Mars Colonization Timeline

Inspired from FutureTimeline.net and the Integrated Space Plan we have created a speculated timeline of human exploration and colonization of Mars. Predictions are based on a reasonably optimistic evaluation of technological and social progress of humanity. Only the most important and innovative events are mentioned. Timeline is regularly updated taking into account latest developments.
Last update was made on 22nd October, 2017.

2010s – The Mars hype is there


2016 – Elon Musk reveals SpaceX plans for the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS, formerly known as Mars Colonial Transporter).
2016 – ESA&Roscosmos's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter enters Mars orbit, but Schiaparelli lander crashes on the surface of Mars.
2017 – Elon Musk updates SpaceX vision "to make life multiplanetary" and colonize Mars (with BFR architecture, formerly known as Interplanetary Transport System or ITS).
2018 – NASA's InSight lander lands on Mars at Elysium Planitia.

2020s – Preparing for human arrival

SpaceX Mars Colonization Timeline - 2020s - Preparing for human arrival


2020 – Through the Commercial Crew Program NASA awards several companies, including SpaceX and Lockheed Martin, to develop and build a lander/ascent vehicle(s) capable to land on the Moon and bring back to Lunar orbit at least 4 astronauts no later than 2028 with bonuses if the system is capable of serving Mars too.
2021 – ESA&Roscosmos's ExoMars rover lands on Mars.
2021 – NASA's Mars 2020 rover lands on Mars together with a small demonstration helicopter.
2021 – First Chinese orbiter, lander and rover reaches Mars.
2021 – United Arab Emirates Hope probe enters Mars orbit.
2022 – SpaceX's BFR prototype booster and cargo spaceship makes first orbital test flight around Earth.
2023 – NASA's next generation Next Mars Orbiter with solar electric ion thrusters and broadband laser communications enters Mars orbit.
2023 – India's Mangalyaan 2 orbiter and lander reaches Mars.
2025 – Japan&France's Martian Moons Explorer lands on Phobos to collect samples and return them to Earth in 2029.
2026 – First SpaceX's BFR crew spaceship successfully tested.
2026 – A communications relay satellite is placed at Sun-Earth Lagrangian point L5 to overcome the problem of periodic communications blackout with spacecrafts temporary behind the Sun.
2027 – NASA's Deep Space Transport is completed at international Deep Space Gateway in Lunar orbit, starting to carry out manned preparation missions for human Mars mission.
2027Two demonstration BFR cargo spaceships separately land on Mars at the two most promising locations for the first human colony on Mars; both ships have a small nuclear power reactor in cargo and an automatic atmospheric propellant plant to produce oxygen and methane from Martian atmosphere.
2027 – NASA's sample return orbiter and lander (with Mars ascent vehicle and sample collection rover) reaches Mars to retrieve samples collected by Mars 2020 rover and launch them back to Earth.
2028 – SpaceX's BFR crew spaceship and Lockheed Martin's lander lands on the rim of the Shackleton Crater to establish the first human outpost on the Moon.
2028 – After the ground tests are done in both places the final location of future "Mars City" is selected. Filled with local propellant the one BFR spaceship not on the selected location launches from Mars and successfully lands back on Earth the next year.
2029 – Two unmanned BFR spaceships land at the selected location of Mars City: a backup crew ship (which has tested the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) on the way) and a cargo ship with rovers, miner/tunneling droids, solar panels and parts for a modular habitat for the first human mission.

