It sounds like a scene from a Matt Damon movie, but it isn't. Mars City Design, a startup headed by "Marschitect" Vera Mulyani, met its $30,000 goal on Kickstarter. Within three years, the company plans to build three to-scale Mars human habitation prototypes at the existing testing facility in the Mojave Desert. The prototypes will be created using 3D printing. According to Mulyani, "It is not enough to just travel to Mars and survive, now we must develop a way in which we can sustainably live and love on Mars."
In the meantime, Mars City Design is using its Kickstarter funds to launch a workshop September 15-28 at the University of Southern California where engineers, designers, and architects can collaborate to help create future Mars dwellings. Quartz reports that former astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Jim Erickson, project manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover, will be there.
Mars City Design has already held a competition, inviting contestants to submit designs for human life on Mars with a panel of judges that include outer space experts (such as Erickson) and Anousheh Ansari, sponsor of the Ansari X Prize and former International Space Station resident. The company has already selected 20 finalists and is encouraging all contestants to come to the workshops to refine and improve their Mars-designing skills. Mars City will choose three designs among the finalists for the first set of prototypes. Among this year's finalists are a design for an urban settlement with a closed river system and waterfall, a design for vertical farming in tight space, and a design for an autonomous habitat that could use Martian soil to create oxygen, water, energy, and nutrition. The idea is to create a base that could sustain four humans and eventually expand to 1,000. Mars City will begin accepting submissions to its 2017 design competition this fall.
September is also when Elon Musk has said he will make public his own plans for a SpaceX-built city on Mars. Mulyani hasn't met Musk yet but hopes to someday. They would likely get along--she seems to be as focused on the future and as confident in her vision as he is. Here is her signoff on Kickstarter after the campaign ended:
"When the first human steps on Mars, we will all look back to this moment. Please be proud. I LOVE YOU Martians!"