MARS 2030

I was lucky to have been able to serve as Art Director for MARS 2030. I was also one of the Senior Content Developers, focusing primarily on geology, lighting, vfx, shaders, world building, process, and optimization. The experience of the development of this title is one of the greatest I’ve had in my career and involved recruiting the greatest team I’ve been blessed to work with, speaking with Planetary Geologists at NASA, speaking at GTC16 and SIGGRAGH16, researching the most exciting topic one could imagine, banging my head over how on Earth we’d ever be able to take on the challenges we faced, scrambling to make a demo deadline to show our first reveal, complete with a companion article in CGW magazine, then literally throwing out all the environment work so we could chase a greater and more important challenge. Chasing vision, chasing deadlines, and ultimately, collaborating with one of the most enthusiastic and supportive Creative Directors in the industry; my friend and colleague Julian Reyes; Creative Director and Senior Producer of Fusion Media Groups Labs. Adrian Saravia, Creative Director of Fusion, had our back the entire way through. Much love, everyone.

First; a note: Second; some rules.

1 – TEAMWORK, TEAMWORK – This is the single-most critical condition to manifest and achieve when small teams work with big challenges and vision. This includes recruiting and team building with your sense of trust and intuition. My two cents: The most talented and nicest folks combined with an openness and willingness to try new things, while at the same time keeping your own pulse on the progression of technology and method will always get my attention. I can project pretty quickly where you will make breakthroughs and achieve levels of quality and experience fairly well. Where you begin is never where you end up development-wise. Each project is an a journey and a potential for growth through exploration. Bringing developers into small projects with large challenges should always result in personal growth.

Here is my secret formula for the core Mars 2030 Art Team:

Stina Floodström – Lead Environment Artist – Procedural Landscape Shader Extraordinaire – Curator, Designer, Solver, and Implementer of Immense Technical and Aesthetic Challenges for landscaping 40 sq km of Mars via the Ames Stereo Pipeline. UE4 Landscape Wizard. Landscape Shader Genius. Critical Thinker. Fine Artist. Procedural foliage system Guru. World Builder.

Josh Ball – Lead Hard Surface Artist. Immensely talented and design savvy critical thinker, developer, modeler, surfacing artiste’. VR Pioneer. World Builder.

Morgan McDermott – Senior Hard Surface Artist – Insanely talented hard surface modeler and surfacing artist. Hollywood vetted via HBO’s The Pacific and AMC’s Mad Men. World Builder.

Zachary Morong – Design savvy and talented prop artist with the ability to holistically tackle the storytelling challenges of prop development for a scenario not too far in the future.

Julian Reyes – Creative Lead. Hands-on Kit-bashing Master. Environment and Experience Storyteller. Able to articulate and clarify elements we needed to work with such as MOXIE, MMSEV, MTV, MDV, Z2, Centaur, Valkyrie, et al. The rhyme and reason. The facilitator between NASA and development. The voice for What Something Does and Where It Occurs. Amazing composer. Media Guru. VR Pioneer. World Builder.

Myself – Art Director, Art Manager, Process Geek, Lighting, VFX, and Optimization. VR Pioneer. World Builder. Rock sculptor. Substance Painter. Questions everything.

2 – PROCESS – As an Art Director and Manager, your first job is to establish vision. Your next responsibility is a close second. Like; nanometers second. Maintain the tempo of your team. Establish the vision and outline the process. Just do it. Listen – To everything. To everyone. Ingest. Digest. Thinking and talking and asking questions and inspiring – Standing up JIRA and pipeline. Naming docs, folder hierarchies, Stand-ups, Reviews, Planning – Experiment, then be decisive – Clock’s ticking – go!

3 – EMPOWER – This is the most powerful way in which people work. When they are empowered. Empowered to make decisions, to run loose inside both freeform RnD periods and milestone-focused sprints.


MARS 2030 is based on NASA’s Evolvable Mars Campaign:

““Fifty years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.”



The art direction for MARS 2030 was divided between “Encountered Realism”and “Moderne’ Hard Surface Aesthetics”. Inside the Hard Surface Aesthetics, a layer of what I termed “Server Aesthetic” was incorporated.

