Modern Martian History -9m(A.V.)-136m(P.V.) (1960-2232)

Early Exploration -9m(A.V.)-31m(P.V.) (1960-2036)

The first Mars exploration efforts with unmanned probes, sent by the United States and Russia, the then superpowers, started as early as 1960, only three years after Sputnik marked the beginning of the space age. But it would take until 1974 for Viking I and II to make the first successful landings in Chryse and Utopia Planitia.

After that, not much happened until the late nineties. Another unmanned lander, Pathfinder , equipped with a small rover, caused widespread enthusiasm in the summer of 1997. With the new millennium came a new generation of robotic explorers with greater capabilities, like Spirit, Opportunity and ExoMars. Satellites like Global Surveyor, Mars Express and Reconnaissance mapped and photographed the planet in high detail and gathered lots of information about surface, sub-surface and atmosphere.

In the wake of these successes, small space advocacy groups like the Mars Society and ExploreMars called for manned Mars missions. Also private companies like SpaceX , MarsOne and Inspiration Mars developed plans for human exploration.

But not until the 2020’s did developments in that direction gather momentum. In that decade the Chinese, who developed manned spaceflight forty years later than the USA and Russia, set course for Mars, urging the other spacefaring nations to speed up their Mars programs.

China got to Mars first, in 2030, although only marginally earlier than the joint European/Russian/American/Japanese expedition that tried to beat them. Both missions represented a major scientific leap forward; the crews stayed for over a year on the surface and acquired knowledge and understanding about the red world that robotic missions wouldn’t have been able to in decades.

Follow-up missions in 2032 en 2034 were equally successful. It was time for permanent habitation of the planet.

Colonization and Terraforming 31m-54m (2036-2078)

From 2036 onwards the concept of one way expeditons took root. Rather than spending a lot of effort in the return trip, these missions invested in building a permanent presence on the Red Planet. The first of these long term projects started in late 2036 with the landing of ten pioneers in Noctis Labyrinthus.

In three Marsyears time this base, Bradbury Station, grew into a community of two hundred pioneers from two dozen different countries. A similar settlement, with mainly Chinese inhabitants, grew in the Nilosyrtis Mountains. Despite the competition there was also cooperation. A satellite-based global positioning network, for example, was developed by China and the other nations together.

The government-funded scientific bases were soon followed by private enterprise. The Martian Pioneer Corporation arrived in 2041, even before the first Brazilian and Indian crews landed on the planet. Rather than pursuing a purely scientific purpose, the private missions were looking to open “the Martian frontier”. The Red Planet had something that became extremely scarce on earth: space. Mars was a tool to relieve the burden from the overpopulated and polluted home planet.

The early settlers were highly motivated and well educated, willing to endure the harsh circumstances in the knowledge that they helped to build a new world. Solar radiation forced the colonists to spend most of their time in small tunacan-shaped habitats and underground shelters and for every excursion on the surface they had to get into bulky suits and helmets for protection against the cold and the hostile atmosphere. A large percentage of the new Martians suffered, in rare cases even died, from dust disease.

A hot item in those early days was the question: is there life on Mars, or, if not, has there been life in the past? Towards the end of the thirties, after decades of unmanned and manned exploration, the scientific community moved to a consensus: exotic lifeforms existed four billion years ago, but they simply couldn't have survived the change in climate.

This conclusion gave way to a new discussion: if life had been kicked out of Mars, shouldn't we bring some back? By pumping a relatively small amount of so-called super-greenhouse gasses into the thin atmosphere and the subsequent release of carbon dioxide from the regolith and the polar caps a runaway greenhouse effect could be created that would eventually lead to an atmosphere where plants could thrive.

Strange though it may sound to us who know Mars as a beautiful living world, these terraforming plans were not welcomed by everyone with the enthusiasm one would expect. For various ethical or religious reasons, large factions pleaded to preserve Mars as the lifeless wilderness it was. In the international community China and India strongly supported the terraforming idea, whereas the western world kept a more reserved point of view.

