The Martian Trust

It's Time for a New Space Programme. [New Zealand Now, Global in October]




Question: What is The Martian Trust?


Answer: The Martian Trust is a membership non-governmental organisation that intends to be a major part of the demand side for Mars exploration. We won’t be another space-advocacy group; rather, demand side means having the money to buy exploration from suppliers. Space enthusiasts are our target membership base, with particular emphasis on the many millions of enthusiasts who are not scientists or engineers. On one side, The Martian Trust will be part of the consumer economy — that’s how millions of people interact. On another side, The Martian Trust will act as an endowed foundation to finance a programme of projects. In the middle will be a novel governance structure through which ultimate authority rests with our members.


Question: What does Trust mean in The Martian Trust?

Answer: The principal meaning is as in trust fund, or endowment. Establishing a research base on Mars will require a programme of projects. At the start, some early projects may be known, and many subsequent projects are knowable, but the programme will emerge over time. Emergent programmes are best managed by an organisation that has an endowment or trust fund of sufficient size to weather business cycles and thus assuredly stand behind long-term contracts.

There is a secondary meaning to the Trust in our name. The Martian Trust is a non-governmental organisation governed by its membership. A global membership, drawn from space enthusiasts everywhere, must embrace the Trust for this to work. This is a matter of community, and trust is key for a functioning community.


Question: Where is The Martian Trust located?

Answer: The Martian Trust operates from Wellington, New Zealand, where it was established in 2015 as an incorporated charitable trust board.


Question: Why is The Martian Trust located in New Zealand?

Answer: Though remote – perhaps because it is remote – New Zealand takes every effort to engage in global society, from free trade in goods to the free flow of ideas. New Zealand does not have a globally significant aerospace industry to which The Martian Trust might be assumed biased. New Zealand ranks very highly on scales of good governance and ease of engaging in business. For a transnational NGO seeking to aggregate demand for space exploration, New Zealand is the perfect domicile.


Question: Why Mars and/or why only Mars?

Answer: Four attributes make Mars our target:

  •   Near & Soon. Humanity-at-Mars can be one-to-two decades away.
  •   Frontier. It may be possible to make Mars our second home.
  •   Genesis. Life my have evolved on Mars.
  •   Test Bed. This will accelerate the inclusion of space into our economy.

We’ll start with Mars. After Mars, the Trust will still exist and be available for another giant leap.


Question: How long will it take The Martian Trust to place a self-sustaining research settlement on Mars?

Answer: Annual inflows between $5 billion and $10 billion can fund a robust programme leading to a settlement in the early 2030s. The final scope and scale, even the initial scope and scale, of the settlement are up to the members; thus, the date is dependent on member preferences.


Question: How realistic is it to assume that The Martian Trust can attract and amass this degree of money?

Answer: It’s quite realistic. On the assumption that there are at least 100 million space enthusiasts globally, then $50 to $100 annually from each, on average, will suffice. If all $50 from Sarah P. of Adelaide came through commercial co-branding, then Sarah likely spent upwards of $500 on co-branded games, other media, toys, clothes, … If all $100 from Emily Cheung of Singapore came through a donation to an Affiliated Research Institute, then Emily likely donated $200 or more. If all $1,000 from Dr. Horst Sorensen of Oslo came through a direct gift, then Horst sent The Martian Trust $1,000. These values are well within expenditures, donations, and gifts regularly made by people jointly engaged in a group, club, service organisation, etc …


Question: I understand that the members, board of trustees, and senate will pick projects to fund, but can you give me an example of an early project that The Martian Trust will likely fund?

Answer: The moon Phobos may be, in effect, a pile of useful resources that’s very conveniently located if you happen to be interested in building up an infrastructure in Mars orbit. A robotic resource survey of Phobos is a likely early project for The Martian Trust and there are several private firms in several countries that would be capable of conducting the survey and willing to bid on a commercial contract for the project.


Question: Who can join The Martian Trust?

Answer: Anyone can be a member. It doesn’t cost anything to become a member and gain access to the free content. However, a member’s voting stake depends on money provided, either directly or indirectly through co-branded purchases and/or donations to Affiliated Research Institutes. Many of the things that a member might do within The Martian Trust community require use of an internal currency that’s tied to a member’s stake, though this internal currency can be given from member to member; e.g., a member donating internal currency to schools.


Question: Why is the Trust set up to decide and fund a path of projects? Why not just buy a big rocket and go?

Answer: Many problems stand between humanity and a self-sustaining presence on Mars – this will be a path of many steps, only some of which are knowable now. It’s about more than building the transport system. Whether by foot, horse, canoe, longboat, caravel, or wagon, once humans reached a new land they had the benefit of breathable air, drinkable water, survivable temperatures, and indigenous food. Mars offers none of these, and this dearth of livability comes with the unknowns of gravity that is roughly a third of Earth’s.


Question: Why a self-sustaining research settlement? Why not just boots on the ground and come home? Or, why hold things up with research … why not just get there and go big?

Answer: It must be a research settlement, as the first Martians must figure out how to deal with the dearth of livability. It’ll be self-sustaining because we don’t want those first Martians to die and the Trust is the ultimate guarantor of their survival, as the money will be there to send supplies until supplies are no longer needed. The research settlement won’t be the end of The Martian Trust. It’s a step we can envision that is far enough down a path to make the path enticing. The Martians we create, and the steps that lead to them, will take us farther.