Encountered Realism


Encountered Realism was used to guide the development of the Martian surface. The term means the color and intrinsic feel is what one would wish to encounter were one to stand on the planet and roam. I wanted the visual experience of being on the planet to be grounded in a sense of veracity by attempting to answer, through research, and intuition, searching and asking, some important questions I had. How red is Mars? What’s this place made of? Is it choking with dust? How large are these rocks? What is Martian geology like? How much sunlight is hitting the surface? I can sum up the amount of sunlight by saying that it’s like being outdoors during an eclipse on a cloudless day. Is it dusty? Sometimes. Is it buried in mountains of dust? Not everywhere. Wind erosion exists. Not like it does here on Earth as the barometric pressure is a fraction as that on Earth. Is is strewn with rocks? Pretty much, yes. In our landscape, ejecta reigns but does not dominate. What does is age, erosion, and a vast distance peppered with features visible from far away.

Hard Surface Moderne’ Aesthetics.


Polished realism. Moderne’ form. Compound curves. Clean read. Surfaces with a clear sense of material and substance as well as purpose. A form language for machined details. “Server aesthetic” These were used to guide the hard surface efforts for Mars 2030. I didn’t want SpaceX design aesthetic. I wanted to keep the presentation grounded in a bit of the engineering and construction style NASA is renowned for. In addition, floors are skid proof. Doors feel safe. Our airlock feels reliable. Signage is clear in intent. The Habitat interior is spacious for an initial crew of 4 with room to grow. I didn’t want to make the space too confined and claustrophobic. It’s important for our future astronauts to feel a sense of place around them, albeit remote, with a clear vernacular. The CLQ; Crew Living Quarters feels like a remote living quarters. The PCOM; Primary Command Module feels like a command module. I wanted to also create clear working areas where various role-specific work could be carried out with elbow room. Pass-thru containers are areas to research plants and repair hardware. Also, a bit of surface breathing room. As the Habitat expands, this will be used for more stowage.

Server Aesthetic and Greeble




We gathered gigabytes of reference from HiRISE and Curiosity in order to get large and small scale reference simultaneously. Those were our defacto reference points.

We started with the central crater and decided to jump in and present a first-look at GTC 2016. During this first demo lead-up, Stina and I simply looked, talked, and asked questions night after night after night after night. It was extremely productive. A tactical process.

After our GTC presentation, I made a series of high level panels to use as starting place for exploration and categorized our static mesh geology development effort into a meta category called Heavy Geometry. This was further classified as:

  • Heavy Cliffs
  • Cross Bedding
  • Ejecta
  • Scarp

In addition, we later added Buttes and Fragments. We fell in love with the Curiosity Rovers’ imagery of the Murray Butte formations and it’s SOL-based Raw Image Galleries. Especially its’ Mast Cam, MAHLI, and Front Nav Cam

We made libraries of static mesh rocks, boulders, formations, buttes, sediment, fragments, scarp, cross-bedding, you name it.

I recruited an amazing environment artist, Vincent Gros, to develop textures and meshes based on the above for both world building and the landscape shader.

Throughout development we’d try to squeeze in new inspiration from the Curiosity Rover and HiRISE. I developed the buttes, fragments, and ejecta rocks as well as specimens and certain formations discovered in the world. I started by developing the characteristic medium sized rocks strewn throughout the world and painted down with UE4’s foliage tool. The size of these rocks was gleaned from a conversation with planetary geologists. For some reason, I burned “basically the size of a chicken” into my consciousness and thus, they became known as the chicken rocks. These as formed of basalts and scoria ejected through volcanic processes long ago, repeatedly, and fragmented again and again. A successive beating down over the aeons.

Almost all of my digital sculpting for MARS 2030 was done in my favorite sculpting tool, 3DCoat. Here are butte sculpts and fragments in 3DCoat.

I used Substance Painter to bake out and surface the meshes, then brought them into UE4 as a kit. Each piece has unique form on all sides to maximize flexibility.



As Creative Director, Julian named areas around the map in order to give a greater context and feeling to the landscape. He also didn’t want to simply wander 40 km of salt flats. Rather, he needed diversity and contrasting features. Range.

Regions become known as:

  • The Sea of Hills
  • Haleys’ Meteor
  • McAuliffe Peak
  • The Islands
  • The Oasis
  • Phobos Valley
  • Mt. McQuarrie

Art could now hang pins on the world. Inside these regions, users found areas of geological interest. These contain VO from our AI companion Haley and became known as Discovery Zones inside of which notable geology formations could be found such as:

  • Roque Nublo
  • Answering Stone
  • Angles Landing
  • The Iron Eye
  • Asiago Bay
  • Duckbill

Thus, a user could cross through the Sea of Hills, on their way to Mt McAuliffe, and discover Duckbill. This is a nice implementation of NASA nomenclature as it tells a story that sticks with you.



