Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Design

First Advisor

Shawhin Roudbari

Second Advisor

Georgia Lindsay

Third Advisor

Najeeb Jan


On popular media sites, like Reddit there has been over a hundred articles posted about two private companies with plans to colonize Mars (Lansdrop 2016). In this research I begin to address some of the ethical implications of a private company colonizing an entirely new planet. I focus on the company’s ethical relationship to its participants or future colonists. Space is our environmental salvation; I believe it is important to understand patterns of private colonization and what consequences it will have for society. There are colonization practices of private entities, with governing powers; historically and today. How do private entities gain participants for their colonization efforts, in what ways do they profit from their citizens, and how did this affect the governing powers the companies’ uses to control its populations. To answer these questions I investigated examples of private colonization historically, in the present day, and the plans of the companies who plan to colonize Mars in the future. I believe these examples can serve as precedents to analyze colonization, specifically if a private company attempted to colonize Mars. However, the challenge of this research is that there are fundamental differences between Earth and Mars. I acknowledge that Earth colonization precedents do not map perfectly to the proposed colonization of Mars. For example, the term “colonization or colonizing” used within this research have deeper connotations, that refer to indigenous persons and exploitation; which Mars is lacking indigenous persons in the traditional sense. These limitations are described in further detail in Chapter One. To understand the implications of colonizing Mars I studied Dr. Robert Zubrin a theorist of Mars colonization and James Scott a scholar on the patterns of colonization. They made it clear that financial motivations were key in understanding the consequences of any colonization practice (Scott 1998; Zubrin and Crossman 2005). They discuss that it is the main proponent to colonization and has many effects on the participants of colonization which led my research to open up a dialog with Scott’s research. The new insight of this research aligns itself with Scott, by adding a nuance to how we understand how a private entity colonizes, and the tactics involved. Scott uses terms like legibility or simplification to describe the standardization of participants in colonization practices, I am providing a nuance to Scotts terms, which is best described as the objectifying of participants in private colonization practices. Within this new insight I make the following three arguments: First, historical precedents of private colonization can help us understand colonization for the future of Mars. Second, I argue my analytical thesis framework can contribute a nuance to the work of Scott to understand deeper relationships between a private company and its colonists; Third, that nuance is the understanding of how private colonization efforts undermine citizenship by treating citizens as consumers; a private entity achieves this by retaining and adjusting the levels of governing controls used within the colony to keep the citizen trapped as consumers in their colonies. A similar concept is discussed by Mike Davis, in City of Quartz, when he describes private ownership of public spaces and how that undermines democracy (Davis 1998). I argue that private colonizers undermine citizenship manipulating governance without including public opinion. The theories of Michael Sorkin in his book the Variations of a Theme Park, he refers to how we develop our physical environments as theme parks of distraction, to distract from corporate powers and citizen control (Sorkin 1992). In a similar way I argue that private entities with governing power use adaptable levels of control to keep citizens as consumers within colonization practices.