Cancel My Reservation for Mars

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The Red Planet is a major fixer-upper

I picked up an article about people practicing living on Mars the other day.* In this experiment, they lived high on the slopes of Mauna Loa in Hawaii, where the air is thin and cold, inside a cramped tube where they pretended to have very little air or water. They wore mock spacesuits when they went outside. They hauled ass into lava tubes on short notice, because on Mars, lava tubes would provide a nice shelter from solar flares, which we don't feel on Earth because we have a nice, cushy atmosphere, but on Mars would cook you like a human Hot Pocket if you were caught outside in one.

They are absolutely forbidden from going into Hilo on the weekend for a Mai Tai and a big pupu platter, because that would screw up their mission of seeing how long they could live in close contact with only five other people, under simulated conditions of extreme danger, without going completely batshit.

Needless to say, these are better human beings than I am or anybody that is reading this is likely to be. Which is good, because it takes a good human being to live on a shitty planet, and Mars has a lot of fecal qualities as a planetary body. In real estate terms, it's a major fixer-upper. Personally, I think NASA ought to spend its money developing a warp drive, so we could visit the planets full of hooker-looking space women in fishnet panty hose that were regularly discovered by the Starship Enterprise on the original Star Trek. But nobody asked me, so it looks like Mars it is, despite the fact that Mars is no picnic.

First, it's cold. Your average Martian surface temperature hovers around minus fifty degrees. That's Fahrenheit, which I use because I am an American and we don't believe in Centigrade. Minus fifty is
brisk. "Sure," I hear you saying, "but it gets that cold in Antarctica, and people survive there."

I admit that it's cold at the South Pole, sometimes as cold as it is on Mars. And yes, at any given time you can open the flap of your Antarctic tent and be struck by a howling frigid wind, which in Antarctica seems freezingly inconvenient but on Mars would be regarded as a big-time bonus, because that icy blast would be full of life-sustaining oxygen, which Mars does not have.

So the most important position on your Mars crew would be that of air farmer, the guy who goes out every day and cultivates oxygen for you to breathe. There is no job like his on earth. The closest equivalent here is the air guitarist, who is just a guy in a karaoke bar drunk enough to think he is a member of Led Zeppelin. So not that close.

The second most important job on Mars is that of the water-maker, the guy who finds some billion-year old sludge deep beneath the Martian sands and filters enough H2O out of it so you can rinse the Martian dust out of your mouth a couple times a day. No matter how nice the bottles he puts this water in, or how gushy the slogans printed on their labels are, even slogans like "Glacier Fed, Probably, When There Used to be Glaciers Here" or "Bottled at the Source, Before It Sublimated Directly Into the Extremely Rarified  Atmosphere," my bet is that the taste of the stuff is going to make Tucson tap water seem like Krystal.

Of course, if humans are going to colonize Mars, they are going to have to have sex on Mars. "Ah," you think, "This is going to be the fun part." Well, you may be wrong. First off, there is no Martian Match.com. Your soulmate is your crewmate, with whom you have lived, along with four other astronauts, for the nine months it took you to get to Mars in a rocket capsule the size of an Airstream trailer. I'm sure you've heard that relationships need space. By that, nobody means outer space. You need to conserve water on Mars, because the water-making guy is a major slacker, so each of you only gets to take one six-minute shower a week. In the interests of libidinousity, they better be on consecutive days, especially if you both have the habit of spending hours outside in a sweaty spacesuit. You've still got those four other people to deal with, too, so you'd better hope they just sit around silently wishing they had a beer while you get it on behind some flimsy curtain or other useless imitation of privacy, instead of making funny comments.

On the other hand, you can legitimately use a pickup line I've tried several times when I was feeling heavily sociable at a singles bar. Just set your drink down, lean in to your intended urgently, and say "The future of humanity on this planet depends on us having sex right now."

Let me know if it works better on Mars.



*New Yorker, April 20, 2015, "Moving to Mars."
 
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