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I've read a number of articles suggesting that the USA has a Mars colony, including (if I recall correctly, but I can't find the link now) one where an official in China stated that they believed the USA had a secret military base on Mars, and another that indicates that the USA attempted to recruit the great-granddaughter of President Eisenhower for a Mars colony project. While the latter seems to likely be malarkey, it seems to be one of the more common references to a USA Mars colony project. I'm curious about whether anyone's put any serious thought whether the USA could secretly create a Mars colony.

Is there any evidence that the USA either has or plans a secret colony on Mars?

Is it logistically possible that the USA could start a Mars colony and keep it secret?

Edit 2020

It's worth noting the newsworthy claims of Haim Eshed, noted in numerous news articles including NBC's "Former Israeli space security chief says extraterrestrials exist, and Trump knows about it" :

A former Israeli space security chief has sent eyebrows shooting heavenward by saying that earthlings have been in contact with extraterrestrials from a "galactic federation."

"The Unidentified Flying Objects have asked not to publish that they are here, humanity is not ready yet," Haim Eshed, former head of Israel's Defense Ministry's space directorate, told Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

Eshed said cooperation agreements had been signed between species, including an "underground base in the depths of Mars" where there are American astronauts and alien representatives.

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    It is not worth debunking unless you produce some minimal evidence to support this claim. May 28 '11 at 23:36
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    Related: Does the USA have a secret colony on Jupiter? (Joking aside; isn't this applicable to anything, and pretty much impossible to falsify... e.g. is it true that Barack Obama is actually a martian?)
    – Thomas O
    May 29 '11 at 0:00
  • I would suppose that an official of the Chinese government making the allegation would be adequate prima facie evidence of which one ought to respond with substantive skepticism instead of hand-waving. While one may vacuously dismiss such a claim, such is not in my opinion the purpose or value of this site. An appropriate response would be empirical, namely addressing, for example, (1) the cost of such a venture (and whether the US spends as much on military, less its existing military spending), and (2) the plausibility of covering it up. Viz eg the financial feasibility begets falsification. May 29 '11 at 2:08
  • I any case, the question is whether there is evidence of a mars colony (of which none has yet been posted), but in any event whether it's possible to keep a mission fo such scope secret? (e.g. have there been other military actions of equivalent scope that have been kept secret). Perhaps Wikileaks will tell! May 29 '11 at 2:16
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    @Brian: Show us the link to story of the Chinese government taking it seriously if you want that people don't engage in immediate hand-waving.
    – Christian
    May 29 '11 at 12:53
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Of course there is a secret colony on Mars. The same people that kept the secret that we faked the moon landing are also keeping the secret that we went to Mars and established a colony...

Okay, in all seriousness, please select a launch that was supposed to have sent anything off to Mars that included people or the equipment to support those people. Here is a list of all past NASA launches for you to choose from. I'm sure that whatever mission you choose, I will be able to knock a hole through any conspiracy theory that even the 9/11 troofers will think anyone who believes this is nuts.

The logistics in launching a manned mission to Mars would be so large that it would be impossible to hide it. Conservative estimates place the price-tag at $1 TRILLION, and hiding that sort of spending would be nigh on impossible (and keep in mind that most estimates of any government program are usually way under the real cost).

There are many ideas for a Mars mission, and if anyone got there, it would be a coup of historic proportions that no one would want to keep it secret. Much like with the moon landing hoax insanity, if we hadn't got there, the Russians would have been all over it. If the US has managed to get to mars, it would be front page news all over the world, and would be used in every possible manner to showcase the US in a positive light.

As Oddthinking said, "extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence", and I have seen none!

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    Keep in mind, any launch on the planet will be spotted by a constellation of IR sensing satellites that the US, Russians, Chinese, and ESA have in orbit. There is virtually no way to "hide" a launch. Hence why the list of launches is complete. May 30 '11 at 13:10
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    sure, but if it's a "secret base" the US would never publish that information (and no doubt the conspiracy would be expanded to include every other country that has that tracking capability, leading to the iluminati new world order secret world government or some nonsense like that.
    – jwenting
    May 31 '11 at 5:51
  • The trillion dollar budget seems like the least of the obstacles to overcome -- the USA managed to sweep a trillion dollar "war" under the carpet without raising too many eyebrows. 15% of the military budget over 10 years is a trillion dollars.
    – Johnny
    Mar 3 '15 at 16:31
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Perhaps we can turn this ridiculousness into a lesson about skepticism.

