It's evident to all that in 2023 we cannot travel to Mars. No humans have ever visited Mars. No one lives there. However because the literal idea of Mars plays such a prominent role in science-fiction and in industries such as Hollywood, I would argue that conceptually Mars already offers economic value. Consider the blockbuster Matt Damon film, the Martian, which is concerned with the human exploration of the Red Planet.
US public sector investment into Mars, especially that via NASA, is not accounted as 'Martian', yet the R&D value derived from the data is made possible by the existence of Mars - the Planet - and would not exist without it. Mars already offers economic value to people on Earth beyond entertainment. Engineers and scientists study the planet to earn a living. Technology developed to map our neighbour has already found its way into spin-off technology products here on Earth, even in private-sector fields such as robotics and batteries.
Furthermore, I believe that there is already the beginnings of a 'dream' of a distinct, independent and free Martian economy, society and maybe even one day, nation-state. It is this seemingly infinite promise that Hollywood and countless science-fiction writers capitalise on - the enduring spirit of freedom.
An obvious point to note is that no resources have yet been physically extracted from the Martian environment and returned to Earth. Yet because of economic value derived from the technology required to map Mars, broadly speaking to movies and writers and through various tech spin-offs, a question that naturally arises is the following: Could Mars, as a possible home for humanity, be of even more commercial value to more humans on Earth, in 2023, long before the point of habitation arrives?
Exploring Mars already offers soft power to states (such as the USA) and jobs through hard capital investments (such as SpaceX employees). I argue that Mars as a concept has much more unlockable value: Mars and Martian research could be useful in productisation and product design, in 2023, for virtually any product, a methodology of which I will explore in Chapter-2.
The economic value of Mars could be increased. More entrepreneurs - the undertakers of risk - could profit from Martian data and profit from Mars as an ideological space for freedom to thrive, technologically and socially (maybe even spiritually), etc.
The obvious player in this argument to mention is of course SpaceX. The company has invested tremendous capital and labour resource in building transportation to and from Mars: the gears of the interplanetary economy have already commenced spinning, even if it is just in R&D form, in 2023.
All examples of economic activity mentioned so far could be viewed as part of a proto-Martian economy - these endeavours sit at the periphery of a truly native Martian economic base. These enterprise form a critical initialising or catalysing effort - humanity is witnessing a 'sparking of the tinder' moment that promises to unleash a wave of truly Martian economic goods.
I hypothesise that goods made for Mars should be designed, iteratively-manufactured, marketed and sold long before Mars is settled for a variety of reasons, including for product-improvement and also for increasing humanity's velocity towards a 'new world' for our times.
Let me speak plain: Products designed to profit from Martian use one day (e.g. in 2035) and designed to add economic value into a native Martian economy (then), could much earlier in their lifecycle, e.g. in 2023, market themselves as such, with a 'Made for Mars' Label.
I offer three use-cases for such a label, there may be more and in Chapter-3 I illustrate how an example good, iPhone, could be labelled as 'Made for Mars'.
A product that galvanises interest, on Earth, in the Martian economy, in other words, markets Mars. An example would be, 'a scientifically accurate sci-fi series on Netflix'.
A product that serves people living, functioning (and pursuing happiness ;)) on Mars. An example might be, 'breathing apparatus that facilitates walks outside of bio-domes'.
A product that helps people establish Mars. An example might be 'satellites which help astronauts communicate on route to Mars'.
Now, what's interesting is that Category-2 could seem utterly redundant to markets on Earth today, with status: dormant. Why privately invest and design a product for Mars that has no market-value until Martian habitats arise, 2035 or later or whenever and has only hypothetical application? How can such a product even sustain the makers? It actually seems relatively safer to pursue Category-1 or Category-3… yet Category-2 is the most interesting, because such products would be defined as Martian economy proper and yield the theoretical challenges of designing for a space and harsh environment, where every atom counts.
If the refinement process and product-evolution for these goods begins in anticipation of the point of habitation and ideally much earlier, then surely these products would be more robust, when the time of depending upon them comes.
Furthermore, I hypothesise that the freedom offered by Mars tomorrow, could well help sell products today, if the product is fit for the Mars of tomorrow, today. What if devices useful for Mars tomorrow could be designed with a utility for today?
The 'Made for Mars' label is designed to capture Category-2 goods and offer entrepreneurs a way to build for Mars profitably and immediately, opening and even democratising access to the space economy for a new generation of explorers.
Critically, every product which uses the label needs to justify its usage. The consumer will ask how the product will hypothetically contribute to Mars tomorrow, and there needs to be a sound explanation given.
Incorporating the label will enhance the consumer experience, offering the product a long-term alignment with a long-term trajectory, potentially contributing to long-term success.
Our vision of Mars, is one of free citizens, is one of peace and prosperity. No one wants to go to Mars with guns. It doesn't mean that there won't be a militarised presence on Mars, but a peaceful Mars would be worth it, would it be worth fighting for? Contradictions and juxtapositions abound!
This chapter outlines an example of how Apple could apply the 'Made for Mars' label to their own product, iPhone.
Here's just one example: What if potential ore / mining sites could be identified on Mars (via Martian space satellite imagery) for raw materials required to manufacture the iPhone? In this example, Apple could market iPhone with the 'Made for Mars' label on the grounds of a study into how to find necessary resources on Mars, were the iPhone to be manufactured on Mars. This could accurately (and maybe even dynamically) inform the consumer today of how the product could be manufactured on Mars, tomorrow.
Not only does this imply that Apple might one day manufacture devices on Mars, it means that they could market-position the device for numerous new technology iterations by earning the label, until a day when the device is actually upgraded to a Made on Mars label.
Not only may such a Martian mining R&D study prove engaging for the iPhone customer base, it might significantly (in the statistical sense) stimulate further demand for the product, contributing to the evolution of the technology embedded in the device, offering a new route for a vast generation of amateur hobbyists to educate themselves on hardware manufacturing and resource quantification.
Even more crucially, climate change scientists and those concerned with zero-carbonisation could model products for Mars in such a way that yield technology breakthroughs. It is this fusing of the dream of Mars, with the dream of carbon-zero (“cero” or c-zero) which is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Made for Mars label.