Mars College

Mars College '22 Alpha
12 Sep 2021 back to blog

Having an effecient build is one of my main goals this year. Our process has been a bit intuitive so far. One of the benefits of being close enough to civilization is that we can make Home Depot runs or order stuff from Amazon (unlike Burningman) . This approach however leads to a prolonged build with a nebulous end. There are always things that need doing, and a thin layer of guilt and indecision linger.

This year - two weeks. The first week we focus on getting the structure up. Erect the pallet racks, lay down the floors, screw in the walls, string the guard rails, build the stairs, secure the ladders, set up the shade. The second week we delve into the systems that make Mars come to life. Wifi everywhere! Solar installations on each house, TVs and Projectors, Showers, kitchen sinks, dishwashing stations, drinking water, grey water, compost bins, composting toilets, desks, chairs, tables, couches, counter tops…

We are not going to get this done in a week if we are constantly discovering we need some connector that is going to take Amazon 10 days to deliver, or if we are out there Googling how to setup solar. So our purpose for the next 3 months is to stage Mars on Venus. While we live comfortably with city water, power and Internet we prototype each of these systems so we know how to set them up, design the system we need on Mars, order and organize all of the components so when we go to colonize Mars we carry everything we need to make a healthy vital community out there.

This also clarifys pre-alpha (October). Before alpha begins (November) and a bunch of people come in ready to figure out distributed solar and mesh networking Venus needs to mature enough to receive them. So our outdoor kitchen needs to get cleaned up and organized so it can serve 10ish people. Our trailers need to get fixed up and functional so everyone coming in isn’t wondering how to turn on the refridgerator. Ideally we have workspaces defined for the different projects and tools organized for them.


Earth includes shelter, compost, trash and recycling. Pre-alpha we need to finalize our camp layout in Sketchup such that we can do inventory on the material we have and have time to order the material we need. Before January we need to survey and flag Mars so we know where things go. Specific sub-systems we need to think through include:


Right now the intention is to set up independent 1kw - 2kw solar systems on the roof of each of the four ‘houses’. This seems like a reasonable scale solar system for people learning about solar for their own #VanLife or off-grid projects. It should be sufficient for running lights, charging devices (including unicycles) and running tv’s or projectors. There may be occasional night time activities that require a generator, but for our daily routine this should be sufficient. We need to spec our requirements so we’re clear on the sizing of our system for the draw we intend distinguishing between daytime (solar direct) activiites and nighttime (battery) activities. We need to prototype this system on Venus so we know reality reflects our plans and order all the components so we are confident we have what we need when we move out to Mars. We should also have some wifi connected power management / monitoring hardware we can use to remotely or programatically detect what is going on with our power and potentially activate certain plug points when the sun is shining and power is plentiful, and turn them off when the sun sets and we are running on battery. In addition to specing out the solar array we need to plan how the power will be distributed through our structure as well as organize and order the necessary extension chords and power strips to do this. In addition to solar the house of Fire is responsible for gas generator electricity backup, propane, firewood and probably white gas for fire spinning.



Our water comes from town which has good city water and an expensive water filter installed on Venus. We can fill 5 gallon bottles with filtered drinking water and deliver these to each of the houses on Mars. We also have a 300 gallon IBC tank we fill in town and use on Mars to fill tanks in the trailers and kitchens we use for cooking and dish washing and a large tank we can use for showers, laundry, and hand washing. How to handle laundry is an open question we need to work thru during alpha. We have an outdoor washer and dryer on Venus, but it won’t be sufficient for everyone. At a minimum we will need some clothesline setup where people can dry their clothes in the sun. Additionally we need gray water systems in place to nurture plants and not create a big muddy mess in our living areas.



Internet is the final element in our mix. We have fiber coming from ATT to a mobile home in Bombay. Our first priority is to beam that to Mars to provide strong wifi in all of our live and work spaces. We need to distribute that with local repeaters to all of the houses on Mars. We also need to get a media center TV / projector set up in each of the lounge spaces. Air is the most technical of our physical elements. It would be great to integrate cameras, sensors and control systems so we can see and manage what is going on with our space at large.


posted by: chatsubo.z