NASA’s plan to land a spacecraft on Mars within the next 30 years (that’s Government Organization Years, by the way, which are very similar to Dog Years, so don’t be lining up for your tickets anytime soon) has raised a whack of ethical and practical issues for deep-space travel.
Like, for instance, what do you do with an astronaut who dies en route? How do you deal with randy crew, for whom the term “mission” may be followed by “ary”? And how much Beano do you stock?
We’ll leave those weighty (or weightless) issues to the brains at NASA. Assuming they get them sorted out, we will have conquered the final frontier: space vacations. So, in the spirit of going where no one else has gone (yet), let’s review the reasons Mars may be the ideal vacation spot.
No time shares
The Red Planet hasn’t yet been discovered by the resort developers. So you won’t get hassled at the astro-port by a line of their oily salespeople, offering a free, freeze-dried dinner for two (complete with liquified dessert) if you and your life partner will just come have a look at Melas region, a canyon with 10-kilometer high walls that “make the Grand Canyon look insignificant.”
No beach vendors
In many parts of Mexico, you can’t sit peacefully on a beach without a vendor approaching you promising a “good deal” or “almost free for you” price on sunglasses/hats/dresses/necklaces/earrings/caricatures/food etc. Good news: On Mars you won’t hear those pitches. Or any other noises for that matter, since space is a vacuum and sound can’t travel in it.
No need to pack a ton of loonies and toonies. There won’t be any hands out (and keep in mind, one Martian could have four or more) when you get there, expecting a gratuity for carrying your bags or for calling you a lunar rover when you want to go out. That also means no glares when you don’t leave a tip under the meal tray because it is strapped to the table.
These vacations will undoubtedly be adult-only, because there aren’t enough Disney DVDs to keep the little ones amused for the 501-day round trip. And can you even imagine trying to take a surly teen on a vacation where he can’t text his friends every three seconds to complain about being bored? Nope, better to leave the urchins at home. But good luck finding a sitter.
No parents or in-laws
Travelling to the sun here on earth with your folks or in-laws is one thing; it’s a short trip, you will have separate rooms, and you can escape each other. But travelling together in the sun’s solar system for more than a year? Well, that’s another story. Worry not, though. They won’t be able to leave the country for that long without affecting their health insurance, so you should be home free.
No hassles from the office
Here on earth, you can never really escape work while on vacation. No matter where you go, thanks to the wonders (or curse) of cell phones, your colleagues can pester you quickly and easily. But in space, and on Mars, it can take hours for messages to go back and forth. And the roaming charges would be murderous! You can also ensure email silence by blaming a spotty WiFi connection if the boss ever asks.
Always wanted to visit the eastern coast of Canada but afraid of travelling over bridges? Well, Mars is just like Prince Edward Island (red sand everywhere, and few mountains), without the Confederation Bridge. Or potatoes. Or the endless tourist traps offering you Anne of Green Gables visors and shot glasses.
For a romantic trip that’s out of this world, literally, you can’t beat the Red Planet. If you think a hotel rendezvous can be even sexier when it includes some tricks with ice cubes, wait til you try fooling around in a surface temperature of -80 C. Or in a gravity-free space craft (you’ll never go back to a waterbed again). And for the role players out there, how about a naughty night of Astronaut and the Mission Control Director?
No barriers for seniors
This could the ideal all-inclusive package for those of us who are getting on in years, and whose bodies are no longer up to ziplining in the Amazon. The trip alone sounds like paradise for the elderly: soft food (you can squeeze it out of the tube), a spacecraft toilet that’s always close by, and comfortable shoes (well, they are space boots, but they do have lots of support. And padded insoles). Plus you have plenty of nap time.
No grief about sharing vacation memories
This is the only trip you’ll ever take that will have family and friends clamouring to see the photos and videos. While they may duck the clips of you standing on an old lava flow in Hawaii, they will be asking to see the shots of you strolling Mars’ Plains of Elysium, where there are young volcanoes. And they would love to see the souvenir sand you brought back in a bottle.