It could be said that the expansion of mankind into space really begun to take of during the beginning of the 2030s. Of course there were manned stations on the Moon, on Mars and in orbit around Venus. Yet for the most part creating permanent settlements on Mars was the only really civilian project to make mankind a multi-planetary species.
Interestingly the main focus on plans for further civilian settlements lay on Mars and its moons.
The main driving force behind the settlement of Mars was of course the Mars Society. They had already built up basic parts of an infrastructure to make cheap travel between Earth and Mars possible as well as a basic settlement with 150 settlers in 2031.
The increased interest in Mars however quickly showed that the single pair of Aldrin Cyclers, following their complicated ballet of interplanetary orbits, was not quite enough. Each could transport 25 people to and from Mars in their original design, but by 2031 the Mars Society had more requests for selling places on the Mauretania and Lusitania than they had available for each transit.
Both Cyclers had been designed to be modular and expandable however and by 2033 additional habitat modules had been designed and constructed, ready to be launched to meet up with Lusitania and dock with the Cycler.
The modules meant for each Cycler were easily twice as massive and larger than the original modules of the Cyclers and contained additional solar power arrays, reaction mass tanks for course correction and additional habitation space for 60 people, increasing the capacity to 85 people.
To be able to carry this many people to Mars and meet up with Mayflower Station in Mars orbit, a new passenger-transit craft, the Schiaparelli class, had to be designed and built. To help with the expected future growth of the Cyclers, each vehicle was able to carry 25 people, along with 3 tonnes of cargo. The Schiaparelli had enough delta-v to meet up with a Cycler after launch from Gateway Station in the Earth-Moon L2 point, as well as from Mayflower Station to the return Cycler, after refueling there. An aeroshell protected the vehicle during the aerocapture around Mars and Earth, reducing the amount of fuel needed for each vehicle.
A larger single use cargo vehicle was also designed for the Mars Society, each capable of transporting 25 tonnes to the Martian surface. The design of the Burton class had been selected in such a way that it could be broken apart and recycled on the Martian surface by the settlers.
2037 saw the second expansion of the Mars Society Cyclers with an additional 60 seats for 145 people. Still the Cyclers could not keep up with the demand and various groups and nations started to send their own conventional orbit to orbit missions to Mars.
Mayflower Station, having to deal with more people coming to Mars, most of them to stay, had to expand as well and over the years, the Burton Class had been used to carry additional modules for the station, enabling it to deal with the heavier load of people.
Most of the new settlers for Mars had been selected by the Mars Society for New Plymouth.
The settlement itself had been constructed south of the ruins of Honore City and grew from its humble beginnings. Had it started out with two habitable modules, it now was largely constructed underground. The settlers had used their equipment to dig 20 meters down into the Martian soil, before using a locally produced martian version of concrete to seal off the single rooms against potential leaks for air and water in the soil.
Above ground were a number of chemical and simple industrial plants as well as several large greenhouses. The chemical plants were used to purify water from the martian soil for use as drinking water or to crack it to hydrogen and oxygen to get more oxygen and methane from the atmosphere. Other chemical plants produced iron, titanium, silicone and other materials from the soil, though only in low amounts.
The industrial plants were largely using the raw materials of the chemical plants to produce some of the things needed for the colony. One was the martian concrete, as well as bricks and rockwool-like insulation materials.
The glass houses had been created largely from locally produced glass, bricks and concrete and filled with compressed martian air. Inside a wide variety of plants was grown, from salad and soy, over potatoes, wheat and rice, to apples and grapes. Using aquaponics as a base system for the glasshouses, fish like tilapia and carp were bred to provide additional proteins. In 2036 a Scotsman arrived with a pair of whiskey barrels, which he then used to produce the first Martian Whiskey, as before this most locally produced alcohol had been either vodka or other forms of moonshine.
By 2042 the population of New Plymouth had increased to 624 people, including the first of the first generation of natively born humans, the oldest, Dave Willston, having been born on September 23, 2034.
Additional to New Plymouth the 2030s saw the founding of four more settlements on Mars. One of them, Marineris, was situated near the cliff of the Valles Marineris and founded by a European group of settlers, which had been financed privately. The growth of the settlement was a little lower compared to New Plymouth and between its foundation in 2033 and 2042 it only had a growth to 114 settlers.
