I’m doing my design thesis on Mars. Not how we’ll get there, but how we will live out our days once we make the journey. How will people, and therefore their material culture, adapt to the new extreme conditions of daily life?
We’ve had the technology to go to Mars and stay there for years at a time since the Apollo era (1960–1972). Since then, we’ve sent a few robots and satellites to map, analyze, and explore the red planet. However, people haven’t gone yet for fear of the most basic thing in this whole equation — ourselves. We’re afraid of what people who leave our home will do once they go past the edge of the map. What will they do when they have to bend a whole planet (or at least a few habitats-worth) to their needs? What will they do without the conveniences they have grown up with? How will they live? The answer is of course found in our history on Earth thus far: We adjust to our environment as much as possible, then bend the environment to meet us.
The thesis of my thesis is this: Throughout history, the things people owned, wore, and used intimately told the story of who they were. This material culture of humanity has persisted, and it will not cease once we wander beyond Earth. The things we bring with us when leaving Earth for the last time will reveal more about us than anything else. What will matter most in these first people’s lives will not be how well their carbon dioxide scrubbers work; it will be how they can make Mars feel like home. Not just any home, but their home.