The exploration of Mars presents an opportunity to reimagine Earth systems to create a more just society. This paper proposes systems of governance, organized labor, and sustainability that would promote the rights of astronauts, settlers, and citizens on Mars. We presume that Martian exploration will occur in three stages: Foundation, when astronauts first arrive on Mars; Settlement, when residents on Mars still rely on support from Earth; and Independence, when Mars has developed into a self-sustaining society.
Governance: During the Foundation phase, a “Mars Treaty” modelled after the Antarctic treaty would promote international cooperation. In the Settlement Phase, the Mars Treaty could be modified to include Martian representation in decision-making. Once Mars reaches the Independence phase, a representative democracy would help secure the rights of Martian citizens.
Labor: Across all stages of development on Mars, organized labor is a tool for promoting equality. In the Foundation stage, astronauts may have substantial leverage to protect equality and their labor rights. However, because the risk of inequality and the threat of effective anti-union policies are greater in the Settlement stage, labor unions are more important and more in need of formal protection. It is difficult to make projections about the Independence stage, but labor unions could remain a force for equality on Mars then, as they currently are on Earth.
Sustainability: To protect space travel to Mars in the long-term, cleanup and regulation of Lower Earth Orbit satellite debris is needed during the Foundation stage. Enroute to Mars, most spaceship materials should be reusable and meet multiple needs, which will reduce in-flight waste production. Upon arrival, missions to Mars must have policies in place to contain any waste materials and to clean up those that have already been left on the surface. In the Settlement stage, the viability of Martian society will heavily depend on Earth’s ability to control and mitigate the effects of climate change to protect the resources being exported to Mars. Once Mars reaches the Independence Stage, it must enact laws to ensure the sustainable use of its resources—including those that are seemingly abundant on the planet, like water—to avoid the shortages experienced on Earth.