Our Team: Duke's Martians

One Team

How we approached it

Going to Mars is not just a technological feat; even more so, it is a challenge of the human spirit, intellect, and community. Our project not only sought to understand the logistical and technical challenges of a mission to Mars, but also the human challenges: through our interdisciplinary, modular-based team approach throughout the year long project.

We examined a series of risk-based decision scenarios involving the settling of Mars, considered from a variety of vantage points. As with prior DeCIPHER projects, we began with a 6 week “bootcamp” of key concepts, and then delved into team research. Over the course of the year long project, students role-played an array of groups preparing for and undertaking the mission to settle Mars, such as government agencies, private enterprises in space transport, mining or other sectors, nonprofit groups, and the settlers themselves. We examined benefits and risks from a variety of vantage points.

Each key decision point was evaluated by sub-teams, each of whom brought different knowledge and motivations to the questions of objectives, tradeoffs, and solutions. We considered each decision in a “module,” or a set of several dedicated class meetings for each of the selected decision. Sub-teams rotated between different stakeholder groups as the project progressed through modules to provide a broader vantage point for each participant. Both the boot camp and the modules included team members' reflections, and anticipatory thoughts on how these issues may be applied in analyzing the Mars settlement. The graduate project manager coordinated progress, and each of the thematic modules include sub-team advisors who were faculty members or post-docs.

LEarn More about our Method
One Mission

Why Explore Mars?


successful mission to Mars requires years of planning from various organizations: government entities, private corporations, scientists, sociologists, economists, religious organizations, and many other disciplines. As the possibility of settling Mars becomes less remote, these various actors must begin coming together to envision the next great effort in human exploration. Our team has modeled this interdisciplinary approach to develop a set of deliverables for the public to begin to understand both the greatness of this challenge and the possible reward of such an endeavor.

Our Project's Educational and Public Deliverables:
  • Analyses and recommendations on key elements of settling Mars, drawn on tools from multiple disciplines including science, engineering, history, economics, ethics, law, and international relations.
  • Products for internal pedagogical use, including policy memos, role playing strategies, oral presentations, and other products appropriate for audiences as identified throughout the project(e.g. blog posts as mission logs).
  • Engagement with government agencies, private enterprise, and nonprofit organizations, contributing to the development of policy on going to Mars
  • We will present our work with a poster at the Bass Connections showcase, communicating the project insights via visual displays of quantitative and qualitative information.
  • This Website!

We encourage you to explore this website, and challenge your understanding of what a mission to Mars requires!

LEarn More about our Research

"without the understanding of the fundamental elements of science, engineering, history, economics, ethics, law and international relations...there is no future for humanity on Mars"

Hours of Research
Team Members
Who We Are

Many Talents | Many Tasks

Adam Doll

View Bio

Angel Heredia

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Charles (Chase) Hamilton

Project Manager
View Bio

Christopher Kilner

PhD Candidate in Ecology
View Bio

Chunxin Tang

View Bio

Clare Holtzman

View Bio

Dan Buckland MD PhD

Assistant Professor
View Bio

Donald Pepka

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Jenny Chen

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Jeremy Yu

View Bio

Joanna Feaster

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Jonathan B. Wiener

Perkins Professor of Law, and Professor of Public Policy and Environmental Policy; Co-Director, Duke Center on Risk
View Bio

Jory Weintraub

Science Communication Director and Senior Lecturing Fellow
View Bio

Lelia Jennings

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Logan Taylor

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Nathan Nouri

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Patrick Wilson

View Bio

Ritika Saligram

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Sam Schrader

View Bio

Savannah Artusi

View Bio

Shivam Patel

View Bio

Shu Boboila

View Bio

Siobhan Oca

View Bio

Somia Youssef

PhD Candidate
View Bio

Spencer Kaplan

Undergraduate Student, Duke University
View Bio

Tyler Felgenhauer

Director of Climate Research, The Duke Center on Risk
View Bio
Mission Log

Mission to MArs: Details

Collaboration amongst nations, scientists, business leaders, and stakeholders is both one of the challenges of a Martian Migration and one of the strengths of humanity when we have a common purpose. We want to thank the following guest speakers, lecturers, and experts who contributed to our understanding of the challenges and opportunities of settling Mars throughout our project.


Mark Borsuk

Duke Engineering

Amy Schmid

Duke Biology

Mohamed Noor

Duke Biology

Dawn Bowles

Duke Medicine

Sarah Deutsch

Duke History

Emma Lehnhardt


Jennifer Buss

Potomac Institute

Sarah Stewart Johnson


Katherine Tighe

A Sincere Thankyou


This report accompanied by the website (ourmartian.world) was prepared by a team of research assistants over the summer of 2021. Many thanks to Jory Weintraub, Jonathan B. Wiener and Tyler Felgenhauer for serving as Faculty Leaders to guide the summer team. Thanks to Chase Hamilton for serving as a remote consultant throughout the production of the report and website. Thanks to Joanna Feaster for serving as a graphic designer, technical expert and editor to generate the report. Thanks to Donald Pepka, Adam Doll, and Jeremy Yu for serving as primary editors and authors of the report. Thanks to Christopher Kilner for serving as the website and game developer of ourmartian.world to supplement this report. Thanks to Somia Youssef for serving as project coordinator to facilitate the preparation of the report and website. Thanks to Jenny Chen for her art on the team website. Many thanks to the administrators and staff at Bass Connections, the Center on Risk and the Center on Science and Society at Duke University for their generous sponsorship of this project.