Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Tickets to Mars, Baby!

Jennifer and I have decided that the world is way too complicated, one big burden after another.  So we are going to leave it all behind.  We are leaving our elderly parents, our daughter, the rest of our families, our land and gardens, our dogs, our citizenship, and, best of all, our difficult and overly demanding careers. Good-bye to all that.  Good-bye global warming, good-bye wars, good-bye fiscal cliff, we are going to be independent and blissfully ever-parted from the lot of you problems.  Good-bye most especially to evangelical Christians and Islamic jihadists.  They won't be going with us because the act itself is immoral before God.

Very good-bye to all that.

Instead, Jennifer and I will live out the rest of our lives on Mars.  We each paid $500,000 out of our retirement savings for a one-way ticket on a "Phase Three" launch deployment.  We will leave Earth sometime between 2019 - 2023, either from a launch facility in the United States or from one currently under construction in Brazil.  Between now and then she and I will be spending some of our remaining retirement money in preparation.

Now we are on a strict regimen of exercise and nutrition.  Periodic tests and training will be conducted on regular trips to California.  We are both active, healthy people.  Jennifer has always played a lot of competitive tennis.  I have always been a distance runner.  Neither of us have serious pulmonary reasons for not making the trip and we have both already passed the stress test to qualify.  We can survive the G-forces of lift-off and landing - as long as there is no mechanical malfunction, of course.

Hundreds of other spacecraft will have either proceeded us or blast off during our launch window.  Many other craft will come in the years after we arrive.  We will travel in a capsule for 7 months in space with about 60 other people.  All floating in weightlessness.  Feeding ourselves and exercising regularly to minimize physical atrophy.  Some atrophy is to be expected but we want to retain as much of our physical potency as possible.

We will feel about two and a half times stronger on Mars due to the difference of gravity.  I will be able to pick up 150 pounds with one arm and toss it, albeit gruntingly, about 20 feet.  My body will feel great, walking with a lighter spring in my steps.  I suppose at some point we will all stop thinking in traditional terms of weight and move to some Martian metric.  I haven't thought to ask about all that yet.

Jennifer and I are both looking forward to the possibilities of this life choice.  We feel like the Vikings or Magellan on a voyage of discovery to new lands for living.  Isn't that what humans have always done to their utmost ability?  I am inspired, my life has new meaning and possibility.  I am going to Mars, if I don't blowup or crash in the rocket vehicle that will take me there.  That's a 3 percent chance of that happening.  Probably as many 2,000 people will perish in the journey due to various causes, mostly vehicular failure.  A bit iffy I admit, but we are rolling the dice on that.

We will live out the rest of our lives being productive, building a basic workable colony with about 50-60,000 fellow colonists.  Most of them will be younger than Jennifer and me.  But we are by no means the oldest.  Others over 50 make up about 28 per cent of everyone there.  Our arrival in the latter phases of the mission means most of the atmospheric domes for work, housing, services, and recreation will already be constructed.  Jennifer has a position nailed down as an administrator in the healthcare field.  I will work either as a communications assistant, writing articles or editing videos, or fall back onto my previous experience in banking at the retail/operational level.

Everything is very well thought out.  We were impressed with the SpaceX representative who met with us a few weeks ago.  I thought perhaps we would be too old for a spot in the 80,000 places that will ultimately be made available to the public for the trip.  But, there are many intermediate and low-level positions to be filled in the colony's organizational charts.  Since we can afford the tickets and are in good physical condition and possess certain basic skill-sets they need, our rep told us the company would rather have older, more experienced individuals fill support role positions than younger people.  It would be better for the first 10 or 15 years of the colony's existence according to a study our rep handed to us.

If someone had told me a decade ago that human beings by the tens of thousands would fly to Mars and settle there in my lifetime I would have thought they were nuts.  It just wouldn't seem possible in the post-9/11 malaise of deficits and cultural polarization and the all-too-evident limitations of human achievement.  But, I would have been wrong.  This is now a legitimate possibility, not at all science-fiction.  It is happening in my lifetime.  How exciting!

It is all the brainchild of Elon Musk, the billionaire founder of SpaceX.  He has worked out much of the logistics to send 80,000 of us to Mars for a half million dollars per traveler - one way.  Every bit of technology to pull off this grand human endeavor either exists or is in advanced development.  Most of it is surprisingly common.  Well, that is not entirely correct.  The actual craft that will transport humans, and that will serve as the base from which they live as colonization begins still has to be invented.

Judging by NASA's announced future timetable for Mars, Musk might be considered overly optimistic.  But, for the sake of this post, let's just assume this is another case where government pokes along at a snail's pace while innovative free-enterprise "boldly goes where no man has gone before."

Eventually, we will reach the capacity to send that many humans to the Red Planet every year.  Large domed centers will be equipped to transfer the CO2 content in the Martian atmosphere into fertile grounds for growing rich and nourishing foods.  This is another area where further research and development is on-going.  But, this is all within our grasp, if we are but courageous enough and focused enough to reach out and claim it.

Everything I have written above is true and fairly well documented.  Even though there are a few major hurdles still to overcome, this will in all likelihood happen within the next couple of decades.  The only part that is pure fiction is the stuff about Jennifer and I going or ever talking to anyone at SpaceX.  But, hey a fellow can dream can't he? 

I envy them, those first colonists, in so many ways.  Their sense of adventure and ultimate expression of true freedom exemplifies what Milan Kundera called "the Lightness of Being."  My life is too weighty for all that.  I am a creature of this good Earth but I wish my future Martian cousins nothing but the best in that brave new world that will surely transform how human beings view themselves as a species.

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