Mars Family Law Project

NASA's space program, along with private corporations such as SpaceX are making plans for the exploration and colonization of Mars.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk intends on establishing a Mars settlement with a population of 80,000 people within the coming decades ( ).

Nasa, SpaceX and others are devising plans and exploring solutions to many of the problems and challenges that will be presented to the settlers on Mars. This includes devising rules to protect property rights on Mars and some other legal issues. To date, there has been no discussion or draft plans for how settlers on Mars will govern the relationships between parents, children and the community. With 80,000 people, there will be intimate relationships, many these intimate relationships will end and some will end with children involved.

High-performance space architecture Georgi Petrov’s 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduate thesis, “A Permanent Settlement on Mars: The First Cut in the Land of a New Frontier” identified the necessity of developing a social structure for Mars settlement as a pre-curser to other design steps.

"Prior to beginning design, the social structure and purpose of the settlement must be specified. Due to its extreme isolation the Mars settlement cannot function like a normal part of established terrestrial society. One must therefore look for precedents in the rich history of thought on how to structure an isolated human society that stretches as far back as the age of colonization in Ancient Greece, and as recently as Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti project, which is still being built [Soleri 1984]. Besides the numerous theoretical works on the subject, there have been a number of utopian experiments carried out, most notably on the American frontier during the 19 century [Tod 1978], [Holloway 1996].

Some of the most important stands that people have taken focus on the tension between individual and communal needs, the attitude towards human sexual and family life, and on the government structure of the group. Without trying to be social engineers the designers of the first base must imagine a viable social structure that is reflected in the spatial organization of the habitat."

Unfortunately, no such model social structure currently exists. Apart from some efforts from the arts community, no preparation is currently underway to develop such a model.

The comprehensive family law models on Earth are currently undergoing reviews following a general recognition that they are not serving communities, parents and children at an acceptable level.

Changes to national and regional family law systems are slow and mired in historical, political and structural resistance. At the same time, modern research and experience lays a clear and solid foundation for a new comprehensive family law model.

The Mars Family Law Project aims to develop a best practices comprehensive family law system that incorporates:

1.      Practical social regulation;

2.      Serves the long-term best interests of children;

3.      Serves the long-term autonomy, independence and health of parents;

4.      Protects and enhances community resources and functioning; and

5.      Values and complies with universal standards for individual human rights.

This system will be designed and built with the contributions from:

Space Science Community: Engineers, architects, scientists and students of the space science community are actively thinking about life in a Mars settlement. The physical infrastructure and the social infrastructure must be coordinated to make the most efficient use of resources.

Family Justice Professionals: Current lawyers, social workers, academics, Judges, mediators and other professionals within the current, Earth based family justice systems are intimately aware of what is working and what is not working.

Social Scientists and Physicians:  Contemporary research is clearly showing that families – parents and children, are not generally faring well under the current family justice system. Children and parents that have been exposed to family courts are generally worse off in every way – their short term and long term outcomes. However, there are exciting insights – research showing a path to better relationships (John and Julia Gottman ) and showing a better ways to nurture and build resilience in children.

Artists: The imagination and insight into the future of the human condition is already underway within the broad arts community. From Jane Fonda’s Barbarella, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner , and Spike Jonze’s Her (  to Lady Gaga’s Born this Way ( ) artists are dreaming of different forms of family structures in the future. Their contributions and innovations will be important for this initiative.

You: Whatever your background, your experiences as a child, a parent or a community member are important to the framing and development of a comprehensive family law model.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why is this important to Earth?

Yes, for two reasons:

First, developing solutions for space provides thinkers and innovators with creative license to break out of old ways of thinking and problem solve in new ways. This has led to a multitude of ground-breaking solutions for space technologies that were subsequently used to revolutionize ways of doing things on Earth.  Using a theoretical and future Mars Settlement as a cognitive sandbox, a new comprehensive family justice model may be developed with future applications within Earth communities.

Secondly, in past mass settlements of regions on Earth, human rights abuses were inflected upon residents of the Old World as well as the New World. Slavery is one prominent example. Other examples specifically governed by broad family law was the deportation from the Old World of children of unwed mothers to populate the New World.

What is wrong with the current family law system?

The current system is not serving communities, parents or children. Children and parents that have been exposed to family courts are generally worse off in every way – their short term and long term outcomes. Communities are having to invest significant financial resources into the operation of these systems and then re-invest further resources into rehabilitating broken youth and parents who are created.

A bevy of recent studies have called for changes. For example:

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice report: “Meaningful Change for Family Justice: Beyond Wise Words” April 2013

Law Commission of Ontario's Increasing Access to Family Justice Through Comprehensive Entry Points and Inclusivity: Final Report - February 2013

Australian Law Reform Commission, Family Violence – A National Legal Response

Failure To Flourish: How Law Undermines Family Relationships. By Clare Huntington. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 2014.

Marriage Markets: How Inequality Is Remaking The American Family. By June Carbone and Naomi Cahn. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press. 2014.

Family Law Reimagined. By Jill Elaine Hasday. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 2014.

Divorce Corp.  How can I get involved?

What has to be considered?

Good adult outcomes for children: Institute a preventative model of child protection to nourish healthy, independent, cooperative, and strong citizens/settlers.

Universal rights and obligations: Current laws and regulations respecting families provide for fluctuating rights based for children based upon their parent's marital status, nationality and income. What would be the best practice within a Mars colony to obtain the desired goals?

Community integration of various family structures: Work, recreation, daycare and other services and activities for children and parents should be designed to incorporate a variety of family structures. On Earth, activities (sports etc.) and services (school bus, daycares, etc.) are not designed for children with separated parents, thus these children are left out causing friction between their parents, the use of community resources to resolve disputes and poor adult outcomes. Such friction could be avoided through community design features. Design features may extend to the architecture and layout of the physical housing units to accomodate different family structures.

Disabled parents and children: Like on Earth, a Mars colony will have children and adults that are injured or otherwise develop disabilities. Current laws and regulations respecting families provide for some different rights and obligations for disabled persons. What would be the best practice within a Mars colony?

Support obligations: In conjunction with the development of the Settlement's currency and monetary regimes, how are children with parents that live separately going to be supported? What are the parental and community obligations?

Child Protection: How is child welfare going to be addressed? What systems will be in place for monitoring and intervening to protect children from neglect and abuse?

Domestic Violence: How will parents and spouses be protected from intimate violence? What methods of education, detection and intervention will be available to the colony?

Dispute Resolution: What models and resources will be in place to resolve disputes? Will Earth based judges, arbitrators and mediators be used?

Governance of personal property: What happens to property and any joint property upon the dissolution of a relationship or death? This will have to be part of a bigger conversation about personal property on Mars.