CALIFORNIA CITY — A company wanting to pave the way for future sustainable exploration and inhabitation of the Red Planet wants to make a footprint in California City, according to a presentation made during the Dec. 8 California City council meeting.
Vera Mulyani, founder and president of Mars City Foundation, made a pitch to set up a facility in Cal City north of the airport.
Mars City Foundation was founded in 2015 as a collaborative focused on the concept of sustainable living on Mars while also bringing those elements to bear on Earth. Mulyani, an accomplished Indonesian-born, French-raised architect and filmmaker, has been billed as a Marschitect and found inspiration in SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s goal to settle Mars in the next decade.
Mulyani provided oversight of her company’s accomplishments, including holding competitions, having its designs displayed in several locations and advocating for the Mojave Desert.
“I promoted this area on the Discovery Channel and 90 million people watched the show globally,” Mulyani said.
Where California City comes into play is a proposed location of a facility dedicated to STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics), hosting aerospace start-ups, as a well as a lab space for 3D printing, organic food production and advanced clean energy meant for Mars sustainability.
Where other major space companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have re-located from California, Mulyani stressed the state still maintains a viable location.
“I still have a small hope left that if we were staying in California, then maybe California City can be the one hosting us,” Mulyani said. “California City could benefit from this opportunity to be the California space destination.”
She noted in the four years of exploring the idea, the California City Chamber of Commerce had been among the most accommodating in understanding the potential.
The benefits to the city, she said, would include a new branding opportunity, sustained educational opportunities for higher education, offer job opportunities and “making California City competitive as well as the surrounding cities.”
She said the test facilities Mars Design wants to build would need to be remote and have a 3.5-mile radius from a residential area to comply with NASA safety requirements. Two locations are on the south end of the city limits in Second Community, near Highway 395. The proposed location for the main office/co-work space would be close to California City Municipal Airport.
The goal, she added, would be to start with one test site dedicated to indoor static testing.
“The new technology is very small thrusters so it’s not like people have seen before,” she said.
The testing facility would require a zone change, as it currently is zoned for residential. Mulyani said safety measures over a five-to-10 year period would be solved internally, as the test facility would undergo a NASA review.
She added a newly NASA-funded company had contacted Mars City about a location outside of Mojave Air and Space Port.
“I think California City needs to be included in these aerospace dynamics,” Mulyani said. She added it would make sense to rezone the locations identified since it was undeveloped and unused.
“I think that is ancient planning and it has been proven no one is living there, so might as well make something useable for the economy of your town,” Mulyani said.
However, she noted any concept of establishing a footprint in Cal City comes with a deadline. She stressed the people involved have a deadline with NASA, and that includes knowing whether rezoning would be possible.
Councilmember Jim Creighton noted the zoning process typically starts at the planning commission level.
Mayor Jeanie O’Laughlin called the concept an interesting proposal.
“I would really love for California City to be involved in aerospace,” O’Laughlin said. “We’re so close to Mojave and Edwards that it seems like a natural fit.”
Like Creighton, O’Laughlin suggested starting at the planning commission level.
Local developer DJ Twohig, President/CEO of Big West Corp., voiced support for the proposal and offered his assistance.
“Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know and there are a few folks in town who can be very helpful,” Twohig said. “I’ve helped a few folks through that critical path.”
He added what Mulyani proposed “is critical to our community that we attract aerospace.”
“We have the land, we have access to the freeways, the military and aerospace facilities are nearby,” Twohig said. “We have the space ... so hopefully we can help you.”
Editorial note: This version corrects the name of the company from Mars City Design Foundation to Mars City Foundation.