Weather Forecast


ROBB JEFFRIES: Colonizing Mars -- the Red River Valley way

Thirty-one degrees below zero.

Whether new to Grand Forks or a life-long resident, the temperatures that accompanied the arrival of 2014 were, in a word, cold.

In more than one word, completely, inhospitably frigid; a full-on assault by Mother Nature on every sense humans can experience.

It looked cold. It sounded cold. It even tasted cold.

One could even appropriately call the unreasonably cold weather "out of this world." Thanks to science, the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars confirmed parts of North America, including Grand Forks, were colder than a planet about 50 million miles further away from our solar system's heater, the Sun.

Which got me to thinking ... if humans ever get around to colonizing the Red Planet, that crew should be led by hearty souls from the Red River Valley.

I'm sure NASA's spacesuits are plenty insulated, but those of us from around these parts are used to the underestimated psychological impact of rolling out of bed and seeing the mercury drop in thermometers. If you can handle months of a barren white landscape, you should be equally capable handling a barren, red landscape.

Sure, it's a long trip to get there. Many estimate it would take two years for a spacecraft carrying colonists and supplies to arrive at their new home with modern technology. That's where our friends from up north come in. The southern Manitobans, who drive hours south every weekend to buy toilet paper and other essentials at Grand Forks stores, must have a few tricks to make the time go by. Their entertainment would be essential for that initial trip to start a new civilization on Mars.

The welcome sign would read "Welcome to Grander Forks, the first Martian colony." Some of the Red River Valley's biggest industries could thrive there.

We could open a new beet processing plant there. I'm sure no one in the original Grand Forks area will miss that smell.

After a quick bit of habitat transformation -- after all, what are humans better at than heating up a planet? -- Grander Forks will need a strong backbone of farmers to grow space corn and raise space cattle.

And who wouldn't want to study at the state-of-art UND-Grander Forks campus, which would provide those space studies majors the most hands-on experience they could ever wish for? Of course, the school would need to find a different benefactor to build their space hockey stadium than the late Ralph Engelstad, but it would be the biggest attraction in a forsaking land that doesn't encourage outdoor activities.

The UND-Grander Forks hockey team would have one heck of a travel schedule, as it would take two years to return to Earth with modern spacecraft. But at least they could still beat Alabama-Huntsville.

I just hope by writing this I'm not volunteered to be the Herald's Mars correspondent. I don't think I could handle those balmy Martian winters.

Call Jeffries at (701) 780-1126, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1126 or send email to

Robb Jeffries

Robb Jeffries is a news coordinator for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota and previously served as a reporter and copy editor for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @robbjeffries.