The Red Planet is a dim and frozen desert whose atmosphere—what little exists—is deadly to terrestrial life. But the technologies that would allow humans to stay on Mars are within reach, and global civilization is fast positioning itself to begin this very task. Conceivably possible within ten to thirty years, a manned mission to Mars could establish that first human foothold on Mars, the greatest expansion of the human prospect since the Moon landing in 1969, or the discovery of the New World, perhaps even since the first humans ventured out of the Rift Valley to become a global species.
But what are the implications of humanity as a dual-planet species? This is not a question to be left to a Syfy Channel original movie of the week. The colonization of Mars presents a unique opportunity, and allows civilization a tabula rasa upon which to impose the best of human technology and design to thrive in this alien environment. What may begin as small roving habitats—the most sophisticated mobile homes ever known—might just be the seeds that eventually grow entire societies. Whether these take the shape of a system of interconnected “tuna can” structures currently being tested by the space architecture community, systems of subterranean catacombs, or the gigantic geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller, is yet to be seen.
Perhaps Mars will not be Utopia, but, if the design community wants to have its say, now is the time to speak.
The School of Visual Arts MFA Design Criticism Department presented “Crossing the Line: The 2010 D-Crit Conference" organized by graduating D-Crit students at the SVA Theatre in New York City on Friday, April 30 2010.