Landscape and Shader by Stina Floodström

I wanted to challenge expectations over how Mars should appear to a visitor. It’s not a flat wasteland, end-to-end, a scorched red angry planet. It’s rich, organic, highly tactile, full of geological stories, some hidden; others in sight. It’s multi-hued, aged in ways we aren’t accustomed to, it’s not bleak: It’s simply gorgeous.

This first question I had was this; “What color is Mars?” Further questions included; “How do we achieve this notion of wanderlust, this ability to roam an intriguing landscape either on foot or in the campaigns’ MMSEV Rover?

It’s easier to address the second answer first, which was to give the challenge to the Stina Floodström, Lead Environment Artist:

Empowerment + Challenge = 40km of actual Martian terrain processed from stereo pairs by your Lead Environment Artist by setting up Linux systems and drilling through a hundred pages of documentation regarding the Ames Stereo Pipeline in order to process gigabytes and gigabytes of hand-selected stereo pair images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter operated by the University of Arizona and available through the High Resolution Imagine Science Experiment – HiRISE – into, first, point clouds, and then, DTMS (digital terrain maps), which could then be baked down to height maps and brought into UE4.

Easy peasy.

Stina created massively sized lookboard after lookboard for her environment work and tailored the look and feel of the surface based on map area and her need to classify and analyze the history within the landscape. Parsing the reference. Pairing it down. Categorizing. Analyzing. This dovetailed perfectly with Julian’s naming of areas.

Stina also created our Landscape shader pipeline, an ingenious system that took advantage of stereo pair imagery ortho maps (the high resolution greyscale photography used to develop the terrain, in order to drive the elemental and procedural layout of scarp, fracture, sand types, dirt, and dirt details. Coloring was handled with gradient mapping and the shader supported near and far tiling, tri-planar projection, and tables of blend values. A lot of custom function work went into the shader.

Clear, eroded outflows. Massive sediment hills that to a visitor feel as mountains. The massive central crater; stepped, tiered. It’s a presence.

All this was composited from stereo pairs that can be found on HiRISE. Nothing is invented with the brush.

We were able to develop landscapes with a texel ratio of one meter per texel, which was extraordinary, but was non-performant, so we settled on a more reasonable one-meter per texel ratio. Fewer landscape drawcalls. The following gallery shows our landscape in UE4 from a top down perspective.

MARS 2030 Landscape Top Down – Landscape and shaders by Stina Floodstöm

Here is a further breakdown which allows you to see how the holistic landscape Stina developed looks from several perspectives.




Notice in the core Mars 2030 Art Team above, almost everyone has the tag World Builder associated with their contributions. A benefit of working with a team like this is their adaptability and flexion. We developed a 25 Landscape Actor grid(!) and used UE4’s World Composition.

For the immense challenge of propping out the geology of the landscape artists were assigned individual landscape actors. Almost all of this work was done in one pre-planned sprint. Stina had been able to achieve so much viz not only with traditional world building means but also with foliage painting. We realized that hand-placing thousands of large rocks and boulders wasn’t practical, so we extended that foliage approach to the majority of the large rocks. We used UE4’s foliage system and painted down the bulk of the large rocks with basic rules for scale, distribution, orientation, and geological emphasis.

During optimization, I converted the foliage to HISMAs; Hierchical Instanced Static Mesh Actors. The nice thing about HISMA’s is that it supports per instance nudging, rotating, adding and deleting of assets and is FAST for rendering. Very fast. The reason we did this was three-fold; First to separate collision from types. We didn’t want collision for the foliage rocks. Second; we didn’t want the majority of geology larger than the small rocks to be part of a foliage density system as the collision component can’t be removed. So you’d butt up against an invisible barrier when settings were set to anything less than EPIC. Third; we wanted the instancing drawcall and batching efficiencies. We needed them. About 95% of the geology statics in the environment are composed of 18 HISMA actors containing around 75000+ instances. This in addition to at least a few hundred thousand foliage meshes and who knows how many small static mesh pebbles (the grass system).



Empowerment + Challenge = Dining ware that is based on the dining ware used by the Discovery Crew in 2001; A Space Odyssey. Crew Living Quarters that provide comfort and style like we see today in airline travel: Form and style combined with psychology. Food prep equipment that’s familiar to the crew of the ISS. Design savvy that results in a beautiful, functional, and robust Mars Descent Vehicle. Small industrial details that can be experienced in VR as close as you wish.


