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The concept of colonizing Mars has lit the imagination of sci-fi novelists, B-movie makers, and wild-eyed dreamers for generations. Such people have typically envisioned the colonizers as brave men and women out to create a fresh start for an imperilled human race. Now, however, a project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposes colonization by a less animated group of actors, one that might literally lay the groundwork for human settlements to come. The paper discusses JPL's Nanorover Outposts Project (http://robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/tasks/nrover/outposts) which is developing a colony of solar-powered nanorovers with the idea of one day excavating surface areas of Mars.