The trip to our dumpy neighbor planet is almost as bad as having to stay there.
Elon Musk, the billionaire whose name sounds a cheap fragrance sold at a chain drugstore, is hell-bent on getting people to Mars, possibly as early as 2030. He envisions a space ship carrying a hundred would-be Martian colonists at a time, bopping back and forth between here and the Red Planet, and slowly transforming that nearly airless rock into a spot where a new human civilization can begin to bourgeon.
All we can say here is that these must be people Elon Musk doesn’t like too much, because getting to Mars is nearly as difficult as staying on Mars. First, it takes a while. 210 days’ minimum is what scientists are thinking, because they are counting on doing it with rockets like the ones we have now, instead of getting off their asses and inventing a warp drive or a fusion furnace that could get us there way faster. Plus they need to come up with artificial gravity, which exists in most sci-fi movies and TV shows about space travel. Hollywood needs artificial gravity to explain why everyone is just sitting around instead of floating around in space.
Mars travelers need it because it turns out people really need gravity, and not just when they are toilet-papering their jerk neighbor’s house or throwing a murder weapon off a bridge. Without gravity, your bones turn into something that has the same consistency as peanut brittle, with extra emphasis on “brittle.” Really. You’d do your body a bigger favor by sitting on the couch watching Netflix without moving for a year, getting up only to accept delivery of pizzas.
So when you get to Mars, even with the crap gravity they have there, which is not enough to hold on to a respectable atmosphere, you are likely to fall flat on your face because your bones have turned into candy canes. While you are lying there you can think of something inspiring to say, like Neil Armstrong did, something like “That’s just one broken nose for a man, but a gigantic black eye for Elon Musk.”
The other thing about a leisurely trip through space is that you may be exposed to intense radiation. One of the effects of this radiation is to disrupt your brain functions, so while you may send a hundred well-trained and educated scientists into the void, rationally and wholeheartedly committed to human progress, by the time they get there they may have turned into lamebrains who only want to catch up on the episodes of Too Round for the Gown or Undercover Clueless Guy with a Fake Mustache that they have missed. They are not going to be ready to colonize anyplace that doesn’t have basic cable or salty snacks.
You’re going to have to eat space food for the whole trip and for a while after you get there, food that you squeeze out of a tube into your mouth so your meal doesn’t go floating off towards the rings of Saturn. The taste of this food is so underwhelming that the whole crew will soon be fantasizing about killing each other for just one bite of the fried cheese appetizer at Applebee’s.
On the plus side, you probably will get to have sex in zero gravity. In fact, the whole party of Muskers may eventually decide to have a zero-gravity orgy, because nobody wants to keep their pants on for 210 days. Just to give you a glimpse of what that might be like, here’s a link to the full Kate Upton Zero G video.
Almost enough to make you sign up is what I’m saying. And I will. Right after Kate does.