(Image showing how buildings are connected within Settlement Map Tool in MSP)


The Mars Simulation Project (MSP) is an open source java project simulating future human missions of establishing outposts on Mars.

You may ask, "in what ways?"

Have you ever been fascinated by reality TV shows in which how contestants survive each test? Some are natural-born team players even if they must compete against one another or must help. Some are loners by traits and have to work pass suspicion and mistrust to collaborate with others to accomplish mutual goals.

(Image from MarsOne.)

MSP emphasizes the "social" interaction of early settlers by giving each of them a personality profile, natural attributes and a list of skills. Normally, each settler has an assigned job and a myriad of tasks to perform. But they can also team up to get things done for the settlement. There is also an relationship indicator describing how close or how far apart between any two individuals.

With private ventures such as Mars One actively seeking to recruit future settlers on a one-way ticket to Mars, MSP is giving the audience some drive-in preview of the coming attractions in establishing a human foothold on Mars.

Your Face Here
(Image credit: Mashable.com, 2013)

The good news is that, unlike in a TV soap opera in that the relational dynamic of all the characters are scripted, the actions and reactions of each settler in MSP are emergent. They interact with one another as they perform their tasks and their personality and natural attributes affects the development of their social networks. Just like in real life, the bonding between any two individuals can be strengthened or weakened over time as the settlement develops.

(Cutaway of a proposed 4-person Habitat Module. Image: Ian Warpole, Scientific American)

Below are the type of questions you may ask yourself if you are a mission planner for a human-rated Mars mission:

a. What psychological profiles of the individuals should I select for each mission going to Mars to start off a colony?

b. How many of them should I send on each mission, accompanied with what items, equipment, and building modules?

c. How often should I send resupply missions to seed each existing settlement or to start a new outpost nearby?

d. What interventions do I need to do to ensure these settlers balance between their own personal needs and the collective needs? In MSP, you will have an opportunity to fresh out your own idea and hypothesis.

(Image from Outerplaces.com and Mars-One.com )


Screenshots from Mars Simulation Project Version 3.07

Mission Tool
Mars Navigator Tool, Time tool, Settlement Info Windows, Person Info Window
Resupply Tool, Science Tool
Monitor Tool
Modules Layout in Settlement Map Tool
Mining Outpost Building Layout in Settlement Map Tool


Robert Zubrin once proposed four phases in the economics of Mars colonization. Each represents a new progressive stage of increased human activities toward building a human civilization on Mars.

(Image based on Mars Direct, Robert Zubrin, The Mars Society)

(1). EXPLORATION : orbital survey of Mars, telescopic and robotic survey, precursor sample return, scientific investigations, human flyby/EVA/landing/return;

(How soon before humans trek across the landscape of Mars? Artist's concept depicts crew members involved in sample analysis on Mars. Image from NASA)

(2). BASE BUILDING : semi-permanent laboratory/habitat modules, crew rotations, water/ice recovery, in-situ fuel production, outpost maintenance/sustainment;

(Cutout of a Multi-purpose Habitat. Image from MarsOne)

(3). SETTLEMENT : colony expansion, food and resources supply chain, terrestrial exploitation, economic viability, industrial production, infrastructure redundancy;

(Mars Under Construction. Image: Bryan Versteeg/Spacehabs.com)

(4). TERRAFORMING : altering global climate, large scale geo-engineering, permanently transforming human surface activities.

Currently, MSP focuses primarily in building a simulation engine showcasing human activities in the aforementioned Phase 2 and 3 of colonizing Mars. Below are the five core features of MSP:

(Terraforming Mars is not for faint of heart. Image credit: Stefan Morrell. Sources: Christopher McKay, NASA Ames Research Center; James Graham, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Robert Zubrin, Mars Society; Margarita Marinova, California Institute of Technology)

I. Mission Scenarios

MSP borrows from a variant form of "Mars Direct" plan as proposed by Zubrin and Baker in 1990s. After MSP loads up, you are in the Simulation Configuration Editor. By default, you are presented with the initial choice of 2 settlements, namely a Mars Direct Base (with 4 settlers) and an Alphas Base (with 24 settlers). You are free to change this initial condition on how you would like to get started. MSP's built-in resupply schedule is to send one resupply mission each Mars year to seed existing settlements. However, using Resupply Tool, you can tweat the arrival date, the number of settlers and the quantity of supplies (including buildings, equipment, vehicles, resources, and parts).

Simulation Configuration Editor
(Image from Simulation Configuration Editor in MSP)

II. Social Interactions and Natural Attributes

MSP simulates the "social" aspect within the settlements of the future colonists on Mars by assigning each settler has an assigned gender, Birth date, birth location, weight, height, BMI, age, natural attributes and a personality profile based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) as modelled by Myers and Briggs in the 1960s. The ten natural attributes are Agility, Academic Aptitude, Attractiveness, Conversation, Endurance, Experience Aptitude, Leadership, Strength, Stress Resilience, and Teaching. Without a doubt, they determine how well a person interact with others.

