Earth has issues, and it's time humanity got started on a Plan B. So, starting in 2014, Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be leading hundreds of users on one of the grandest adventures in human history: Project Virgle, the first permanent human colony on Mars. You can fill out an application here and watch a video from Larry and Sergey here.
After much research into, discussion about and outright arguing over water and mineral availability, morphological priorities and the like, the Virgle team has selected the Lunae planum area of the north side of Kasei Valles as the Plymouth Rock of the new New World. Here's why:
Map provided by http://www.google.com/mars/
- Minerals - This stretch of land, heavily weathered by water over countless eons, should be particularly rich in carbonates, sulphates, clays, zircons, iron deposits and other mineral goodies that together will form a solid foundation for agricultural self-sufficiency and the building of an advanced industrial society.
- Equator - Like their Earth-exploring forebears, Martian colonists will find equatorial latitudes inviting, at least in the sense that an Antarctic valley is inviting (i.e., it won't kill you really quickly). The lower latitudes also ensure favorable solar energy profiles for base backup systems.
- Lava Tubes - You can be passionate about Mars, but use protection. Dried lava tubes provide a cheap (okay, free) way to shield Virgle's expensive equipment (and even more expensive humans) from radiation, temperature extremes, wind storms and the like.
- H2O - Martian water matters. A lot. Existing data sources -- the Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, Reconnaissance Orbiter, MERs, etc – helped us choose a location promising nearby heavy regolith water distribution. Early in the history of the Martian colony, basic water availability means sheer survival...
- Shoreline - ...but later on it will mean prime real estate. In 2015, Virgle Base 1 will be located on a dry, barren ridge overlooking a dry, barren plain. Two generations worth of terraforming from now, though, Virgle City will be a bustling port city overlooking a glistening blue bay. Be sure to reserve your hectare before the H20 starts condensing.
- Tourist Spots - Speaking of which: Martian tourists will want to pay their respects to historical attractions like the Viking, Pathfinder and MER Opportunity sites, all located conveniently near the future Virgle City, and inconveniently in low-lying areas that will eventually be submerged by rising Martian ocean levels.