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“I just have no idea what people will decide to do when they get to another planet.”

Musk Reads

Elon Musk’s Mars city needs to learn just one vital lesson

SpaceX wants to build a Mars city — it could look to history to get some help.

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Elon Musk wants to unlock humanity’s sci-fi potential. Using an app with only your mind? Musk has that covered with Neuralink. Cars that drive themselves? He’s working on it with Tesla. Putting those very self-driving cars in tunnels? Sure, he’s on that too.

But Musk’s most ambitious goal comes in the form of SpaceX, which has big plans to build a million-strong, self-sustaining city on the red planet by 2050. The only problem is how his Mars City’s government would work.

Next stop, Mars.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been established about your legal rights as a Mars citizen:

  • The 1967 Outer Space Treaty says that your country is responsible for what gets launched into space — so spaceships launched from the United States answer to the United States
  • SpaceX’s Starlink terms of service declare Mars is a “free planet” where no Earth-based government has control over its authority
  • SpaceX’s former general counsel David Anderman argued in Musk Reads+ #97 that the city might need to declare access to basic resources like air and water
  • Musk argued in 2018 that a direct democracy could make sense for the small settlement

Want to know more about how giving birth is a problem, how tips from 1612 could help out settlers in 3012, and whether you could brave the lowest temperatures on Mars? Read the full interview with writer Greg Bear, only in MUSK READS+.

SpaceX Mars City: 13 colonies

Science fiction writer Greg Bear, who previously participated in the National Space Society that advocates for greater access to space, tells Inverse that the first settlers will be “free thinkers.” They will have to come up with their own solutions for government, and as free thinkers in a strange new world, they may have radically different ideas.

“I keep changing my tune on this,” he says. “I just have no idea what people will decide to do when they get to another planet, especially a very difficult planet like Mars.”

It’s a question Bear has considered for a long time. His 1993 novel Moving Mars looks at a future Mars society governed by Earth in the interests of its corporations. An independence movement emerges over the course of generations.

Bear argues that, similar to Moving Mars, the early United States could offer lessons for the future city...


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