All Space Colonies Will Begin as Dictatorships

A scarcity of crucial resources like water and air, and the high stakes of even temporarily running out, suggest that any Martian government would function as a military dictatorship.

America is a land of plenty, but an American colony on Mars, which NASA scientists and Elon Musk's SpaceX hope to begin by 2030, would be anything but. A scarcity of crucial resources like water and air, and the high stakes of even temporarily running out, suggest that any Martian government would function as a military dictatorship.


That poses serious challenges to maintaining the liberties we prize here on Earth. So to answer that challenge, the British Interplanetary Society recently convened in London to imagine what a free and democratic Martian colony would look like.

In order for the colony to survive, violent revolution would be best avoided at all costs, as conference organiser Charles Cockell, professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh, explained: 

“Say, for example, you don’t like your government and you resort to revolution,” says Cockell. “Someone goes and smashes up the habitat, destroys the windows and instantly the place is depressurised, the oxygen is lost, and everyone dies. 

The consequences of violence in space could be much more catastrophic than on Earth, so how do you dissent in an environment in which violent disobedience might kill everyone?”

The conference ultimately recommended founding documents based on the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, believing that free expression of thought and democratic principles are the best combination of rule and freedom to secure peace.

One freedom we currently enjoy, the freedom to opt-out of society, would likely not be possible on Mars. Everyone's efforts and skills would be needed for the group to survive, and hoarding resources for one's private use would soon spell death.

Former NASA astronaut Ron Garan argues that a moon base would be the best way to create space-based societies. If we get our footing closer to home, a Martian venture would be more successful.

Related Articles

How schizophrenia is linked to common personality type

Both schizophrenics and people with a common personality type share similar brain patterns.

(shutterstock)
Mind & Brain
  • A new study shows that people with a common personality type share brain activity with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • The study gives insight into how the brain activity associated with mental illnesses relates to brain activity in healthy individuals.
  • This finding not only improves our understanding of how the brain works but may one day be applied to treatments.
Keep reading Show less

Human skeletal stem cells isolated in breakthrough discovery

It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.

Image: Nissim Benvenisty
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
  • These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
  • The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Keep reading Show less

How exercise helps your gut bacteria

Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.

National Institutes of Health
Surprising Science
  • Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
  • Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
  • Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
Keep reading Show less