Mars Society Now Accepts Donations in Bitcoin and other Digital Currencies

The Mars Society, the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to the human exploration of Mars, is pleased to announce that it is now able to accept Bitcoin and several other types of digital currencies as donations to further our goal of future human exploration and settlement of Mars. In addition, the organization is pleased to announce that it has received a large contribution of Marscoin, a digital currency similar to Bitcoin but focused on Mars.

Additional donations of Bitcoin, Marscoin, Ethereum (a digital currency supported by Microsoft) and Litecoin (a digital currency founded by a former Google employee) are now able to be donated to the Mars Society using our updated Donate page on our website. In creating this secure technical solution for digital currency donations, the organization has partnered with Coinbase, a widely respected San Francisco, California company, to secure and facilitate these donations.  

The Emergence of Digital Currencies

Over the last couple of years, the Mars Society has paid attention to the emerging field of digital currency and whether we should publicly accept additional donations of Marscoin, Bitcoin and other prominent forms of digital currency.  In the past, there had been a lack of oversight by the U.S. government as well as state governments, and the organization felt that the perception of digital currency by the general public had not matured enough for us to accept additional donations.

However, that public perception is changing rapidly.  Recently, the federal and state governments have paid more attention to this field and have been preparing new laws and regulations to legitimize the use of digital currencies.  In March 2019, the state of Colorado (in which the Mars Society has been registered as a non-profit organization since 1998) passed the Colorado Digital Token Act, which further legitimizes digital currency transactions among businesses and non-profit organizations such as ours. This new law went into effect on Friday August 2nd, 2019.  The new law provides a clear exemption from securities registration restrictions for businesses, organizations, and individuals dealing in digital currencies.  

“Based on our experts’ analysis of this law and the maturation of public perception of digital currencies, we felt that the time was right to publicly announce our support of digital currency donations,” said James Burk, Mars Society IT Director. “In order to provide Mars Society members and donors maximum confidence in our approach to digital currencies, we pledge to adhere to the Colorado Digital Token Act, and any other state and federal regulations and guidances for non-profit organizations to accept digital currency donations.  We will strive for maximum transparency in these efforts.”

What is a Digital Currency?

Digital currencies, also known as cryptocurrencies, are an emerging form of digital asset that are gaining popularity worldwide for their ability to send and receive money easily. In addition, digital currencies are being used as a lucrative investment vehicle since some have rapidly gained in value over the past several years.  Digital currencies work as a medium of exchange that uses strong cryptography, which is a Greek-derived term which signifies the practice of secure communication using hard to decipher codes. 

The most well known digital currency is Bitcoin.  As recently as 2013 a single Bitcoin could be purchased for under US $100 each, and in the mid 2000s they could easily be created (or “mined”) with an ordinary laptop.  Due to their scarcity and increased demand, that is no longer possible and Bitcoin is now trading above US $10,000.

The technology behind digital currencies is known as “Blockchain” which is a form of public ledger that provides transparency and guarantees that individual units of the digital currency cannot be forged or counterfeited.  Individual units of digital currencies like Bitcoin are created by confirming transactions on the Blockchain using a sophisticated form of solving math problems, which require significant amounts of computer processing power to perform.

Marscoin – Digital Currency developed for Mars Settlement

Marscoin - a digital currency for Mars

A digital currency known as Marscoin, a “fork” (or legal copy) of Bitcoin was created in 2014 by the non-profit Marscoin Foundation based in Sarasota, Florida. The founder of Marscoin, Lennart Lopin, is an independent software developer and space enthusiast who went on to found ByteFederal, one of the top 10 Bitcoin ATM companies in the United States with over 60 locations in 13 states.  Mr. Lopin joined the Mars Society in 2013 and announced the cryptocurrency at a session talk at our 2014 conference where he also presented an initial donation of 500,000 Marscoins to the Mars Society.

The idea behind Marscoin is that it could be the first financial model for the red planet, by assuming that the first settlers would bring a copy of its “Blockchain” to Mars.  The inherent communication delays between Mars and Earth could be overcome using this technology, and it could cater to the nascent needs of burgeoning settlements, including the use of smart contracts, supply chain management, and decentralized voting and communication technologies using the same Blockchain.  As a result, transactions among Mars settlements and between Earth and Mars could thus be seamlessly affected and also publicly transparent. Exploring these topics in advance and being the first to explore them has been the main drive behind the Marscoin project. 

In addition to the initial 500,000 donation of Marscoins presented to the Mars Society during the project’s initial announcement at our 2014 convention, a special digital wallet was created, and its physical token was given to our Founder and President Dr. Robert Zubrin.  

At the same time, an identical 500,000 donation of Marscoins was offered to the Mars One team, led by Bas Lansdorp.  Over the years, the Mars One project has had some setbacks, and it has now become apparent to many that the Mars One project may not be able to carry out their promised goals. Recently, Mars Society staff reached out to Mr. Lansdorp to inquire if he would be willing to re-assign the official wallet of Mars One to the Mars Society.  He agreed, and we worked with Mr. Lansdorp, Mr. Lopin, and the Marscoin Foundation to transfer the entire Mars One digital currency balance to the Mars Society’s digital wallet. This balance includes some smaller individual donations given by the Marscoin community to Mars One since 2014. The exact transaction log can be browsed publicly using the Marscoin Explorer website.

In closing, the Mars society is excited at the opportunities afforded by digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Marscoin and others, and will now join the American Red Cross and the United Way as major non-profit organizations in the U.S. that accept digital currencies as legitimate and legally sanctioned donations.