Look around the space where you are sitting. How many of the things you see were not available to you as a child? Perhaps you note a laptop, smart phone or Wi-Fi connection? Now imagine these things vanished. What would your life be like? Think back to when you were a child. Could you have imagined the items you now can’t live without?
This same dynamic may soon be on the horizon for jobs on Mars—we may one day wonder how we ever confined our human activities to Earth.
Advancing technology continues to create more unique and interesting jobs—for now, all of them based on planet Earth. But change may be upon us.
If the human race is to continue for another million years, we will have to boldly go where no one has gone before,” the late Stephen Hawking argued.
As Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, NASA scientists and others continue to bring the possibility of living on another planet into the foreseeable future, the reality of an interplanetary economy and job market could be just around the corner.
By 2024, Musk’s SpaceX aims to send the first astronauts to Mars. President Trump’s 2020 budget includes funding for a manned Mars mission to launch as soon as 2026, with a goal of bringing back samples of the Red Planet. Such studies of rock, soil and atmosphere samples could bring new insights into the sphere’s geology and water presence, and may even locate evidence of past or current life.
In fact, multiplanet settlements maybe crucial for the long-term survival of humans. Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos believes that expanding our living options in our solar system “is not something that we may choose to do; this is something we must do.”
Environmental destruction, natural resource constraints, rapid population growth and potentially deadly asteroids or other natural disasters could leave Mother Earth with a limited capacity to sustain our continued growth. Colonizing another planet could lift the barriers Earth may present to the continued expansion of humanity.
While there is no universal agreement that Mars will be our next home, Musk believes the only thing standing in the way of jobs on the Red Planet is “basically, building the base.”
Once the infrastructure base Musk refers to is in place, we earthlings could be applying for jobs on Mars just as we do now on our home planet. Before you pack your bags, however, there are a few things you may want to know.
While planets in our solar system are subject to extreme temperatures and the dangerous elements of space, Mars has some similarities to Earth. It is also in what is called the Habitable Zone, an area where conditions might potentially support life.
While its air is too thin to breathe and its surface temperature too cold for unsheltered life, Mars—unlike other planets in our solar system—has the benefit of a 24-hour day, four seasons, canyons, volcanoes, polar ice caps, river beds, dried lakes and even some liquid water.
Based on our current exploration and understanding of our solar system, there is no planet better suited to interplanetary migration than Mars.
What Jobs Will Be Available On Mars?
When it comes to initial work on the Red Planet, few tasks in the universe will have a higher level of personal meaning and purpose. In this case, the level of job success may determine the fate of those doing the work as well as the future of humanity.
Paul Wooster, principal Mars development engineer at SpaceX, explains that the first jobs on Mars will involve
a lot of tasks resembling construction, small-scale mining (including prospecting), and low-rate manufacturing activities, along with supporting functions like cooking and cleaning.”
Wooster speculates that the initial labor shortage on Mars would force greater emphasis on work involving machine maintenance rather than direct manual labor:
Early on, jobs that don’t involve getting your hands dirty in at least some fashion would likely be done from Earth.”
Once the infrastructure base expands, a broader range of job opportunities will be available, in sectors such as medicine, agriculture, education and service. Initially, a strong background in science and mathematics will be most desirable. However, as a yearning to see more of Mars accelerates, films, television programs, and reality shows marketed on Earth will attract talent of all kinds to the Red Planet.
The opportunity to be highly innovative on Mars will be another aspect of work on the planet and a strong additional talent attractor.
An early Mars colony could generate a lot of income by being an inventors colony. Isolated from the distractions of Earth and challenged to come up with solutions to problems on the planet, Mars will be a pressure cooker for innovation with inhabitants being free to innovate without the bureaucracy on Earth,” explains Dr. Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society and author of the new book The Case for Space.
If you can’t wait for the official Mars colonization to begin, you could apply to the NASA Astronaut Program. However, a backup plan is advisable—a record 18,300 applicants applied in 2017 for only 8 to 14 openings.
How Do I Apply For Interplanetary Work?
Interplanetary job seekers can apply for desired opportunities on the career web pages of organizations such as SpaceX, Bezos’s Blue Origin and NASA. Also helpful will be specialized industry job sites like Space Individuals and Space Careers. NASA has even released posters advertising jobs on Mars for surveyors, farmers, teachers and technicians.
While most jobs working in space are currently based on Earth, space exploration companies require people in every career discipline. The organization and career sites noted above show opportunities in engineering, design, software development, manufacturing, human resources, finance, IT, legal, marketing, sales and many other jobs that exist on our planet. Whatever your functional interest is, if it aligns with a passion for space exploration, you will find roles for which you can apply.
How Will I Get To My New Job?
To make Mars a viable option for a new economy, affordable, safe, reliable and frequent transportation must be available to the general public. Reusable rocket technology like Musk’s will be essential to creating the equivalent of an airline industry in space. Initial passenger rockets could potentially carry up to 100 people or more and 450 tons of cargo.
All mass-scale space transportation solutions will require strong and cooperative partnerships between private industry and government organizations such as NASA. A robust space travel industry will also create more interplanetary jobs similar to those in Earth’s airline industry. Richard Branson’s space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, has hundreds of customers who have already made deposits toward future space flights. However, in this new high-tech sector, robots may very well deliver your in-flight snacks and meals.
Will It Be Safe To Live And Work On Mars?