Modeling and Texturing by Josh Ball

All of our Habitat work is modular and snaps together. Josh covered the exterior and Morgan the interior. The two worked simultaneously and closely from the ground up. I handled the layout.

The Hab was initially provided to us by NASA in model format. The exterior was developed by Josh Ball and the Interior was developed by Morgan McDermott. Props were developed by Zachary Morong. I also handled the layout, world building, and lighting.

We redesigned the Crew Living Quarters to accommodate non-zero-G conditions and to provide a respite for inhabitants. I took my design cues from luxury airline travel. Morgan McDermott our Senior Hard Surface Artist single-handhedly modeled and textured almost every interior component of the Habitat complex aside from a few door models, signs, and props.

TEAMWORK – Plants and Z2 Suit by Virtuos Studios. Utility Caps, Gold bags, spare HDU exterior parts by Josh Ball. Other props by Zachary Morong. Interior architecture by Morgan McDermott. Digital Displays by Julian Reyes. Lighting and Post by me.


While the infrastructures were being stood up I also began to design out our “sever aesthetic”. Inside the Primary Logistics Module are two mechanical WPS units, Waste Processing Systems, comprised of complex machinery bolted onto supports resembling server racks.

The various forms and shapes of the WPS and the WPS supporting structures were deconstructed by Morgan into a unique set of elements whereby one could kitbash and make almost anything one could conjure. E Pluribus Unim. In addition, Morgan developed sets of knobs, dials, mounts, and so on. We ended up with a library of uniquely named objects numbering in the dozens. Various plugs, knobs, industrial forms, bits, and bobs turned into, among other items:

  • Food prep equipment
  • MOXIE systems tethered to the Mars Ascent Vehicle
  • The exterior lighting systems
  • Details inside the MSMEV Rover
  • ISRU Systems
  • Shelving and Supports
  • Trays of spare parts
  • Portable nuclear-powered generators
  • The airlock
  • Specimen Containers
  • Everything including the sinks



Modeling and Texturing by Zachary Morong

Zachary Morong modeled and textured almost every prop inside the Habitat aside from the plants and laptop shown. Pens, Consumables, Storage Containers, Chess Sets, Books, Binders, Trays, Utensils, Toothpaste Containers, Toothbrushes, et al. I also brought in an amazing hard surface artist, Dimitri Alexis, to develop the microscope used in the GeoLab and also found inside the Habitat. In addition, Julian made a pass through the Habitat and ensured all signage was logical and accurate.

Regardless of whether we are describing a butte, a meteor, an entire landscape, or a ball point pen. Macro and Micro and everything in between, the goal was to put as much love, polish, and detail into the even the smallest elements of MARS2030 art.



The Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) is a concept NASA is pursuing as a new generation manned explorer.

TEAMWORK – The vehicle was co-developed by Virtuos Studios and Lead Hard Surface Artist Josh Ball. Josh Modeled the exterior hull, winch system, attachments, and interior cockpit. Virtuos developed the chassis and the rear bulkhead. In addition, Morgan McDermott modeled the interior of the Z2 space suit that you climb into.

The visual goal for the MMSEV was fidelity, especially with regards to curves and the cockpit. This grew out of a conversation with Jensen Huang at NVIDIA’s GTC16 Conference. We talked about fidelity in modeling. Less of a dependency on normal maps.  Our hard surface models for MARS 2030 are very much focused on form and contour, light and surface. Compound angles. Chamfered edges. Having someone like Jensen speak openly about what he enjoys was wonderful and inspirational as well as motivating. Liberating, even.



Modeling and Texturing by Josh Ball

The Mars Descent Vehicle was designed by myself and Lead Hard Surface Artist Josh Ball. The vision was to develop a robust drop vehicle that would safely transport the astronauts to the surface of the planet. I wanted to explore design possibilities that extended the Orion Space Capsule and placed an emphasis on storage, passenger density, and safety. Because we wanted the crew to arrive with a certain amount of cargo we decided to increase the size and layout of the craft’s inspiration component; The Orion. We also wanted to land with upwards of a crew of 6. Increasing the footprint to accommodate cargo allowed us to follow some natural design possibilities for passenger layout. I also wanted the safety seating to reflect some tried and true concepts, so the safety seating and harnessing is directly a result of motorsports research and development in driver safety. We wanted the passengers to be able to have their seating configured for various conditions so we built with the ideas of seating angle and rotation in mind. The seat bases include mechanisms for rotating the seat back 90 degrees and the seat can rotate. Ultimately we wanted the user to experience landing on Mars in VR in an upright position. It’s wondrous. I also brought in another fantastic artist, Ludwig Dresch, to take on the Mars Transport Vehicle and the Mars Descent Vehicle safety seating. Having guests come in and knock out stellar work is something I enjoy.

