Season 3, Post 13: Life on Mars
Plans are afoot to build the first human city on Mars. Yes, you did read that sentence correctly; it is not an April Fool’s Day spoof. Spanish design firm and think-tank ABIBOO released plans last week for a conceptual city on the red planet that would see construction commence in 2054 with the intention for it to welcome initial settlers by 2100.
Named Nüwa after the Chinese mythological goddess and protector of humans, the first city on Mars could house a population of 250,000 according to ABIBOO. Its detailed plans highlight the construction of self-sustaining buildings, with almost all resources sourced locally (albeit after an initial phase which relies upon the relaying of capital equipment and supplies from earth). ABIBOO also envisages the development of infrastructure that would permit for food production and energy generation. Dwellings look not dissimilar to luxury hotels and leisure facilities have been taken into account too. If you’re tempted to move to Nüwa, then a one-way trip, a residential unit of ~25-35 square metres per person and a contract that entitles you to use all the city’s facilities in exchange for devoting a percentage of your time to communal tasks will set you back around $350,000.
Much of this exercise should be considered theoretical (or just a very good publicity stunt), but many of its precursors can be found in already-developed technological solutions. Think about smart materials and synthetic foods as well as advanced energy and recycling techniques. The importance of nanotechnology and synthetic biologywill only continue to grow, both on this planet and possibly others. However, before you start thinking about booking that ticket, consider that many technical, medical and logistics challenges remain. Space radiation is a major concern. The European Space Agency estimates that even just a six-month stay on Mars would expose visitors to 60% of the total radiation dose limit recommended for an entire lifetime. Then there are concerns about what impact microgravity could have upon the human body, which would matter, particularly in the context of reproduction. For more cheery reading on this topic, see here.
Part of the compulsion to want to colonise planets other than Earth surely stems from perceived frustrations or limitations with current circumstances, in your author’s view. Billionaires with cash to burn may be better off trying to solve problems such as climate change and lifting the remaining people in poverty out of it rather than taking moonshots (no pun intended), a point also made by Daniel Kahneman at the recent NEXUS Summit we attended. As with many future trends we consider, it is crucial to separate hype from reality. Despite your author’s fervent desire at the age of five to be an astronaut, he has no plans to be booking his ticket to Mars anytime soon.
1 April 2021
The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.
Alex Gunz, Fund Manager
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