The remaining settlements were governmentally funded.
The Chinese had built two large spacecraft, Fenghuang and Fucanglong, propelled by fusion thrusters to set up their own, slightly faster transportation to Mars. After setting up a small station on Phobos, named Jin Chan, as a base for operations on the Martian surface, Chinese engineers began to set up the colony Shuǐxīng, which was situated in the Cydonia region in 2033. Rapid transport with the two spacecraft allowed China to ferry larger amounts of people and material to the colony, intending to set up a model settlement other nations would envy. Between 2033 and 2042 Shuǐxīng grew to a population of 545, consisting only of volunteers, while Jin Chan was crewed by 24.
Shuǐxīng was also the home of the second natively Martian born human, Toa Peng, born on April 3, 2035.
Much like the Chinese, the Soviets used their own transportation to set up a larger settlement, independently from their scientific station in Honore City. Korolevgrad was founded 20 kilometers north of Honore City and supplied by the Moskva, a fusion powered spacecraft. Between 2031 and 2042, Korolevgrad grew more slowly compared to New Plymouth or Shuǐxīng, to a population of 271, with the first Martian Soviet citizen, Irina Peretrova, born on June 2035.
The last governmentally funded settlement on Mars was Mangal, founded in 2035 by the Indian government, using the first natively constructed fusion powered spacecraft, the Annapurna. The settlement grew the slowest of the governmentally supported ones and only had a population of 182 around 2042, as it was harder to find volunteers for Mars that were suitable for the settlement program.
While Mars was in the public focus when it came to creating settlements, largely due to the media presence of the Mars Societies ‘Mars Colony Hour’, the places in space closer to Earth received their own attention.
The Moon was the largest and closest place for mankind to settle down and the major space powers had already built stations on it, followed by several companies, like Planetary Mining & Manufacturing, Orbital Industries, Mitsubishi Space Industries or Vale Espaço. That civilians would come to the Moon was to be expected and thus it lacked much of the ‘Final Frontier’ feeling that accompanied the settlement of Mars.
Instead the main reasons to move to the Moon to live there, came down to a good and steady job and a high salary. Most of these jobs were in resource extraction from lunar regolith and as such most of the people who moved to the moon were either chemical process, mechanical or mining engineers.
The resource most sought after on the Moon was Helium 3 and the Big Four and the ASPC concentrated on mining as much as possible of the material, scraping off the first meter from the lunar regolith to extract the valuable material. What remained, oxygen and various other raw materials, were largely a byproduct that needed to be either stored or could be used in construction.
The corporations however were interested in all the resources lunar regolith could provide and by 2035 they had stripped a good portion around their initial bases down to the lunar bedrock of easily mined and processed regolith.
As work expanded and the need for technicians to service and supervise the robotic systems on the lunar bases increased, the workers followed and by 2035 the entire population of the moon had grown to 5000. Most of them were on the Moon only semi-permanently, working there for a couple of months before returning to Earth, but some of them learned to like the magnificent desolation around them and chose to remain on the Moon. A few even managed to persuade their spouses to settle down on the Moon with them.
The fastest growing base on the Moon, already slowly starting to evolve into a settlement, was Shackleton, where the Shackleton Mining Company had set up shop in 2032. The base was originally intended to mine water ice that had caught within the always dark interior of the Shackleton crater, while using the crater walls, which were always illuminated by the sun, to place solar arrays to power the base.
The water made the Shackleton Mining relatively wealthy and they expanded the base quickly to mine more water. The company knew however that the resources of water were finite and that they needed to expand to other venues to remain profitable outside of water mining. The most obvious was to mine regolith for Helium 3 and other raw materials, as well as limited manufacturing.
In 2036 the heads of the company decided to expand to the rapidly growing field of tourism as well, building the first hotels on the lunar surface under the brand name Lunar Tours.
All of this combined, made Shackleton the largest settlement on the Moon in 2042 with a population of 3000, a full quarter of the entire lunar population. This was not counting the about 5000 tourists per year that visited Shackleton. A very low minority of the tourists returned to the moon on a more permanent base as new settlers, partly creating smaller businesses on the Moon.
