‘A Young Person’s Guide to Colonising Mars’ – by Jessica Osborne


About the Author


My name is Ria Saunders, aka The First Woman on Mars (not exactly true, I’m the first woman to live on Mars, but plenty have visited before me), The Eve of Mars (Grandma would be more accurate), Victoria (to NASA), or Vicky (to some old friends).

I direct the Residential Colonisation Initiative, which you will be more than familiar with. I’m also a graduate of the University of Mars and I have BScs in Bio Sciences and Physics, and an MSc in Bio Sciences. As well as my own studies, teaching, and occasionally knitting I also run a blog, mostly so I’d know what the hell you kids would want to know—check it out before you come if you want to message me at all: https://surfacegravity38.tumblr.com/  I have always wanted to be an astronaut, ever since I was a little girl, so I did it.[1] I had to sacrifice a lot to come here[2] so that you won’t have to. So sit back, and enjoy the info-dump about Martian life I’m about to subject you to.


The Journey


There’s no sugar coating this: the journey to Mars will be long and difficult. You will be trapped with your family, as well as a few others who you will only know casually. You will be uncomfortable in your cramped quarters. Though there will be allotted alone time, anyone who has ever had a family[3] will know boundaries don’t always hold.

The journey will take 6 to 8 months, depending on the position of Mars in relation to Earth at the time of your launch. For those unlucky people who are dealt the 8 month journey, my advice is don’t hold a grudge about the journey. It’s all too easy to resent someone for what they said after they’ve spent eight months crapping in a space bucket and hitting their head every time they sneeze, but remember, everyone will feel just as anxious as you. Also, as much as you hate the toilet, just go.[4]

The one upside to the long journey you will undertake is making friends of course! You will be travelling with multiple families, and we will attempt to match ages of children, for both companionship and to make education easier. Just remember not all friendships made on the journey will survive the harsh environment of the Martian surface.[5]


Burden Rock, Amazonis Planitia, Mars


Burden Rock, Amazonis Planitia, Mars, will be your new address for the rest of your life. Or at least until more colonies are set up on the surface of Mars. The facilities of Burden Rock may strike you as odd at first sight, but the design of the colony is specified towards creating a safe environment for you.

Amazonis Planitia[6] is the flattest part of Mars’ surface, making it easy to travel in rovers between buildings. However, the surface buildings only make up 15% of the overall colony with most of it being underground. This is due to the fact that the frozen water in Mars’ surface decreases the likelihood of cave-ins and the ground itself will protect you and your family from cosmic radiation.[7]

You may be wondering “What will protect us from the radiation on the surface?”, and the answer will be the same thing that stops the cave-ins: Ice. Water is excellent at absorbing radiation, and the Martian atmosphere is definitely cold enough to maintain a hefty ten story igloo with the added bonus of excellent views.


Questions and Answers


In this section those who have sent questions in to my blog will have them answered here, given that they haven’t already been addressed in the rest of the guide.


Q: Where do I get sanitary pads/tampons?

A: All bathrooms are equipped with a variety of hygiene products, and they will be delivered to your house as part of your food package.


Q: Will I be allowed to move away from my parents?

A: You will be given the option to live on campus once you start university, and you will be signed up to have your own place at your request if you are older than sixteen. If you need to move out earlier for any kind of reason then you will need to go through an interview process about why. We do aim to keep families together for as long as we can, but I know that’s not always possible, I had to leave home quite early after some disagreements about my “lifestyle” so I will personally do my best to see that those in need of help are rehoused sufficiently, which is much more than I was ever offered.


Q: Will those of us who identify as agender be able to use any bathrooms we want?

A: I know this bathroom topic has been a massive problem on Earth for decades, maybe longer—I remember the debate when I was a child. All Martian bathrooms are gender neutral. Frankly I’ve never seen the point of the debate—no one genders the bathrooms in their homes…


Q: Where can I get birth control? Will my parents have to know?