2030s – First human base on Mars

SpaceX Mars Colonization Timeline - 2030s - First human base on Mars


2031 – On a NASA backed mission two SpaceX's BFR crew spaceships with 12 astronauts each land at Mars Cityfirst humans on Mars. The crewed ships are accompanied with a few cargo ships, including one with machinery for a ground-based In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) system.
2031 – The first modular habitat and a solar array is built.
2031 – Several modules for NASA's Mars Base Camp (a manned station orbiting Mars) are prepositioned in Mars orbit.
2032 – After the best location is confirmed a small-scale mining of water ice starts near the Mars City base. Ground-based ISRU system with atmosphere separator and chemical/propellant plant capable to produce and store water, nitrogen, argon and liquid methane and oxygen is assembled.
2032 – Several landing/launch pads for future BFR missions are built a few miles from Mars City base.
2033 – 2 of the 3 landed BFR crew spaceships and all of the landed cargo spaceships, except the first one with nuclear power reactor and atmospheric propellant plant on-board, launch back to Earth unmanned.
2033 – 2nd crew of ~30 astronauts and workers aboard a BFR spaceship lands at Mars City. NASA's research Mars Surface Field Station is established at Mars City. A hydroponic greenhouse is built to provide Mars City with locally grown vegan food. "The Mars Society" establishes its first chapter on Mars :)
2033 – NASA's Deep Space Transport with 6 astronauts reaches Mars orbit and docks with the prepositioned modules to complete the Mars Base Camp; first human missions to Phobos and Deimos.
2034 – Small-scale Martian soil extraction, chemical separation and storage equipment is assembled; the useful elements now can be used in the greenhouse and ISRU system.
2034Lockheed Martin's Mars lander based at Mars Base Camp is the 1st non-SpaceX built manned spaceship to land on Mars (with 4 astronauts) for a short exploration mission.
2034 – Several space agencies join NASA in financing the scientific operations at Mars City and transport of their scientists between Earth and Mars.
2035Deep Space Transport leaves Mars Base Camp to come back to Deep Space Gateway in Lunar orbit.
2035First fully occupied BFR spaceship with 100 scientists and colonists lands at Mars City.
2035 – NASA's Mars Surface Field Station is reorganized into an international scientific research base with scientist crews rotating every Earth-Mars synod (26 months).
2036 – The ISRU capabilities of Mars City are extended not only to produce air, water and methalox fuel, but also steel, bricks, cement and basic fertilizers, plastics and silica products (as glass panels). Some industrial size 3D printers are also assembled.
2037First child is born on Mars at Mars City. His voyage to Earth later in his life would be dangerous because of his bones and organs not being fit for Earth's gravity.
2037BFR spaceship with 100 human colonists and workers lands at Mars City, which now has a population of more than 200. Among them is SpaceX's founder Elon Musk.
2038Deep Space Transport with 2nd crew of 6 astronauts and additional modules for the station arrives at Mars Base Camp. Lockheed Martin's Mars lander performs several short exploration missions to Martian surface at various locations.
2038Cyanobacteria is introduced into the ISRU processes of Mars City.
2038 – A fish farm is built at Mars City to provide more diverse local food for the colonists. The greenhouse is vastly expanded.
2039 – A transparent, radiation-filtering geodesic dome with garden is built at Mars City; work begins to build a new underground section of Mars City with larger habitats and working areas to boost the population capacity of the colony to 1000.
2039 – 2nd crew of Deep Space Transport leaves Mars Base Camp.

2040s – Spaceport for the 4th planet from the Sun and beyond

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2040s - Spaceport for the 4th planet from the Sun and beyond


