Have you ever wondered how much property on Mars might sell for? You’re not the only one. Every year, tens of thousands of people search for information on how much it would cost to buy their own little piece of Martian soil. The truth is often disappointing.
Right now, it is not possible to legally own land or property on Mars, giving any deeds associated with that land, a value of $0.00 per acre. This is a result of several international treaties, including The Outer Space Treaty (1967), The Moon Treaty (1979), and more recently, The Artemis Accords (2020).
THE CURRENT AVERAGE VALUE OF LAND ON MARS IS $0.00 PER ACRE.
There are a number of companies that advertise Martian land for sale. Unfortunately, the deeds they sell have no legal basis and would not hold weight in any court of law anywhere on Earth (or off it). They are not real. Their only value is as novelty items and should be treated as such.
Despair not, though!
While it is not currently possible to buy land on Mars, that does not mean it will never be possible. One day, it may be possible to buy land on the Red Planet.
In fact, I believe if we carry on with our current technological trajectory, it will eventually be all but inevitable.
For more information on how this could happen, see my Ultimate Guide to Buying Extraterrestial Real Estate for Serious Investors (currently being written).
What Different Parts of Mars Might be Worth
To answer the question of what parts of Mars might be worth, we first have to answer the question of why would anyone want to own a part of Mars? Or what makes a particular piece more desirable than another?
The answers fall into four basic categories: Resources, Strategic Points, Historical Significance, and Proximity to human-made areas of importance.
Access to resources is perhaps the single most obvious reason why one part of the Martian surface may be more valuable than another.
While land ownership is still out of the picture, many space-faring countries now recognise private ownership of minerals and resources mined from celestial bodies. This establishes a basis for why a private individual might want to develop a particular area, which in turn, could open a path to the development of new laws.
Plentiful water can be found visible at the surface, frozen, across the vast North Polar Ice Cap. Frozen water also exists at the South Pole beneath a permanent Carbon Dioxide Ice Cap, as well as in the more temperate zones.
Water will be a critical resource in any space economy, and this could increase the value of these areas above others.
Likewise, ore resources that can be refined into pure metals and then mixed into alloys will be very important for the building of in-space infrastructure.
Unlike water, these resources are far more difficult to locate. Not because they are not there, but because their deposits are much more fragmented. Mars does not have a sea of iron or a plane of cobalt. Instead, we must use the techniques of planetary geology to determine where potential veins might be.
One of the most reliable ways to increase your chances of finding rich ore deposits is to focus your activities on those areas high in geographical disturbance, which usually also means previously very high temperatures.
Areas of Mars rich in volcanoes, fissures, dikes, trenches, and even asteroid impact sites are all potential candidates that could command higher than average land prices on an open market.
It should be noted that Mars has also been shown to be rich in high-metal rocks just lying around on the surface. It is quite likely that these rocks represent low hanging fruit for future industry and serious geological investigations for the purpose of commercial mining of the kind we see on Earth would not be necessary for a long time.
On the other hand, if a particular element is found to be in absence, areas rich in that element could become among the most valuable locations on the planet.
Some parts of Mars may be more desirable than others because of the strategic advantages certain geographical features give to people who set up bases there.
While we obviously hope that activities in space will remain as demilitarised and conflict-free as possible, it would be naive to imagine that how one might defend strategic assets, should the need arise, will not be a consideration for those setting up in-space infrastructure.
It’s a maxim as old as human military strategy that whoever controls the high-ground has a strategic advantage over their opponents.
Olympus Mons, in the Tharsis Montes region, is about as perfect a high-ground spot on Mars as you can get. The 25 km tall volcano features massive cliffs on three sides, making land approach extremely difficult. It covers a land area the size of Arizona, and the crater at the top is gigantic enough to host a city.
Caves represent the other end of the extreme in terms of strategic advantage and make very effective defensive points, as many groups on Earth have proved time and again.
But perhaps more importantly for early settlers, caves may provide the perfect protection against harmful radiation. The radiation unprotected humans would be exposed to on the surface of Mars would be 900 times higher than humans on Earth.
Researchers have simulated at least some types of radiation protections and found that caves may provide at least part of the answer for how to shield settlers from such huge doses of radiation.
A recent paper by D. Viúdez-Moreiras, at the National Institute for Aerospace Technology in Madrid, demonstrates how craters and cave skylights could not only allow human habitation, but even enable early agriculture.
The results presented [in this paper] strongly suggest that pit craters and cave skylights are effectively shielded from the damaging UV radiation found on the Martian surface…
…the photosynthetically active radiation is higher than the minimum required for Earth-like phototrophs. The intermediate radiation environment between the damaging radiation on the surface and the permanent darkness of a hypothetical cave offered by voids on Mars may represent favorable environments for habitability without constraining the type of energy source for potential as-yet unknown Martian organisms.D. Viúdez-Moreiras,
The ultraviolet radiation environment and shielding in pit craters and cave skylights on Mars,
In particular interest is this area in the Tharsis region, identified by G. E. Cushing et al. of the Astrogeology Science Center of the U.S. Geological Survey. Each red dot represents an identified cave candidate.
The Tharsis region contains over 1,000 cave candidates alone. More may be found with better imaging technology and boots on the ground that can identify horizontal cave mouths as well as verticle ones.
The Artemis Accords make special provisions for the preservation of historical sites in space. This obviously includes places like the Apollo landing sites on the moon, but it could perhaps also extend to Martian rover sites.
While it’s unlikely that much commercial value will be placed on these locations in the short term, even once we have boots on Mars, that might not always be the case. It’s not inconceivable that the areas around such historical sites, those that aren’t fenced off by governments to protect the rovers themselves, may eventually command prices much higher than the average.
Proximity to Human-Made Areas Of Importance
Finally, it should be noted that once we have people on Mars and start to build infrastructure, those areas will become natural hubs for commerce and trade and will therefore command higher prices.
Such a potential outpost could be the SpaceX colonisation mission currently under development and slated for an unmanned mission to the Red Planet in 2024, with a potential manned mission in 2027.
In 2019, science journalist Robert Zimmerman uncovered images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission that were tagged as potential SpaceX landing sites.
In his article, Mr Zimmerman notes the high likely hood of finding glacial water at these locations and speculates that this is the primary reason (along with the flat landscape for low-risk landings) for the investigation into these points.
Hopefully, we will one day see an actual property market on Mars. In the meantime, there are plenty of opportunities to invest our capital in ventures that will see us serve markets in space closer to home.