The Mars Foundation is out with plans for a human colony on Mars, proposed to be built in the next 20 years. That seems rather optimistic, since (if you believe President Bush’s plans) the U.S. itself will barely be on the planet by then. But I guess it doesn’t hurt to dream a little. The settlement “will be about the size of Boston’s North End, will use local materials for construction and provide the comforts of home to terran migrants, including cars (rovers, actually), garages and living areas with skylights.” (Cars/rovers? Isn’t one of the joys of living in a small neighborhood that you don’t need a car? Besides, aren’t the Mars settlers going to need to exercise?)
“We believe it’s possible for completion of a 12-person settlement in 2025,” said Mars Foundation co-founder Joseph E. Palaia IV, a graduate student in nuclear engineering at MIT, “assuming that launch technology and settlement technology development proceeds as planned.” Interior public spaces will include two-story bamboo forests, “providing psychological benefits as well as building material” to the settlers, said Palaia. There’s no cost attached to the settlement that I was able to find.
I don’t know, but I suspect the first settlements on Mars are likely to be a lot smaller and grittier than the Mars Foundation is envisioning. And extremely expensive, including for large governments. But it’s probably fun to make the plans, and for such a settlement to ever happen, somebody has to think about it first.