2040 – Two more BFR spaceships with 200 human colonists, workers and some wealthy tourists land at Mars City.
2041 – The new underground section of Mars City is finished. Now the colonists have a lot spacier living and working quarters with full radiation protection.
2041Cultured meat "farm" is built at Mars City, adding meat (although artificial) to the diet of the colonists.
2041 – Virgin Galactic establishes the first luxury hotel at the outskirts of Mars City.
2042 – NASA's 2nd generation Deep Space Transport with nuclear powered VASIMR engine reaches Mars Base Camp in record-breaking time. Lockheed Martin's Mars lander performs another set of short exploration missions to Martian surface.
2042 – Two more BFR spaceships with 200 passengers land at Mars City, which now has a population of more than 500.
2043 – Several small proxy bases for scientific, mining and other purposes are established within a few tens of miles from Mars City.
2043Deep Space Transport gen.2 leaves Mars Base Camp.
2044 – Three more BFR spaceships with 300 passengers land at Mars City.
2044 – A constellation of satellites with global positioning system (GPS) and global communications system is placed in high orbit around Mars. Now it's hard to get lost on Mars; possibly only in a lava tube or a narrow canyon.
2044 – On behalf of several space agencies and asteroid mining companies Blue Origin's manned spaceship reaches Mars Base Camp to move it near the Phobos. The task is to use modules of Mars Base Camp as building blocks for Free Spaceport of Phobos project which will be a spinning space station with artificial gravity of 0.38g and serve as a way station and fuel&repairs depot for manned and unmanned spaceships heading for Mars, Main asteroid belt and beyond.
2045 – Large deposit of minerals with high concentration of rare metals is discovered a few hundred miles from Mars City. A research Mining Base Beta is established.
2045 – A land trip all around the Mars is completed for the 1st time.
2046Deep Space Transport gen.2 arrives at Free Spaceport of Phobos with additional modules for the station.
2046 – Four more BFR spaceships with 400 passengers land at Mars City bringing parts for a nuclear fusion reactor as well.
2047 – The landing pads a few miles from Mars City where BFR crew and cargo spaceships has landed and taken off for two decades are transformed into a small spaceport with pressurized skybridges for both passengers and cargo.
2047 – A regular transport route between Mars City and Mining Base Beta is established.
2047 – Robotic water ice mining station is built on Phobos to supply the water and propellant needs of nearby Free Spaceport of Phobos.
2048 – A short hyperloop line from Mars City to its spaceport is finished.
2048 – Four BFR spaceships with 400 passengers land at Mars City and one more with 100 (mostly miners) at the Mining Base Beta. The population of the Mars City now surpasses 1200 with 200 more colonists living at nearby proxy bases and 200 at Mining Base Beta.
2048 – With additional modules arriving and maintained by Blue Origin the international Free Spaceport of Phobos is now operational. Robotic asteroid mining in Main asteroid belt now is rapidly expanding.
2048 – Blue Origin's lander lands on Mars for a scouting mission to confirm the best location for Blue Mars base (in addition to Blue Origin's already developed Blue Moon base).
2049 – A nuclear fusion power station is operational at Mars City.
2049 – A new underground section of Mars City is finished, boosting its population capacity to 3000.

2050s – When bases grow into colonies

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2050s - When bases grow into colonies


2050 – With increased electrical power the ISRU and industrial capabilities of Mars City are greatly extended, using the resources harvested and refined around Mars City and nearby proxy bases. Solar panel assembly factory is the first factory on Mars manufacturing complex products.
2050 – Earth and Mars is the closest ever since the beginning of the colonization. The largest colonial fleet ever arrives at Mars with 1000 colonists landing at Mars City and 200 more at Mining Base Beta.
2050 – Blue Origin's spaceship fleet with 100 workers arrives at Free Spaceport of Phobos; workers are shuttled down to establish the Blue Mars base about thousand miles from Mars City.
2051 – With China and Russia focusing on the Moon, India is the first Asian superpower to establish its own base on Mars.
2052 – NASA's human mission to Ceres (flying with a new generation nuclear fusion spaceship) stops at Free Spaceport of Phobos to resupply, drop some scientists at Mars City and take additional crew members from Mars.
2052 – 1500 more colonists land at Mars City and Mining Base Beta and 100 more at Blue Mars base. There are now more than 4000 humans permanently or temporarily living on the surface of Mars.
2053 – At an impact crater near the Mars City work begins to build the first large-scale dome on Mars, covering the entire crater a mile across.
2054 – A deuterium separation facility becomes operational at Mars City.
2055 – As more colonists land at Mars City it reaches its maximum population capacity. More habitats are built at the outskirts of Mars City, at its proxy bases and Mining Base Beta to support the influx of colonists.
2055 – Several more Blue Origin's shuttles land at Blue Mars base, boosting its population to more than 400. Indian Mars colony now has more than 200.
2055 – Using its strong presence on the Moon in its favor, China establishes its first colony on Mars which now is being expanded fast.
2056 – The rover repair depot at Mars City is upgraded to a Tesla rover factory.
2056 – A regular transport route between Mars City and Blue Mars base is established.
2056 – The large-scale transparent, radiation-filtering, light-veight dome is finished and pressurized at Mars City, covering an area of almost one square mile; workers move in now to construct the buildings and gardens (with such features as artificial waterfalls) below the dome.
2057 – The new generation of SpaceX's nuclear fusion powered spaceships arrive at the Free Spaceport of Phobos; passengers are shuttled down to the spaceports of Mars City and Mining Base Beta. The BFR spaceships are retired from SpaceX fleet after 33 years of successful service and sold to Brazil.
2058Mars City's dome is finished, having a maximum population capacity of 20'000.
2058 – A hyperloop line and a heavy cargo train tracks are built between the Mars City and the industrial complex at Mining Base Beta.
2059 – SpaceX's nuclear spaceships take more colonists to Mars City, bringing its population to 7000.
2059 – First Brazilian BFR spaceship lands at Mars City. One of nearby proxy bases is sold to Brazil and expanded with more living habitats.
2059United Arab Emirates establishes its first base on Mars – the New Dubai.