If terraforming, or any other transformative process, is used in an attempt to alter the environment to make Mars habitable, there is no guarantee of a positive outcome. Warming the planet could awaken previous or current Martian life forms, with unknown consequences. A lower gravitational pull could weaken our bones and muscles, and increased radiation may heighten our chances of cancer. In all cases, safety is a concern and the loss of life is a distinct possibility for early settlers. In addition to these concerns, initial isolation from larger groups of people or a sustained dramatic change to social, living and dietary conditions, along with sleep disorders due to slightly longer days, could present a challenge to the mental and emotional well-being of those living and working on Mars. This, in turn, could damage physical well-being and shorten life spans.
How Will I Communicate With Those On Earth?
Eventually, near-real-time holoportation capable of virtually placing people in the same room, even if they are on different planets, will make communicating with family, friends and co-workers on Earth a natural and seamless experience. As image and personal bot technologies advance, your physical location may not matter all that much. Bots with sensory technology may even allow you to feel the touch of another human living on a different planet. Remote working technologies will also offer the option to live on Mars but work on Earth. Humans have already worked on Mars remotely from Earth.
Are Earth Holidays An Option?
Returning to Earth for holidays will not initially be an option due to travel time, cost and technology constraints. However, with the doubling of technological advancement about every 12 to 18 months, return visits to Earth will certainly be in the cards someday. Until then, hologram rooms and other technologies could provide virtual reality visits that come fairly close to feeling like you are back on Earth.
If you decide to break up your travels and live on the moon first, as Bezos advises, the chances of an Earth holiday are pretty good.
Where Will I Live, Eat and Shop?
A design competition hosted by NASA yielded high-tech Mars homes made of ice, inflatable material and recycled space craft. Within the next 100 years, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hopes to relocate 600,000 people to Mars. In preparation for their new Martian colony, the UAE is planning to construct a simulated domed Mars colony on Earth. The plan includes a museum, complete with 3D-printed walls from local sand, where Mars hopefuls can learn more about the history of space travel.
Initially, all living, eating and shopping spaces will be indoors to insulate humans from unbreathable air and cold temperatures. If the planet behaves favorably in our attempts to inhabit it, future communities could mirror those on Earth, and familiar activities could even include grabbing lunch at McDonalds. But considering the likely cost of raising cattle on Mars or developing and producing lab-grown meat, you should expect to pay a lot more for your Big Mac. Vegetables will most likely be the first crops grown on Mars, so a salad may be the best choice for your budget. As for shopping, Amazon could still be your desired option: Bezos is already planning deliveries to the moon.
Can I Be Fired From My Job On Mars?
Being fired on the Red Planet would be rather extreme until affordable return travel is possible or other employment opportunities are available. Recruitment decisions will need to be thoughtful and measured, and contingencies must be in place for redeploying skills and talents to other meaningful work when a person no longer fulfills his or her job responsibilities or the position isn’t needed. This will also lead to considerations of disability and retirement.
To ensure a high quality of life for all Mars citizens, programs must be in place to house and care for those who can no longer do these things for themselves, and a universal health care and universal basic income model could guarantee health care and a minimum livable income to everyone, regardless of circumstance. However, the social-economic dynamic on the Red Planet could change as a space airline industry develops, as noted earlier.
Will I Feel Like I Belong On Mars?
An intentional focus and strategy around the gender, ethnic, belief and thought diversity of those moving to Mars will be crucial. Colonizing other planets will give humans a unique opportunity to correct the wrongs of the past on Earth and bring humanity into its intended balance. If diversity efforts happen in a mindful way, all humans will initially feel welcome on Mars.
Living on Mars will present unique challenges in many ways. For example, how will corporate or government funding of colonies affect the freedom of Mars inhabitants? Will employees of the Red Planet be prisoners of the companies they work for, relying solely on their good will to feed and house them or care for their medical and other needs?
If private funding from Earth-based companies remains core to Mars’ development, will planetary policies be driven by short-term, detrimental profit agendas or by long-term, socially responsible ones?
How will humans adapt to their new environment on Mars? Experiencing a weaker gravitational pull, trace amounts of oxygen and increased exposure to radiation, humans may very well evolve into a new species over time. Astronaut Scott Kelly became two inches taller after spending just one year in space.
How will babies born on Mars adapt to their new home? Will they develop qualities that will make them biologically incompatible with life on Earth, spawning a new Martian subspecies? What will the legal citizenship of native Martians be?
Will those funding Mars migration attempt to enforce a universal passport or a prior approval process for nonsanctioned interplanetary travel?
Once a homogenous Martian population evolves, will those from Earth be welcome on Mars?
Will an independent Mars economy evolve, or will Earth be fiscally strengthened and positioned as the central economic hub of our solar system? If Mars does develop an independent economy with little to no reliance on an import/export market, will it become sovereign from Earth? Will such sovereignty create political and power struggles, divided ideals and, ultimately, lead to a scenario like that in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds?
Education and understanding will be key as humans seek to inhabit other planets in our solar system and, perhaps someday, beyond. Organizations like the National Space Society, a nonprofit group dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization, has been leading the charge in this area since 1974 and is a good source for research, articles, publications and general information about how those on Earth can leverage “the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity.” The Mars Society, founded in 1998, is another helpful source of information specifically related to human settlement on the Red Planet.
Whatever solutions emerge to promote universal, interplanetary peace and shared humanitarian goals, jobs on Mars will be the beginning of a new, exciting and volatile frontier for humanity. On Mars, humans will discover unique ways to contribute meaningfully to our cosmos and perhaps even sustain the human race.
Once again, think back to your childhood, and then consider the device you are currently using to read this article. Now, turn your eyes to space. Are you ready?
Published in Forbes