A: All pharmacies and bathrooms are stocked with free condoms and other barrier methods of birth control. If you need hormonal birth control of any kind then you will need a prescription from your doctor; all doctors are based at the university so they can research as well as serve the community. No one’s parents need to know anything about anybody; we advocate complete bodily autonomy. Your parents won’t be told if you’re on birth control, if you’re sexually active, or if you’re LGBT+, however, we do encourage you to have an open dialogue with your parents about your health choices. Your parents will only be informed about any emergencies.


Q: My uncle died last month and it wasn’t a great time for our family, what’s it like to have someone die on Mars, is it difficult being so far away from home?

A: I’m very sorry for your loss. Having someone die on Mars, when I first got here at least, was extremely difficult; it was so early into our mission that Laurel’s death was handled with complete practicality (meaning we threw her body out into the desert and let the sands bury her). Now though, things are very different; people are cremated and most partners or friends (as there aren’t any families here yet) will keep the ashes. Personally I’m happy to have my ashes spread in the desert, but that won’t suit everyone. At some point we are hoping to expand our colony to allow areas for these ashes to be stored and remembered. In regards to your question about home, Mars will become home a lot quicker than you think, but it still won’t make grieving easier.


Q: I’ve been looking over the prospectus for the college courses and the uni, and how come there aren’t any art subjects for me to take?

A: The first reason that there aren’t any Arts subjects is a lack of Arts teachers. Every current citizen of Mars is an expert in a STEM subject, which is what helped them qualify as an astronaut. There are a few Arts teachers on their way to Mars as we speak, and they have probably given this guide to their children and have noticed that the poor formatting of it is a clear indicator that they’re needed. However, for those of you with any deep knowledge of space travel, you will know that the Arts subjects have a sort of mythic place in the sciences. Not only have several scientists discovered/created things that science fiction writers have correctly predicted (creepy right?), but the failure of the Mars One project in the early 21st Century has led to a superstition surrounding artists in space. Essentially what happened was they couldn’t secure funding as they wanted to bring “unnecessary personnel”, meaning the artists. Of course, part of my job is making all personnel welcome on Mars, even if it means my university will be overrun with drama students taking up every free room with their countless props and emotional baggage. We could use a few good writers though—I have a hankering for a novel set on Mars.



Final Note


Throughout my life I’ve had one dream—to help humankind expand and explore. There are many, many ways I could have done this; I could have explored the oceans, helped cure disease, I could have even been an artist, but I decided on Mars. And the important thing was that no one else was deciding for me. My parents put a lot of effort into trying to decide for me, and I’m sure you know the feeling, especially as your parents have decided to move you to Mars. There’s no doubt that all of you reading this will have had no say in leaving everything you know and starting afresh in the most extreme way possible, for that I am extremely sorry. No one should have anything decided for them, especially as moving back to Earth after this if you wanted to would be massively difficult. And though I am currently working on a project to allow easier travel between the planets so that future generations will have freedom of movement, that isn’t the point. The point is that once you arrive on Mars your future is yours.

I look forward to welcoming you to this beautiful planet. Have a safe journey.



[1] Fun fact, I am actually 4’10’’ which means I only just qualified to be tall enough.

[2] Including my family, my friends, my life on Earth, and even my chance to have children. It was risky business back then, and no midwives were exactly coming along for the ride!

[3] I haven’t had a family for a good long while, but I have vague memories of being annoyed at nothing in particular whenever a sibling entered the room.

[4] One fool of a man on my original mission hated the toilet so much he nearly killed himself trying to avoid it.

[5] Believe me, I speak from a gruelling experience. This would be a helpful tip for any adults travelling too – don’t get too entangled, it will only make it awkward when you’re stuck overnight in a rover during a sandstorm two weeks after a messy breakup with only enough oxygen for one of you.

[6] It’s named for the ancient Amazons, the Greco-Roman all-female warrior tribe. In no way did this sway my decision. It is a very happy coincidence.

[7] Hence the name Burden Rock, it takes the brunt of the radiation. It made sense when we came up with it.




Jessica Osborne recently graduated from York St John with a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature. She enjoys studying Afrofuturism, talking about robots, blogging, and telling everyone how much better life will be on Mars. Jessica aims to complete her Creative Writing MA by writing science fiction the whole way through.

Blog: https://thetroublewithtriffids.wordpress.com/


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