I recently stumbled across this series on SpaceX. It dives deep into what is up with that kooky program and why it's so important for humans to live and establish civilization on Mars.
TL;DR: Elon Musk wants to put one million people on Mars.
One million is a pretty big number. However, it's small when you consider you're aiming to build a whole civilization. In 1775, the American Colonies had more than double that--2.4 million people. And that's, you know, back in the "simple days."
Case Study: A Deconstructed Desk Lamp
If you think about what it takes to power a civilization today, there's a lot of support behind everything we use around us. For example, let's look at this lamp that I'm using on my table.
It's a simple lamp. There's an on/off switch, and this neck that I can move around to shine light on different things. It has a sturdy base. Not that fancy.
But there was some factory that molded the plastic which covers the lightbulb, another factory that bent the metal which makes up the step and base, another factory that made the lightbulb, another factory that wired everything together so that electricity ends up at the right place and doesn't start fires, another factory that made the cable, another factory that... you get the idea. If you put all those factories together just to create one simple desk lamp, you start to whittle down resources (people, machines, etc) from your starter colony.
So how do you maximize the utility of that 1 million humanity starter pack? How do you eliminate the need for all those factories, and the factories that support the factories? ...you see where I'm going right?
Makers take raw(ish) resources, and transform them into a variety of things.
Supply Shuttles from Earth can become much more efficient, carrying raw materials like plastic, fabric, and sheets of wood and metal. This is much easier than if supply shuttles had to organize how many lamps, mugs, tables, etc. it needs to send out to space. It can just send a stock shipment of plastics, metal, fabric, and food stock for the colonists to do what they please.
The Maker Toolkit will become crucial for the first human colony on Mars (or any other planet). Maybe Mars MakerSpace will be the new General Store. It's physical location where you can get all your goods made and recycle scraps and stuffs to convert back to raw materials. The recyling bit is a new and important but trickier piece to figure out.
This vision is harder to implement on Earth since we have so much mass manufactured stuff at our fingertips. It takes time and money to make things ourselves. On Mars though, the world of mass manufactured, cheap stuff becomes way less accessible. So it just might work.
After all, if I'm stuck on a new planet for 2 years until the next shuttle arrives
Give a Martian a fish, and he'll ask for more fish on the next shuttle to mars. And that will stink up the shuttle. Ick. Teach a Martian to fish, and he'll go to the friendly neighborhood Maker Space at the foothills of Olympus Mons.