Viva 'Mars World': Las Vegas May Get Red Planet Experience

Close-up of a Marswalk
Artist's detail of a close-up of a "Marswalk" in Mars World. (Image credit: Company: Mars World Enterprises Inc.; Concept and design: John Spencer; Image: Brian Cho)

An otherworldly tourist attraction could be coming to Sin City a few years from now.

A consortium that includes a renowned space designer wants to build an immersive experience called "Mars World" near the famed Las Vegas Strip by 2021.

The multi-acre simulated city will rise on yet-to-be purchased land somewhere between the I-15 freeway and Las Vegas Boulevard, if all goes according to plan. Visitors will be treated to the music, costumes and culture of a Mars colony. They will take simulated "Marswalks" in one-fourth Earth gravity, ride a tram around the crater in which the city is built and even sleep overnight in rough habitats if they wish. [7 Biggest Mysteries of Mars]

Fundraising for the $2 billion project will take several years. About $500,000 is available now from "key players" in the finance and trademarking/branding world, said chief designer John Spencer, who's also the founder of the Space Tourism Society. A second fundraising round of $17 million has just begun, he added.

"We're really moving forward on this longstanding connection between science fiction and entertainment and real things," Spencer told "We developed an approach — we call this a design approach —that what we're doing is not science fiction. It's science future."

Paging Walt Disney

Spencer's space architecture work includes design on the International Space Station and Japan's Space World theme park, as well as early designs for the Science Fiction Museum and Las Vegas' Star Trek: The Experience. He also was the designer for the Aquarius underwater laboratory used by astronauts during NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) missions.

An artistic cross-section of Mars World. (Image credit: Company: Mars World Enterprises Inc.; Concept and design: John Spencer; Image: Michelle Rina Mace)

Las Vegas is a natural location for this attraction, Spencer said. About 40 million visitors come every year, with about 8 million of those being first-time visitors. They seek something unique that they can talk to their friends about, Spencer added. He therefore estimates he can pull in about 7 million attendees annually for Mars World.

Doing so will require a lot of work, Spencer acknowledges, but he added he has expertise in raising millions of dollars in space-themed parks. He is studying other "location-based entertainment" master plans, such as that of Disney World in Florida, focusing on elements such as realism.

When the second round of funding is finished, Spencer plans to gather advice on music, interiors, lighting and design from the entertainment world in Los Angeles.

Revenues and audience


Artist's detail of a spoke walkway leading to the Mars resort and spa in the middle of the Mars World crater. (Image credit: Company: Mars World Enterprises,, Inc.; Concept and design: John Spencer; Image: Brian Cho)

While some elements of Mars World will be for children, such as an animatronic petting zoo, the experience will mostly be targeted to the over-21 crowd. Specifically, Spencer is imagining an audience with a mentality similar to that of "Burning Man" desert festival attendees.


"They're pretty rowdy, independent, artistic. Don't agree with authority too much. At Burning Man, clothing is optional," Spencer said. "If you take that as a foundation and extend that out further in the controlled environment, then we have amazing characters, artwork and costumes."

Attendance to the park will be free, but to generate ongoing revenues for the project, Spencer envisions selling merchandise on-site. He also wants to patent certain aspects of the project such as the architecture. But first, his team will need to purchase the land, which will cost about $200 million. He is looking at two tracts, one about 85 acres, the other 66 acres.

Other members of the Mars World team include CEO Lewis Stanton (with executive experience in the hospitality, casino and capital market industries); Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Leight (who among other things, relaunched the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago) and Vice President Garry Willinge (formerly with IBM China, and a director for several private and public company boards).

You can learn more about Mars World at

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: