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From Earth to Mars:

A Service Blueprint for the Settlement of Mars

February 2022

"A few million years ago there were no humans. Who will be here a few million years hence? In all the 4.6-billion-year history of our planet, nothing much ever left it. But now, tiny unmanned exploratory spacecraft from Earth are moving, glistening and elegant, through the solar system. We have made a preliminary reconnaissance of twenty worlds, among them all of the planets visible to the naked eye, all those wandering nocturnal lights that stirred our ancestors toward understanding and ecstasy. If we survive, our time will be famous for two reasons: that at this dangerous moment of technological adolescence we managed to avoid self-destruction; and because this is the epoch in which we began our journey to the stars."

 - Carl Sagan, Cosmos


Imagine that humans have built a settlement on Mars. The settlement is young, thriving, and inhabited by several hundred residents. A steady stream of flights from Earth replenishes the settlement with supplies and newcomers approximately every two years.


This is an incredible achievement for humanity.

Let us assume that humans have generally managed to address the massive and complex challenges that come with establishing a Mars settlement. This means that we've successfully transported people to and from Mars and developed the systems and technologies required to sustain a continuous human presence on the planet. For instance, we've figured out ways to manage deadly radiation; transport humans through deep space; establish food, shelter, and other life support systems on Mars; and much more. This entire process has no doubt resulted in new discoveries, major scientific breakthroughs, and new ways of thinking that benefit life on Earth, Mars, and beyond.

In this post, I have created a user journey and blueprint for a future service that aims to scale the population of a human settlement on Mars. 

Planets Only.jpg

A path from Earth to Mars via the Hohmann transfer orbit


Before we dive into the details of the blueprint, let's set some context for our future service:


A company has spent several decades designing and building a Mars settlement. Today, it is home to a few hundred people. The company has launched a new end-to-end service that will train, select, and fly people to Mars where they will start a new life on the red planet. The company has ambitions to increase the diversity and population of the settlement.

There are four main stages of the service journey, from the perspective of the user:

  • Discover: The service journey begins with an individual, our Prospective Candidate, doing research on joining a mission to Mars. The user is keen and curious to learn more.

  • Onboard: They apply for the mission and their application is reviewed. A special committee approves them to become a Mars Candidate, and they proceed to mission training. Upon successful completion of training, the candidate is approved for a flight to Mars. They socialize with their future crew members, book their flight, and prepare for their trip. On the day of the flight they arrive at the spaceport and board the spacecraft.

  • Travel: The spacecraft begins its journey to Mars. The Passengers reach their final destination, where they disembark the spacecraft and unload supplies for the settlement.

  • Settle: Newcomers grow accustomed to life in the settlement, including their new living environments, routines, responsibilities, peers, norms, and governance structures. They integrate into the local community and settle into their lives as long-term Residents of Mars.

As noted above, the status of the user changes, beginning as a Prospective Candidate and ultimately becoming a Mars Resident. This shift in status over time is also a reflection of where the user is physically located, whether that is Earth, space, or Mars. Here are the major steps and transitions that take place across the journey:





Developing and scaling a Mars settlement is a complex endeavour that requires a sophisticated service model. Below is a service blueprint that visualizes the relationships between different components of the service — people, props (physical or digital evidence), and processes — that are directly tied to touch points in the user journey. If you're not familiar with service blueprints, here's a brief overview from Nielson Norman Group.

My goal here is to visualize the high level components of the end-to-end service. I purposefully avoid getting too granular (e.g., describing specific channels, technologies, actions) given that much of this is speculative. Plus, it helps focus our attention on the bigger picture. For instance, I note that life support systems are an essential component in delivering the service, but I'm not here to debate which life supports are involved or how the customer interfaces with them.

The blueprint is structured as follows:

  • Stages: major phases of the service experience

  • Timeline: timing of key events

  • Events: specific events that take place in each stage

  • Location: where the service takes place (i.e., Earth, space, or Mars)

  • User journey: description of what's happening to the user

  • Status: status or role of the user

  • User actions: specific actions that the user takes in order to engage with the service 

  • Frontstage: everything that is visible to the user when they are directly engaging with the service (e.g., interactions, interfaces, actors, products, conversations)

  • Backstage: what the service provider is doing to produce the frontstage; this is not visible to the user

  • Support processes: the systems, processes, policies, actors, etc. that are required in order to deliver the service; this is not visible to the user

I've also made a number of assumptions about the service in order to create this blueprint, most notably:

  • One company is responsible for orchestrating the delivery of the end-to-end service.

  • The service is enabled by an ecosystem of products and systems (e.g., spacecraft, life support technologies, spaceport).

  • Individuals can apply to become a candidate for the Mars settlement. The target user of the service is a person with unique knowledge/skills that are critical for the settlement. This person is willing to voluntarily dedicate their life to advancing the Mars mission. The nature of their life/work on Mars will be trailblazing yet labour intensive, high-risk, and challenging. This is not an opportunity for space tourism or leisure. They must meet a minimum set of requirements to be considered for the mission, such as completing specialized training and meeting a set of health standards.

  • Monitoring and evaluating the long-term health and wellbeing of the user throughout the journey is critical to mission success.

  • The blueprint only shows the service providing a one-way trip to Mars. I assume the service provider is returning to Earth with humans, artifacts, and other payloads -- though related, this is a separate journey that warrants its own blueprint.





This blueprint aims to offer a high-level view into an end-to-end service that will one day fly humans to Mars, to stay. The frontstage and backstage demonstrate the processes and systems that enable the delivery of this service. To take this work a step further, you could break down the stages or events into their own blueprint (e.g., a blueprint just for the candidate application process). And while some components of the service are highly speculative, we can still see how they can come together to create a cohesive customer experience. 

Tags: Service Design, Blueprint, Customer Experience, Mars, Earth, colony, settlement

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