All models and textures by Josh Ball (MDV) and Art Bully Productions (Characters)


The characters and the LES suits worn by the astronauts during the descent sequence were developed by Art Bully Productions. I can never praise this studio enough. Their work is absolutely top quality and they are extremely enjoyable to work with.







I wanted to create a sense of distance and scale for the dust storm in MARS 2030. I wanted you to see it advancing from very far away, almost in a sublime manner until it begins to formulate as a front. As it overtakes you, a sphere with a a shader which utilizes lerping depth offsets attaches to the camera and a GPU particle effect triggers. The setup for the storm front was a Bleuprint array or organically sculpted forms, offset at a great distance, that advance towards the local origin. The shader is a roiling element with controls for falloff, color, etc. As it nears the origin a plane with an opacity and color shader lerps opacity from 0 to 1 while a Blueprint with the sphere attached to the player camera triggers its visibility and also lerps 0-1. And the GPU particle spins up.

The dust devil is large and ominous and wavers around the landscape. Dust devils on Mars can be kilometers in height. I wanted to create that sense of scale and silence and focus on the silhouette. The shader handles the rotation of the meshes. Two of them. One at the base and the other the main funnel. Design set up spline paths around the map for the dust devils to follow.



The vision for the descent sequence was a VR movie that would allow the user to get a front row seat into the experience of dropping through Mars’ Launch Entry Point 130 km above it’s surface and land on the planet in one take. Important to this was the sense of awe and scale of the planet, the plasma effects generated by friction, and the reveal of the landing zone. My idea was to swap out the level visibility of the Mars planet with a localized landscape vignette representing the landing zone when the camera passes through the diffuse golden glow of the upper atmosphere. This momentary diffuse state allowed us to do this quickly and seamlessly.



Both the planet in the Main Menu and the planet in the descent sequence were developed from The MOLA Mission Experiment Gridded Data Records. I used gradient mapping to develop the diffuse maps and created shaders for the surface, the atmosphere, the clouds, and the “limb” which is the atmosphere where the separation of planet and space occur.


The lava cave was originally many, many times longer and deeper than we shipped with. After research, the current cave is probably best considered a tiny crack. I abbreviated the length and depth for several reasons. The representation of a dormant lava tube underneath the surface of the planet was one key element we needed to capture. This is where future astronauts will be able to assess practical living conditions as these caves can act as a natural radiation shield.



I’ve often seen visualizations of Mars billions of years ago as somewhat calm and serene and somehow warm to the eye. However we learned from NASA that the conditions were most likely more frigid and ice-bearing. Think of Greenland or Antarctica in the summer here. Ice rafts. With this in mind, I create one submap that could be switched while the global environment map could be switched off and transform the world into a cold scene of ice rafts and freezing conditions. I wanted this raw feel. Semi overcast.


The specimen’s you collect and the special, or notable, rock formations you encounter were all authored with a good amount of information provided to us from NASA into the various periods in Mars’ geological timeline such. These included:

  • Pre-Noachian Period Impact Breccia
  • Noachian Period Volcanic Basalt
  • Noachian Period Altered basalt
  • Meteorites
  • Pre-Noachian Dunite
  • Pre-Noachian Low Calcium Pyroxenite
  • Hesperian Sediment
  • Amazonian Basaltic Sandstone
  • Pre-Noachian Arnothite
  • Hesperian Gypsum
  • Pre-Noachian Impact Melt



I pushed for Time of Day and ultimately was able to develop it for MARS 2030. I felt it was one of the most important elements for the project.

I created the Time of Day by using a very brilliant blueprint by amazing technical artist, Everett Gunther, called Ultra Dynamic Sky. After a lot of research, I found Everett’s blueprint to be exactly what I needed. It is very well thought out. I extended this blueprint to host my own network of curves, disabled some features that I didn’t need for Mars, changed up some of the time logic, and added additional features necessary for Mars’ time of day vision. In addition, I had zero performance issues with it which made me even more excited. The end result was a tremendous amount of color curves that gave me full control over as many params as I felt were needed to drive the presentation. MARS only receives 40% of the sunlight as that on Earth. The heavily oxidized atmosphere yields blue sunsets and blue and magenta sunrises. The sky at night is, naturally, devoid of light pollution from horizon to horizon. Our Exponential Height Fog and Atmospheric Fog has density, color, start distances, and other parameters that needed to be hooked up and keyed from 0000 – 24000.