The traffic on the Moon, as well as to and from the Moon, made new spacecraft necessary to move people as well as material. While the DH-1, DH-2 lunar stages as well as the landers used by the Big Four were adequate for the most part, there was a definite need for a standardized way of moving cargo.
Most of the companies and nations that could only afford small launch vehicles liked how the Embraer SP-100 Palmira made use of its design feature of being capable of transporting a conventional 45 foot high cube intermodal container, or two smaller 20 foot ones, the container had become something of a standard for moving goods and several smaller companies were already offering containers that had been converted into vacuum tight space station modules with international docking and berthing ports.
For the most part containers were limited for Earth to orbit and interorbital transport as conventional lunar landers were incompatible with them.
In 2032 Northrop Grumman and EuroSpace presented the Hawk, a spacecraft that combined cislunar transport and lunar landing capacity for up to 30 tonnes of a fully loaded 45 foot high cube container. It was equipped with four engines for a landing and enough delta-v to land on the lunar surface from Gateway Station and go back after refueling on the Moon. The cislunar transport capacity was achieved by a pair of VASIMR engines that could get the spacecraft to lunar orbit from low Earth orbit and back.
The Hawk was well received and its low weight and rugged off the shelves technology, as well as the fact that it combined automated and manned flight and landing, sold it to many space companies, as well as NASA, ESA and the APSC. Eventually the Hawk was even used outside of cislunar space as work horse for landing on other smaller celestial bodies. One variant, presented in 2040, was even designed to land on Mars.
Apophis was the second target of settling down in cislunar space after 2036, after Orbital Industries had managed to move the asteroid into Earth orbit. Most of the settlement was for miners however, but it grew much like Shackleton, if not as fast, while the asteroid was slowly consumed for its material riches and partly converted into a habitat. In a rather interesting move, OI sold small claims, and leased larger ones, of the asteroids surface to small mining companies, additionally bolstering its income.
The rest of cislunar space was largely limited to temporary housing in the various existing space stations, even though the number of stations increased with new industrial stations that produced materials for use in space or materials of high purity and highly accurate crystalline growth for use on Earth.
One of the largest new stations was Chatham Station at the Earth Moon L5 point, built to provide all Earth nations and corporations with dockyard capacity to construct large spacecraft. Chatham Station made use of heavy automatization and space based rapid manufacturing methods, such as PM&Ms Waldo series of robots, but still housed about 160 technicians in a rotating wheel section of 200 meter diameter. Most of the raw materials came directly from the Moon and later Apophis, while a good portion of other semi-finished products came from industrial stations in cislunar space.
A number of similar, though smaller rotating wheels stations were constructed in low to medium Earth orbit, acting as tourist attractions and adding to space tourism, creating a destination that saw nearly one million people per year in 2042.
The Near Earth Objects that were targeted by the various space borne industries for raw materials such as rare earth minerals, were the last target of a modest settlement, though like on the Moon, most people who went to a NEO were technicians, supervising and servicing the automated systems that mined those small celestial bodies.
An interesting development was that most of the corporations interested in asteroid mining were employing a few Turukal engineers, who had valuable experience when working on asteroids as well as the technologies needed to refine the minerals into a usable form.
Soviets and Chinese only claimed one asteroid each, settling a limited asteroid mining systems and crews to them to supply themselves with rare earth minerals, independently from the Western corporations.
Venus lay largely forgotten by most, save for the Soviets, who were not much interested in disclosing much of their activity at the Veneran derelict anyway. Thanks to the other big events since the Veneran Crisis, it was not hard to do so, even though the United States had a few satellites observing Soviet activity at Venus.
The derelict itself had proven to be harder to get any useful information from, the technology of it was too advanced for current Soviet science to understand, let alone copy. To get a good amount of scientists to work close to the derelict, the Soviet Union had continued to build up Venera Baza and increased the number of scientific instruments, always using the latest developments whenever possible. By 2032 the station was supplied by the Moskva, whenever the spacecraft was not used to supply operations on Mars, as well as the Vladivostok.
The latest addition to the station was a pair of 100 meter diameter gravity rings used to create a comfortable gravitational environment for the scientists to work and live. This allowed to increase the number of scientists and engineers at Venus to grow to 156.