The combined influence from the two Asian superpowers however was strong enough to dictate the outcome of the Bangkok Conference in 2051, where 140 countries, among them all space-faring nations of that era, came together to discuss the subject. The declaration stated that terraforming Mars was desirable, that it should be carried out by all of humanity together and that it should, as much as possible, preserve the characteristics of Mars, rather than creating a second Earth. The United Nations Council for the Development of Mars (Unacodema) was installed as the official government for the new world. The first greenhouse gasses were brought into the Martian atmosphere just six months later.

It was clear from the beginning, though, that terraforming would be a very long term project. But life in the settlements pretty soon acquired a little more luxury as the colonists developed the ability to manufacture products themselves rather than importing everything from Earth. Steel, brick, glass and plastics were produced from the Martian soil. The tunacan-bases were extended with large greenhouses and inflatable domes.

The Golden Decades 54m-71m(2078-2110)

The search for a cure against dust disease gave Martian nanotechnology a headstart. As another result of the nanotech revolution, the settlements became ever more spacious. From the end of the sixties onwards, ever larger craters were equipped with transparent roofs. Technological knowledge and products were exported to Earth and the young economy prospered.

The rise in temperature and the thickening of the CO2-atmosphere took place above all expectations. The installation in 2078 of Soline, the “second sun” (a giant space mirror) accelerated these effects even more. In low areas small lakes were forming; in their vicinity appeared small green patches of mosses and some other sturdy types of vegetation that were introduced by Unacodema’s terraforming authority.

A controversial terraforming method was the hurling of ice asteroids on an “aerobraking trajectory” through the upper layers of the atmosphere, where they would vaporize and add heat to the planet’s system. Though very effective in terms of water and nitrogen import this project was abandoned when in 2104 a large chunk of ice crashed in Utopia Planitia, causing widespread damage and casualties.

The introduction of new propulsion systems reduced the travel time between Earth and Mars to a matter of weeks, and made travel less dependent on the two-yearly launch window. From 2094 onward the space elevator at Robinson also radically reduced the cost of transportation between the two planets, making a one-way-trip to the promised land affordable for large numbers of earthlings.

A few years after the beginning of the 22nd century, it was possible to walk around on the surface with just thick clothes and a CO2-mask. Grasses, shrubs and bushes as well as small animals were making their appearance. Conversion of the thickened carbon dioxide atmosphere into a more earth-like one, would have taken thousands of years, if it had been carried out by photosynthesis of plants. Soon, however, nanosmarties from the laboratories of Sagan University were introduced, turning the prospect of a breathable atmosphere back to the order of mere decades.

Crisis and Seperatism 71m-92m(2110-2150)

By the end of the twenty first century twenty million people lived on Mars, and thousands of new immigrants arrived each day, many of them refugees from wars and crises on Earth. Despite application of high-technology it became more and more difficult to provide all these newcomers with food, air, room to live, and meaningfull things to do. The end of the nineties saw a chain reaction of accidents, incidents, riots and unrest. Racial tension, virtually non-existent in the pioneer society, appeared on the stage.

In 2110 the Chinese government proclaimed sovereignty over the area between latitudes -60 and -90 east, an area where most of the Chinese settlements were located. The united front against this unilateral act soon started to crack, as several of the world’s great powers saw their chance to get a piece of the cake.

When in 2114 the United Nations world council recognized the Chinese claim, the five countries responsible for this decision, Japan, India, Brazil, the US and the EU, all claimed a portion of the greening planet. At the Nozomi conference, held the next year, the creation of six territories was legalized. Although these six area's together occupied only 35% of Mars’ land surface, they definitely included the most attractive areas, like Elysium and the emerging coastlines of Isidis, Hellas, Argyre and Viking Bay. Of the remaining 65%, still governed by the UN, in the next few years several regions and towns proclaimed themselves independent. Although these newly formed countries were not recognized by the interplanetary community not much was done against their existence.

Historic map of terraformed Mars

Map 1: Mars in the 22nd century with the borders of the territories

Terraforming, in the meantime, was running smooth as ever. By 2125 global temperatures rose so rapidly that an overheating of the planet was feared. To avoid this scenario the artificial sun Soline was sold to an even bolder terraforming project: Jupitermoon Callisto. Darkness returned to the Martian nights, except for Lunette, an artificial satellite launched in 2129. This open ring structure appears to an observer on the Martian surface to have the same size as the full moon on earth.