2060s – Nuclear fusion spaceships open up Mars

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2060s - Nuclear fusion spaceships open up Mars


■  Mars City's population reaches the level you can't anymore made the decisions by corporate hierarchy or direct democracy only. First city council on Mars is elected.
■  The expanded Free Spaceport of Phobos more and more serves as a space logistics hub not only for colonies on Mars but for mining activities in Main asteroid belt as well. Several more advanced nations begins participating in the spaceport project.
■  First humans born on Mars travel to Earth using exoskeletons as body-support because of Earths heavier gravity.
■  Commercial companies from various nations open their branches and operations on Mars.
■  Tourism from Earth is expanding on Mars. Although the trip is still expensive and only the rich can afford it. Besides its high-tech cities and bases Mars can offer spectacular safari rides and if you are really wealthy you can hire some of the guides to take you to the caldera of Olympus Mons, depths of Valles Marineris or other exclusive locations.
■  A second large-scale dome on Mars is built at Blue Mars. A hyperloop line is built between Mars City and Blue Mars.
■  First measures to start the terraforming process of Mars are made, powdering Martian polar ice caps with black lichen to reduce their albedo and melt the ice and building automatic halocarbon factories throughout Mars to produce and release super-greenhouse gases in Martian atmosphere.
■  Artificial magnetic field generator is placed at Sun-Mars Lagrangian point L1 to shield Mars from solar radiation with the generated magnetotail and help the terraformation process of the planet.
■  The Free Spaceport of Phobos is a starting point for NASA's human mission to Galilean moons of Jupiter.
■  Nuclear fusion powered spaceships (greatly reducing the travel time from Earth and widening the launch window) bring more colonists to Mars than ever before. In 2060s the human population on Mars explodes from less than 10'000 to more than 50'000 with Mars City alone having 25'000.

2070s – Human outposts spreading past Mars

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2070s - Human outposts spreading past Mars


■  The Free Spaceport of Phobos is the main supply node for human outposts on Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, asteroids in Main asteroid belt and Galilean moons of Jupiter.
■  Cyanobacteria and methanogens are spread in lower regions of Mars to further increase the terraformation process.
■  The old workhorse of human colonization of Mars – the BFR spaceships are finally retired completely. The oldest of them are 50 years old now.
■  Mars City is expanded with two more domes of similar size and several smaller ones.
■  There are 5 cities with large-scale domes now on Mars. All of them are interlinked with hyperloop lines.
■  The cluster of Indian colonies on Mars is starting to specialize on growing food for human space outposts in Main asteroid belt and beyond, as Mars is the closest object to them with substantial gravity for growing crops.
■  The Free Spaceport of Phobos is a starting point for NASA's human mission to the moons of Saturn (Titan, Enceladus and other).
■  Now almost all of space-faring nations are represented on Mars with a base, a city block or a corporate enterprise.
■  In 2070s the human population on Mars expands from 50'000 to 200'000 with the largest colony – Mars City – having 60'000. Four more cities have a population of more than 15'000.

