Elon Musk is a huge dreamer. And that seems to have served him well in his life. Few can boast of the kind of achievement he has under his belt. He built PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of Tesla stocks soared in 2020, and that just culminated in him overtaking Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to become the world's richest person.
However, from his tweets and interviews, it is clear he is yet to achieve what he considers the most important goals in his life. At the top of the list is to help humanity colonize space. His immediate target is going to planet Mars and building self-sustaining cities there.
He desires that the society that emerges on Mars is an entirely new one with new governance structures based on direct democracy — every citizen votes for every government policy initiative. Sort of a clean break from what we have here.
He believes that by implementing such a form of government, the new society on Mars can fix some of the governance issues that lead to corruption on Earth.
Here is the Legal Tender on Mars
Of course, at the foundation of any society is a robust financial system. At a minimum, that means a working currency. It is through the existence of a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account that supply chains function efficiently in an enterprising society.
It seems like Elon Musk has thought about this critical detail. He appears to believe that human settlers on Mars should use cryptocurrency as the primary form of money. For whatever reason, he prefers Marscoin or Dogecoin. Both are altcoins (alternatives of Bitcoin) that have been around for a while.
Marscoin was founded in 2014 as a fork of Litecoin, which itself is a fork of Bitcoin. The word fork is used to describe creating a new cryptocurrency by copying and making slight changes to an existing cryptocurrency code.
Marscoin is a project dedicated to supporting the exploration and settlement on Mars. Those behind the project describe it as the cryptocurrency designed specifically to be used on the red planet.
The project’s founders mention that they derive inspiration from Elon Musk and Robert Zubrin on their official website. The latter is an American aerospace engineer and advocate for human settlement on Mars. He is the current president of the Mars Society, a body that builds the capacity for humans to be on Mars.
For some time, the value of Marscoin grew, but today, it seems to be a project abandoned, and its value has continued to decline.
On the other hand, Dogecoin was started by software engineers Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer. Elon Musk has called it his favorite cryptocurrency and even described himself in his Twitter bio as the ‘CEO of Dogecoin.’
It is not clear why Elon Musk does not think any of the top cryptocurrencies can be ideal to be the legal tender on the Mars colony. Bitcoin, for example, has everything going for it. It has huge recognition for it’s robust protocol. It has also been around the longest.
And that is not all. Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency that has work going on to make it a space cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin is Already in Space
In 2017 Blockstream launched a group of communication satellites to broadcast real-time Bitcoin blockchain data from space. This would allow users with no access to the internet to maintain and synchronize their nodes with the rest of the Bitcoin network.
They implemented a protocol that interfaces the internet and the satellite using Software Defined Radios (SDRs), a wireless system that transmits and receives radio signals and converts between analog and digital.
Blockstream is a blockchain technology company headquartered in Victoria, Canada, that was founded in 2014. It is known for building Bitcoin scaling solutions. Its other products include the lighting network and liquid network.
It counts some of the top Bitcoin core developers among its founders. The founders’ list includes Adam Back (the CEO), Gregory Maxwell, Pieter Wuille, and Matt Corallo.
In the year 2020, the company announced an upgrade of their satellite system that would see the diminished need for the internet to maintain the bitcoin shared ledger. This is a great development for future use of Bitcoin in space, and, in particular, on Mars, where many, including Elon Musk, believe will be our first settlement away from Earth.
With the ability to synchronize payments on a shared ledger using radio signals, it becomes possible for settlements spread on the remote parts of Mars or even the universe to be on the same page on who owns what at what time.
The most important part of this arrangement is that none of the settlements will be beholden to another. The payment system will be decentralized and not under the control of anyone anywhere in space.
If the current financial system is used to power supply chains on Mars, then a substantial physical financial infrastructure must first be set up. That is not necessary with cryptocurrency. Also, the settlements will not enjoy full independence from Earth as much of the systems might have to be controlled from here, at least for a while.
The next upgrade that Blockstream will implement may be to increase coverage to outer space. It also possible that other companies will learn from what they have achieved and build better infrastructure to cover a bigger area in space, including the region where Mars is located in preparation for humans settling there.