After the native Martians recovered from the shock of seeing their Martian Dream being sold-out to nationalism, they started a counter-movement, OneMars, that soon received great response all over the UN-governed area and, to some extent, also in the six territories. The big breaktrough however came in the late thirties, when Sangeeta Bhattacharya joined the Indian Territories chapter of OneMars. This former photomodel and adult feelie star started a campaign for reunion of New India with the Unacodema-area. This goal was accomplished in 2142 after that Territories’ economy crashed and a referendum was held.

In the first half of the 22nd century there was not much left of the image of Mars as the promised land. The development of new technology that formerly pushed the Martian economy to unseen heights suffered from the unrest and division. The attention of the general public shifted to new destinations like the asteroid belt, Mercury and the Jovian system. OneMars managed to convince the UN world council that independence for the UN-governed area would be in the best interest of Earth and Mars.

Independence and Reunification 92m-118m (2150-2199)

As a result of the first elections Bhattacharya was elected the first president of the impoverished, incomplete Martian Union. She would stay in office until 2170. Her first concern was to negotiate the several city states that seceded after the Division back into the Union. When this policy appeared to be successful and both economy and Martian self-esteem started to flourish again a popular movement in Elysium (the EU-territory) and New Nippon pushed for joining the Union, an event finally taking place in 2160.

While relations with Nova Brasil and the Americanadian Territories were generally very friendly, relations with the Chinese area became more and more troubled after 2162, when governor Shao Shan proclaimed the Territories independent from China. In the following years his regime started violating the rights of minorities and political opponents. In 2165 Shao Shan proclaimed himself "Emperor of Mars". The crisis was solved in 2167 when Shao Shan was arrested by nanocops and sentenced to fifty years of penal servitude on Deimos.

Historic coastlines on terraformed Mars

Map 2: rise of the water; development of the coastlines in the 22nd century

All this time, the terraforming process proceeded as smooth as ever. Large mammals were introduced in the early forties. Vegetation rapidly became more complex and widespread; the first forests appeared. Global temperatures stabilized at a level not too far below their equivalents on Earth, high enough for palm trees and other subtropical plants to survive in sheltered area’s near the equator. With masses of underground water melting and flowing to the three great basins on the planet, and more water being pumped from aquifers, sea levels kept rising until, around 2185, the coastlines stabilized.

  Nova Brasil joined the Union in 2179 and the Americanadians completed the process in 2199 when after 89 years Mars was reunified. By that time Mars was already taking over the lead in further development of the Solar System and in making the first hesitant steps towards the stars. 

Consolidation and Greyification 118m-136m (2199-2232)

With its domestic issues solved, Mars could finally grow into its current position as a major player in interplanetary politics. In the new century, some possessions in the main asteroid belt were acquired and a number of Kuiper Belt colonies were founded. And in 2230, the Martian Exploration Agency organised the first manned starbound mission, for which purpose asteroid 7973 Koppeschaar was converted into a multi-generation starship.

Demographic developments were a reason for concern in Martian politics. After many decades of rapid population growth, towards the end of the 22nd century the number of people living on Mars stabilized around 200 million. In 2212, for the first time in history the number of immigrants was exceeded by the number of people leaving the planet for onward destinations like the Jovian or Saturnian system or the asteroid or Kuiper belts. In the same year the average age of the remaining population was eighty years and rising. Since Mars always had a small and relatively wealthy population, longevity treatments were available for a considerable percentage of the Martian people much earlier than it had been on Earth and the problems of greyification appeared much sooner than anywhere else. In the new century a program to keep Martians not only physically, but also mentally young, became a major priority for the Martian government.

While some people as early as 2190 proclaimed terraforming finished, reality has been more complex. Though global temperatures and sea levels have been more or less stable for almost half a century, unpredictably changing climate patterns remain a reason for concern. Seismic activity, virtually absent in the early days of colonization, dramatically increased due to the sudden pressure of large bodies of water in certain area’s. Also flora and fauna of the new world are still struggling to reach a natural balance. There’s still a lot of gardening to do and the Martians, proud as they are of what they call the martification are more than happy to fulfil that task.