On May 5th, NASA launched yet another spacecraft to study the interior of Mars planet. So many missions to Mars. But what I want to know is when are we finally going to send people there. I am a little geeky about the idea of space travel. Apparently, I am not alone. Our fascination with the red planet started about 120 years ago with Percival Lowell who, while observing Mars with a telescope saw straight lines on the planet’s surface which he thought to be water canals created by some intelligent civilization. Mr. Lowell quickly concluded that he had found proof of life on Mars. His ill-conceived ideas ignited people’s imagination as the story was printed by dozens of newspaper and magazine articles. Though these ideas turned out to be totally wrong, our fascination with Mars and Martians never left us since as can attest the myriad of songs, novels and movies about Earth’s neighbor.
Though the technical challenges are enormous, I think the human challenge is far greater and much more fascinating. The whole trip will take many months, somewhere between six and nine months. And if you’re going to travel that long in a rocket, you probably want to stay more than a week once you get there, right? All told, the astronauts will most likely be in space for a couple of years. Think about it, two years trapped in close quarters with a small groups of people. Whatever they do, they better have a damn good therapist on board or the crew might come back with a few members missing. Relatively speaking, I found that NASA is a kind and benevolent organization. It plans to send people to Mars and then to bring them back, unlike Mars One.
Mars One is a Dutch organization with a mission to colonize the red planet. One catch though, the crew gets a one-way ticket to Mars. Once they get there, the colonizers will live out the rest of the lives on their new planet. I’m guessing the founders, Mr. Lansdorp and Mr. Wielders, would not be big fans of the happy ending of The Martian with Matt Damon. The Dutch company paints a noble picture of humankind taking the next big step of space exploration and compares it to the accomplishment of summiting Mount Everest. The thing is that Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t pitch a tent at the top and live on there the rest of his life. You would think that few people would sign up for such an extreme mission. You would be dead wrong. They have received hundreds of thousands of applications which they have weaned down to a hundred lucky people. And Mars One is getting plenty of cash and serious sponsors. The whole enterprise seems crazy, but one thing they have proven is that our specie’s will to take the next big step in space exploration is alive and well.
It would appear that this topic is stirring things deep inside of me judging by the strange dreams I’ve been having. Just last night, I dreamt I was watching the coverage of the Mars One expedition on television. Next thing I knew I was one of the crew members on board of the spacecraft. When we landed on the red planet, to our amazement, there was a city populated with people. And guess who their leader was. David Bowie! He graciously led us into this great hall, then jumped on stage and began performing his song Let’s Dance. And we all started to dance.
I think I need to start working on my next blog and get my mind of space travel for a while. Maybe also stop eating meals late at night.
God, I miss David Bowie.