Scientific skeptics attempt to evaluate claims based on verifiability and falsifiability and discourage accepting claims on faith or anecdotal evidence. Skeptics often focus their criticism on claims they consider to be implausible, dubious or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science. Scientific skeptics do not assert that unusual claims should be automatically rejected out of hand on a priori grounds - rather they argue that claims of paranormal or anomalous phenomena should be critically examined and that extraordinary claims would require extraordinary evidence in their favor before they could be accepted as having validity. [Wikipedia: Scientific Skepticism]

This idea that "extraordinary claims requires extraordinary evidence" (also known as Sagan's Standard) means that we must provisionally accept the more prosaic explanation - e.g. that there is no secret colony on Mars - until some significant evidence suggests the opposite.

This is an extraordinary claim. It would require a huge conspiracy far beyond the bounds of any we have ever discovered to date. Because that extraordinary evidence is lacking - in fact any evidence at all is lacking - the only reasonable answer that can be given is "No."

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  • "or clearly contradictory to generally accepted science" -- Interesting definition. It's kind of an oxymoron now, because we're claiming that it's skepticism to staunchly defend the establishment. May 29 '11 at 17:35
  • That definition is delightful (in general; not just for this answer). Whoever wrote it was brilliant. May 29 '11 at 20:44
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    @Russell, note the wording "often focus". That's because generally accepted science has normally passed through the test of critical examination. (I am loathe to describe science as "establishment", because it often contradicts the claims of those in "establishment".) That said, sometimes skepticism turns to face off against "generally accepted science" - e.g. I still have a bounty open on this question: skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1779/…
    – Oddthinking
    May 29 '11 at 23:52
  • @RusselSteen - Its not like its a high bar to get over. It is just saying that if you want to be addressed seriously have some evidence to support it or at least the possibility. This is grounded in nothing more that a fantasy someone had while high. If i was inclined I am sure I could pull somethings together to make it look like it might be a conspiracy. But then there is something tangible to refute. And that is really all that is being asked for is something tangible to refute.
    – Chad
    Nov 15 '11 at 14:46
  • In fact, it's possibly arguable that in this case absence of evidence does constitute evidence of absence. With contemporary technology the number and average size of the launches you'd need to transport enough materiel and manpower to form a self-sufficient colony on Mars would be literally impossible to disguise, and yet absolutely nobody seems to have spotted any of them...
    – Shadur
    Feb 6 '15 at 8:34
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I'd like to add that no one knows how to land a large payload safely on the surface of mars. According to that link, the prevailing opinion is that we have landed manned spacecraft on the moon, which is small and has no atmosphere; and that we've also landed manned spacecraft on earth, which is large with a thick atmosphere. Mars is inbetween the earth and the moon both in size and atmospheric density, so it should be easy.

Not so: the atmosphere isn't thick enough to appreciably slow a large vehicle enough to safely land or deploy parachutes, like they do on earth. But it's thick enough that, while hitting the atmosphere going mach 26 or so, you can't use rocket engines to slow the spacecraft: the exhaust from such a retro-engine would act like an unstable nose-cone, which would shake the spacecraft to pieces.

with current technology, the only way to land a colony on mars is if you send them off with a "it's about the journey, not the destination" mentality, since upon arrival they will become a smoky crater.

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    well, doesn't debunk the conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theorist would just claim that knowledge about such things has been suppressed together with everything else related to the project. That's the problem with conspiracy theories, they're impossible to debunk in a way that the conspiracy theorist will accept.
    – jwenting
    May 30 '11 at 5:57
  • @jwenting true, but it's a non-trivial problem that might take them by surprise, I guess. May 31 '11 at 15:15
  • another thing to consider is that we've become pretty good at landing things on earth from orbit. STS, Roton, SS1/2, Buran, etc.. This probably translates to Mars as well, though I'd want some unmanned attempts first to see if our calculations are correct :)
    – jwenting
    Jun 1 '11 at 5:40
  • @jwentling that's the point made by JPL in the story I posted: a payload big enough to support humans for years can't be appreciably slowed by the martian atmosphere, and unlike landing in a vacuum, rocket engines can't be used to slow the craft either. Landing a huge payload there would be a huge feat of engineering Jun 1 '11 at 18:38
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    @jwenting In the years since this answer was posted NASA has had some success with landing payloads more or less intact on Mars. It turns out to be really really hard (although also really really crazy awesome)...
    – Shadur
    Mar 5 '15 at 22:27
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Another idea would be radio amateurs.

Radio amateurs regularly pick up communications between ground stations and spacecraft.

For example we have the story of this guy and if you're willing to believe agencies of US government, there's also this project for space shuttles and another project for ISS.

Another point would be various SETI programs that are currently in existence. Unfortunately, I don't have any links at the time, but I believe that some of them could notice communication between a Mars colony and Earth.

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