Preparations for a permanent human presence on the Moon are underway, and the major space agencies as well as some private companies see human exploration of Mars as the next logical step planned within the next few decades.
While lunar settlements will heavily depend on resources and support from Earth, the immense distance to Mars requires settlers to be largely autonomous and to make use of the scarce, but valuable in-situ resources, chiefly the Martian soil (regolith) and the thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere, composed mostly of carbon dioxide.
Our focus is not on producing materials with the highest performance, but with the lowest energy and resource footprint. Hence, we envision that the gained knowledge in our initiative will have impact on Earth. Specifically, we believe that a sustainable exploration of Mars can be instrumental in a change of paradigm from productivity toward sustainability. In addition, our ambition is to preserve the delicate, unique environment of the red planet for future generations. It is possible, for example, that the Martian ground has been or still is a harbor for life and of extraordinary interest from a scientific point of view.
Because of the massive distance and the resulting communication delay, Mars settlers will be largely autonomous, aided by robots and artificial intelligence, and at the same time will still depend on mission control on Earth.
In order to address the challenging, and partially conflicting goals, of a sustainable human Mars exploration, we follow a transdisciplinary approach with researchers bridging social and human sciences to human-machine interaction, communications and robotics, as well as materials sciences and production engineering.