of the essential services personnel had moved in and were gathered also in the picture. Truly amazing! You cannot even think of a word to describe it. You hear the final remarks from the President, "Here on Mars we have built a city. Some wanted it to be all for science and industry but the funny thing is all the scientists and workers on Mars have been asking us for is a "little piece of home". We are on a planet millions of miles from our world and it would be good for morale and psychological health to have a small reminder of Earth they said and this is what Athena is designed to be. It is a shining beacon to all on Earth and Mars proclaiming loudly that we do have a bright future on Mars, and this city is but a small piece of that great picture we will paint here. On Mars a new world is being created and in time you will see that all of Mars can be made fit for human habitation. This new world starts here, at the first domed city on Mars- Athena".

You board your flight to Mojave and after touching down a long stretch limo takes you and another family to the Galactic Star hotel and training complex reserved for all space tourists over the last 20 years and now for the first citizens of a city on Mars. They have even built an adjoining theme park for the normal non-space faring tourists to enjoy and from what you can see it is booming.

Once checked into your room an advisor from the Star One training sector calls and reminds you of your 4 week schedule in preparation to launch. The weeks go quite fast as they have you and your family undergoing tests and participating in all kinds of drills and seminars. Then the day arrives. You and your family board the Sky Star 7 along with 17 others. The take off seems just like a normal plane flight except you notice there is no leveling off and the speed keeps incraesing. Your child points out the window to the scenery below just as the second stage begins and the g forces push you all back hard. After a few minutes of this something catches your eye and you realize along with everyone else that the sky is no longer blue! Then the captain announces- "We are now in space passengers and you are all officially astronauts! Unbuckle your seatbelts and start floating!" A few minutes after this euphoric experience and with your own tears of joy and laughter bubbling out into the cabin the captain notifies everyone to take their places as you will be docking with the newly constructed passenger transport to Mars named Spirit 1 in honor of the first twin rover mission back in 2004.

After a gentle cluncking sound and a hiss from the docking clamps the captain comes out and leads the way into Spirit 1. As you float through the opening you notice that new plastic smell and see all the crew lined up to greet you. One of them named Ben informs you that the artificial gravity sections will be turned on in 2 hours and shows you to your room for the next 2 months. As you settle in and start looking around your child floats up to you all excited about the new ships park and play area. "It's got swings and slides and everything!" Soon everyone sinks back to the floors and you start to feel somewhat normal for the first time since you took off in the Sky Star 7. You find the Spirit 1 does indeed have a park and a swimming area along with shops, a casino, 2 cinemas and a medical centre. At the other end of the ship is the hydroponics farm and operations and so you decide to take a full tour. The days are filled with activities and the occasional seminar and test with news from both Earth and Mars keeping you busy.

On one of your daily walks you happen to meet up with a friend from the farm section and he asks if you want to take a look at the latest bio-engineered plants they are working on so you head off to the hydroponics bay with him. On the way you mention that you just want to grab a drink and put your thumb to a new vending machine for a taste of the new Mars cola drink everyone's been talking about. Sweet. Then one day after an announcement and the sound of ships docking you and your family head out and there it is- Mars. It started getting larger in your portholes for the last few days and now it filled your view as large as life. I'm here, you think to yourself! After everyone is onboard the Mars Shuttle 3 you begin the descent to the red planet. After a bit of bumpy flight you settle back down and just out of the corner of your eye you see it- A large dome and an even larger greenhouse then the Zubrin Space Port a bit further down a road. That road is fully covered over also. After a short excited countdown by all the passengers you feel the shuttle thud down ever so lightly much like an earth landing but with noticeably less gravity. You are now on Mars! The shuttle comes to a halt and taxis into the pressurized docking bay. You and the others get up feeling much lighter and step out of the shuttle. A group of Space Port officials are there to greet you and to assign you to one of the 3 buses that will take you into the city.

You get your first look at the surface of Mars as the bus is automatically driven into the city 5 kilometres away. Red but not as much as the pictures you remember growing up with, and a horizon strangely smaller than you are used to. Off in the distance a passenger points out what looks like the edge of a canyon! Beautiful! Cameras start snapping. Once in the city you are taken to the orienteering office and given the keys to your new apartment. Everyone in your group decides to walk down to the apartment complex and it stuns you. Shining silver and turquois on all sides and 10 storeys high. As you walk down the road named Carl Sagan Boulevarde you notice the amazing array of plants and actual lawn everywhere you look. Some people were expecting lots of red, but besides the light pink sky and land outside the dome you realize it really is a piece of home. There are parks, shops, a gym and swimming area with it's own wave maker! You also notice the new police and hospital complex in the distance near the botanic gardens. One of the brochures you are reading makes you look up- it mentioned that once a month special overhead sprinklers would water the entire city and be recycled for the farms and gardens, just to give you a sense of home! So it even rains here! After walking through your apartment door for the first time you think back to that first step from the door of you own house and realize what a unique journey you have embarked upon. The first true private settlers on another world! Your partner and child drag you off to the local mall and it astounds you to see the variety of food, clothes and other retail items being sold. Just what you need- Buying your first chilli dog on Mars! Where does the meat come from you ask and the vendor smiles- "No meat, but it's amazing what a bored biology professor can get up to! It tastes the same but its all vegetable!" You soon settle in to your new life on Mars and some months later while mowing a lawn in the elite village section it hits you- I'm mowing a lawn on Mars!" I'm living a truly fulfilling life with my family and friends, going to movies and even eating all my favorite foods- On Mars. The school is great and your child is one of the first new Martian students to be enrolled. They even have working tours daily to go out with the local scientists for field research and that becomes a very popular past time. Getting to explore a planet for the first time and to discover new things as just a normal citizen! Where else could it be done but on Mars!

This vision of the future is my own. It may or may not happen but if it does not happen it will be because we could not and would not open our minds up to the possibilities that Mars holds for a new branch of human civilization. We and our children may well be the first settlers on Mars but only if we make the necessary preparations. This means getting people on the surface as soon as possible. We have the technology and we have the resources to make it to Mars as we have had for decades, what we lack is the vision and the drive. Building a new world will require our best efforts and support if it is to become a reality. The longer we put it off, the longer it will take. I want my generation and future generations to settle on Mars and start experiencing it's wonders while turning it into a new home for humanity. This will not happen if we keep on putting it off to another generation. We are the only reason we are not on Mars, we the people. The entire planet can be changed so that we can even walk around on the surface and breath the air that we have created, but it all has to start somewhere. Our leaders need to know that we the people want to go to Mars for all the potential benefits it will hold and for the opportunities it will create for an increasingly unemployed young generation. Mars would give us that direction we need and so much more. Will you catch this vision too? Can you see it? Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream things that never were and ask why not. Will you join us to Mars?

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