Elon Musk has big plans for Mars. So far, precisely 0 humans have gone to the Red Planet, but this hasn't stopped the newly minted world's richest person from claiming he could put 1 million people up there by 2050 on spaceships capable of carrying 1,000 people at a time.
It's a task more challenging than humanity has ever undertaken, even before you get to the planet and begin making it habitable. He's previously suggested nuking Mars in order to liberate carbon dioxide trapped beneath the planet's surface, in order to warm it. Studies have shown that there isn't nearly enough carbon dioxide beneath the surface to cause the greenhouse effect necessary to heat the planet, yet Musk still seems attached to the idea, Tweeting "Nuke Mars!" in 2019, and even printing up T-shirts.
Once technical difficulties are solved and/or our new home is pointlessly nuked, there still remain some sociological problems with establishing a colony on a new planet. How would society work? Would there be a monetary system, and when would it be established? How would you divide the work?
In a Twitter thread, Musk was asked on what criteria the hundreds of thousands of Martians would be selected, to which he responded: "Needs to be such that everyone can go if they want, with loans available for those that don't have money". When asked if that meant people would be required to work off the loans, he replied "Yes. There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!"
Though there are those that read this as being a positive step to allow poorer members of society to get to Mars, others took it to mean that people's debts would follow them to Mars, making it humanity's first interplanetary debtors' prison colony.
"Indentured servitude was outlawed (along with slavery) with the 13th Amendment," one critic wrote on Twitter. "But I guess the Constitution won't apply on Mars."
Though the problem of how a brand new society is to be organized is unlikely to be faced anytime soon (the number of people who have even holidayed on Mars remains zero), it does raise interesting questions for the future.
At the moment, Musk (and any other potential colonists) would be bound by the Outer Space Treaty. Part of this states that, like maritime law applying to international waters, the space travelers would be bound to the laws of the country they fly the flag of (in SpaceX's case, that would be the US as it is an American company). As such, Musk's colony would be subject to US laws on indentured servitude, which was outlawed in 1833.
However, how the law would be enforced on a whole new planet, let alone whether the law could be stretched (as it is on Earth) remains to be seen in the years ahead, possibly in Elon Musk's planned Mars city.
[H/T: Business Insider]