2080s – Mars gets its self-government

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2080s - Mars gets its self-government

■  First Martian Council, consisting of proportionally drawn representatives from every Martian city and base, is assembled on the principle of self-government. The Council deals with the issues important for all of the Martians (as ongoing terraformation initiatives or building a space elevator) and acts as a representative for Martian population in relations with the corporations and governments of Earth.
■  As space elevators on Earth and on Moon become operational, the cost of launching any mass to Mars and elsewhere into space is slashed considerably, greatly speeding up the use of space resources and space colonization.
■  Almost all colonists have left the oldest sections of Mars City with their obsolete infrastructure; the area is declared now a national heritage site, preserving the 1st human colony on Mars as it was in the late 2040s.
■  Tourism from Earth is becoming more and more mainstream. Now even a middle-class people can afford a trip to Mars.
■  Despite criticism China builds the first prison on Mars. Soon other colonies are quietly sending there their criminals too.
■  More powerful halocarbon factories are set up throughout Mars. The bacterial and lichen coverage around Mars is further increased.
■  Connected base stations for downward and outward space elevators on Phobos are built; work begins to build both space elevators. The downward elevator will cut short of the upper edge of Mars's atmosphere with a shuttle platform at its tip. The outward elevator will have several platforms at different points to catch and release payloads (including spaceships) to Earth's system, to Main asteroid belt and to Jupiter's system.
■  Work begins to build a large shuttle port at the summit of the Martian volcano practically on the equator – Pavonis Mons – for shuttles heading to and coming from Phobos space elevator.
■  In 2080s the human population on Mars expands from 200'000 to 500'000 with the largest of the Martian cities – Mars City – surging past 150'000 inhabitants. Particularly large colonial fleet arrives on 2082 when Earth and Mars is the closest since 2003, only 55.9 million kilometers (34.7 million miles) apart.

2090s – The millionth Martian

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2090s - The millionth Martian

■  The Phobos space elevator system is finished, greatly speeding up the colonization of Mars, interplanetary trade and the growth of human outposts in Main asteroid belt and Galilean moons of Jupiter.
■  The shuttle port at the summit of Pavonis Mons quickly expands into one of the largest human colonies on Mars – Pavonis City, which is soon connected with other major Martian cities by hyperloop lines.
■  Establishment of Pavonis City greatly speeds up tourism in some of the most spectacular Martian regions nearby – Tharsis Montes, Olympus Mons, Noctis Labyrinthus and Valles Marineris. Tourist bases and hotels are popping up there fast. One of the hyperloop lines runs through all the length of Valles Marineris.
■  In an anticipation of air pressure and temperature increase, new human colonies are being set up mainly in the lower regions of Mars, particularly Hellas Planitia and Valles Marineris, where the results of terraformation activities will be felt first.
■  In 2090s the human population on Mars reaches 1 million. Finally Elon Musk's goal to put 1 million people on Mars is reached.

22nd century – Mars becomes independent

Mars Colonization Timeline - 22nd century - Mars becomes independent

■  Mars becomes practically self-sufficient, having to import only the most complex goods and intellectual property.
■  The self-sufficiency results in Mars becoming an independent nation-state. The Martian government has to buy up the non-Martian governmental assets located on Mars.
■  As a technologically advanced frontier society Mars and orbital stations around it become the primary source of specialists and workers needed for human bases and missions further in Main asteroid belt and outer Solar system.
■  Air pressure and temperature on Mars is increased to the level where there is flowing water on the surface and simple plants can be introduced into newly created biosphere of the planet.
■  As one of the lower regions on Mars close to the equator Valles Marineris is seeing the most benefits from terraformation activities and Phobos space elevator; cities and farming communities are spreading throughout the valleys and at the end of the 22nd century there are nearly 5 million people living in Valles Marineris. It's the most populous urban area on Mars.
■  In the 22nd century the total human population on Mars increases 30-fold – to more than 30 million.


Outdated cover images:

Mars Colonization Timeline - 2020sMars Colonization Timeline - 2030sMars Colonization Timeline - 2040sMars Colonization Timeline - 2050sMars Colonization Timeline - 2090s