A person's Social Tab will show a person's 9 possible social relationship toward other people (namely, Hatred, Antagonism, Unfriendly, Bothersome, Indifference, Cordial, Amicable, Friendly, and Devoted). Suffice to say that each settler with his personality type, coupling with his unique set of natural attributes and professional skills, create his own destiny. A person's Science Tab will list the scientific Achievement in his areas of endeavour.

Your Face Here
(Image credit: pioneer-city.com)

III. Health and Well Being

MSP simulates realistic scenarios in which settler will cope with accidents of all kinds, illnesses, injuries and even death. Equipment can malfunction and building break down and require maintenance. There are times when one has to go out on a rescue mission to tow a stranded vehicle back to the base. Each settler has four health attributes reflecting the person's current physical conditions: Hunger, Fatigue, Stress and Performance level. Mars is a by-and-large dangerous and unforgiving world. A person's overall health status may be reported as beig Well or being sick such as suffocating, Recovering from Anxiety Attack/Flu/Pulled Muscle, and Death, etc.. Survival hinges upon how well each settler responds to situations and how they are able to work together as a team.

(Working Inside Greenhouse. Image credit: Douglas Shrock- the Artist Shrox)

IV. Jobs, Skills and Tasks

Each settler is assigned with a Job and based on that Job, MSP will determine a relevant task and his Mission at a given time. There are a variety of Job in MSP: Architect, Areologist, Astronomer, Biologist, Botanist, Chef, Chemist, Doctor, Driver, Engineer, Mathematician, Meterologist, Physicist, Technician, and Trader. You can change a person's Job in the Activity Tab.

A person's Skills Tab will show his current level of achievement on each skill subject. Each individual has a blend of academic skills (such as Aerology, Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Meteorology, Physics, etc.) and survival skills (such as Botany, Cooking, Construction, Driving, EVA Operations, Material Science, Mechanics, Medicine, Trading, etc.) that will contribute to the survival and sustainment of the settlement. When a settler takes up the role of a chef, the corresponding skill--namely cooking-- will improve. The one whose skill is higher level may mentor one whose skill is lower. Over time, settlers can cross train among themselves to improve skills or acquire new skills. With overlapping skills, settlers depend on one another to get through disasters and catastrophes.

Settlers perform tasks and activities according to their own person needs and the collective needs of the settlement. They include Growing crops, Sleeping, Cooking, Relaxing, Exercising, Doing Yoga, Eating a Meal, Performing Maintenance, Performing Experiments, Manufacturing, Tending Greenhouse, Entering/Exiting EVA, Driving Vehicle, Collecting Resources, Perform Study, Teaching others a skill such as driving, etc.. Technician and Engineers invest a fair amount of time performing maintenance on settlement buildings and manufacturing needed parts and equipment from collected local resources. Settlers form tag teams to explore treacherous terrains, prospect rock samples and mine minerals. Based on supply and demand, they will set out excursions to trade with neighboring settlements as there are hundreds of items called "Trade Goods". Some of these items may be in surplus on one settlement but are in wants by another settlement. On the other hand, some settlers may have overwhelming scientific ambitions to just stay put and write proposals and conduct scientific study. Their goals would be earning Scientific Achievement Credits. As the primary researchers, they recruit collaborators on their projects. Without a doubt, settlers of Mars are pioneers of the next human frontier.

(A Mars Expedition. Image credit: Douglas Shrock- the Artist Shrox)

V. Building Layout

Settlement Map Tool is the latest addition to MSP. It provides each settlement a visual overview of how buildings are connected and where vital resources are located as each colony should have an unique infrastructure based on how it was developed and evolved over the years. On the other hand, it can be a tool to visually track the whereabouts of each individual and what task one may be carrying out at the moment, thus interacting with them accordingly.

(2-D blueprint of a Mars outpost with connected modules. Image courtesy of Georgi Petrov and Mars Foundation.)

As each settlement grows, more buildings are shipped in or being constructed on site according to its needs. Settlement will diversify and specialize in what it does best. You may guide a settlement to become a "university" town that has numerous laboratories, with academically driven settlers primarily on doing research studies on various disciplines. A "Green" colony may have a number of greenhouses tending different crops. It trains up the skill level of prospective biologist and botanist as it produces a large stash of food surplus for trading with other colonies. A makers' town is one that houses a lot of workshops having high industrial base, attracting influx of creative individuals to tinker with their hands and tools to produce useful parts and equipment and items. Also, you may designate a number of mining outposts near the surrounding that are resource-rich to give a continuous supply of minerals.


MSP is available for free. Download your copy of MSP v3.07 today. Choose your format below:

Download our pdf user guide here:
v3.06 User Guide


We are working toward adding more features to the future version of MSP. For further details on the development of MSP, click the button below to see us in sourceforge.


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