When I implemented Time of Day I got a really unique vibe. The ability to walk alone through the Martian landscape, at night, alone, and look up at the milky way. It was very emotional; how much work had gone on to synthesize that singular moment and there you are all by yourself with landscape stopping the stars at the horizon line. If you’ve ever flown across the oceans at night, you know the feeling. The intensity of the stars is a constant and then there’s a sudden blackness. In that way, you perceive the ocean. Same with the landscape. There’s also a sense of adventure. Thinking of how many people have been able to experience what it’s like to walk alone on Mars, at night, under the night canopy. Turn off all music in my office. Turn off the lights. Put on the headset. Turn on the flashlight. It was a little scary at first, especially in VR. But watching the sunrise and sunset was extraordinary. Thrilling. A 2001 moment.




Mesh Instancing – The majority of the geology meshes in the Martian landscape are HISMA’s. The process was extremely simple to implement. Insanely so.

Simplygon – We used Simplygon for all of our LOD work. It’s extremely simple to use. I used Screen Size metrics for the geology, the vehicles, and Triangle Percentage for all other LODs, including the Valkyrie Skeletal Mesh LODs.

I tried using a Distance Field workflow for Mars 2030’s exterior scenes but the distance field shadows are not VR supported as DF shadows were rendered only in the left eye. It does look better, believe me, but it was impractical for us to commit to it. If we had used DFs we would have been able to blend the statics with the terrain better. Se la vie. In the end, I was able to use played with a cheaper process using Temporal dithering and Pixel Depth Offset. Looks very nice, and was fast to implement. Too risky for ship, however.

The Lava Cave, the Geolab Interior and the Hab Interior are all statically lit and baked. For VR I limited the use of dynamic lights severely. Mars 2030 is primarily a VR experience and the tradeoffs between VR and non-VR are legion in the industry.

The landscape uses static mesh LODs and I came up with a way to do LOD textures and materials on them that matches our procedural shader. I was surprised at how much more performant the world became after implementing this.

The first thing I did prior to the focused optimization period was that I ditched my 980Ti and installed the 1060 min spec card on my hardware, which also matched min spec. I implemented HISMAs and focused on a solid-looking LOW quality setting presentation that achieved 90 fps on my system in VR. I ditched dynamic shadows, post process, anti-aliasing, etc. I re-balanced roughness values around the props in the world to suppress as much aliasing fireworks as practical. Looks nice. For high end users, the EPIC settings are rewarding but the the primary addition is dynamic shadowing. It’s holistic and you do miss it once you see it. However, I feel Mars 2030 stands on it’s legs as a High End non-VR experience quite nicely. VR visual fidelity is limited in terms of resolution. There was a time when 640 x 480 was all the rage. Imagine. Mars in 4k? It is gorgeous.



I am unsure what astronauts will encounter once they reach Mars. I hope we’ve given them a small slice of what that may feel like. My true expectation for MARS 2030 is that one future astronaut; one aspiring individual who may be reading this right now or is experiencing MARS 2030 in VR is looking around them, quietly whispering; “To infinity…”


So…what color is Mars anyway? This is a question I continue to ask but with even more question added such as; “What day is it? What time? What year?” The following are some attempts to try some ideas out:

Musty – This certainly has a  Je Ne Sais Quoi quality about it. Somehow I thought of the term “musty”. But this is better for Venus, not Mars. Hmm…


Warm – For a while I was in love with this palette. After the dust storm style. In VR, however, it’s downright tangerine…



Curiosity Style – I love the Curiosity images. They tend to fall more towards the faint yellow end of the color palette. Often over exposed. Think; taking a picture on Mars with your iPhone.


Hot…too hot – Pure fantasy. Nothing grounded. Old tea.


Glowy – Again, too hot. Atmosphere is oppressive. No room for time of day in this palette if this is to be considered mid-day.


Final – Allows the local colors of the geology and the hard surfaces to come through. Don’t choke the world in dust. Sun energy is suppressed but reflection/refraction still occur. Winter season, noontime lighting.