The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Part 1

When Elon Musk announced that he wanted to plant a colony of 80,000 people on Mars in his lifetime, a few thoughts went through my head in (roughly) this order:

  • That’s an awfully long supply chain if things go wrong
  • Somebody is going to be responsible for administering the whole thing
  • That has to be the toughest job in history
  • They’ll need to be solar-class experts in many areas, or able to learn them in a hurry
  • There ought to be a handbook for this sort of thing
Flickr Creative Commons – UDSAgov

Obviously, it would more closely resemble a library, rather than a “For Dummies” type book.

Equally obviously, there would be a large team responsible, with many kinds of experts engaged in their own particular specialties.

Somebody would ultimately be responsible though.

Call them the CEO. Or the First Mayor of Mars. That person will need to have at least some understanding of each of the different subject areas of their team.

I’m not qualified in the least to write an opus of this magnitude, but maybe (with some small amount of hubris, perhaps) I could write the introduction. Or the first draft of the introduction. Or possible just the initial draft of the table of contents. Something along those lines. And then perhaps some wise individual will organize a conference, and gather together the foremost experts, and assemble a Wiki – and the next thing you know, you may have something like this:


Congratulations! You’ve just earned yourself the toughest job in the universe.

You’re now responsible for the lives of several tens of thousands of people in an extremely hostile environment, and also (and perhaps more importantly), the hopes and aspirations of the whole of humanity.

If you got this far, you’re almost certainly an able administrator; you’re now going to need to become an expert in a vast number of subjects, and in a far shorter time than you’d really like – and there is little margin for error.

There’s no possible way that we could ever distil the knowledge that you’ll require into a single book, but we’re going to try to summarize as many of the key areas as possible, in order to provide some practical foundation. You’re going to need to lean on your team for the rest.

When people first landed on the moon, or made their first stumbling steps on Mars, there were easy sets of priorities that they could follow, as complex as the checklists may have been. A scientific mission has a specific schedule, and a set of goals.

This is not the case with a colony, particularly one largely composed of civilians. The goals are open-ended, and many of them may have generational time frames.

As these words are written, there is no way for us to determine what your priorities should be. As a result, the order in which we shall discuss the following may appear unexpected.

We hope that you will bear with us.

Continued in part 2, here

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