My Mission to Mars

Mars needs women. And men. And quirky musicians and nerdy physicians.

These are the sorts of folks who have applied for the Mars One project. You may have read about the project before. It’s a private, not-for-profit endeavor that plans to send normal, average, everyday people to the red planet on a one-way ticket (that’s cheaper than a round-trip fare, natch). Anyway, the Washington Post profiled some of the applicants in a recent piece titled,”Would you leave your family behind to be the first human to set foot on Mars?

With a decade until takeoff, Mars One founders reasoned that they don’t need the most experienced, educated or credentialed astronauts. They need people — four for the first trip, and four every two years after that — who can psychologically handle spending the rest of their lives with only each other on a planet no human has ever set foot upon.

I’ll admit, yes, there are days I would leave my family behind to set foot anywhere other than the  Philadelphia suburb where we reside, including Mars. Like the other day when my daughter shared some information (“The toilets in our house clog all the time.”) with a playmate’s mother.

That was one day where I wished I could hop a rocket to Mars.

Or when my husband moved the sofa in the living room so that when he lies down on it, he can still see the TV.

“You’re upsetting the conversational arrangement of the furniture,” I said. “Now when guests come over, there will be a lot of awkward silences, due to the position of the couch.”

“When do we ever have guests?” he asked.

“Just put the damn sofa back where it was.”

And while we argued, I again wished I could book a ticket to Mars.

But upon further research, I’m thinking I might prefer a tropical island here on Earth a bit more than the foreboding surface of the fourth planet from the sun. Mars has a thin atmosphere that’s full of huge dusty, rusty sandstorms stirred up from its iron surface. It’s mostly really cold, even colder than this interminable 2015 winter. The surface cannot support life as we know it, but some scientists believe there may be something going on below ground: perhaps there’s water, and maybe some one-celled amoebas or something floating around there.

As the planet is uninhabitable, the successful applicants to the program wouldn’t actually be living “on” Mars. They’ll be living in a space station camped on the surface, sort of like how some RVers park in the lots of different Walmart SuperCenters as they travel around the country. I guess technically they’re seeing the whole United States, but doesn’t one WalMart SuperCenter pretty much look like any other? My point is, if I can’t actually go out and experience WalMart Mars, why not just stay home? Oh, sure, I guess I can look out the window and see WalMart Mars, or put on some insulated suit that protects me against WalMart Mars*, but what’s the point? It seems like a lot of work to live your life as a shut-in with only occasional excursions out dressed like the Michelin Man for only as long as your oxygen tank holds out.

I’m sure I could never “psychologically handle” a trip to Mars. I suffer from all sorts of anxieties (mix some acrophobia, agoraphobia, and claustrophobia with a healthy dose of misanthropy and you’ll wind up with the cocktail that is me) that would make me the world’s worst Mars One Martian. I doubt if I would be able to survive the lift-off, let alone the 34 million mile journey.



Me, on the spaceship to Mars: You don’t think this spaceship is going to crash, do you? Never mind worrying about surviving on the surface of Mars, we could die right here, on the launchpad, in a fiery explosion. And did you get a good look at the pilot? He looks like a drinker to me. I hope he’s sober today. And could they make this spaceship any smaller, do you think? I feel like a sardine in a can. Is that how you feel? What a way to die, trapped like a sardine in a can. Oh, God, I don’t want to die! Not like this, not like a sardine in a can!

In the unlikely event that I survived the flight to Mars without one of the other passengers cutting off my oxygen supply, the worst part of the ordeal was to come: I’d have to live with the same three people for two whole years until the next mission arrived.

See, I already live with the same three people: my two kids and my husband. And I don’t much like being with them a lot of the time. Imagine if I were trapped with people I hadn’t carried in my womb for nine months, or the guy who I still (occasionally) want to be with naked.

I just don’t see it ending well.

Me, on Mars: Who the fuck left the top off the toothpaste again? Now it’s all floated off to God knows where. What, did you forget that we’re living in an environment with only a third of the gravitational pull as Earth? Next time, before you pull a dumbass move like this, take a look out the window. See all that red dust blowing up a shitstorm out there? That’s because we’re on fucking Mars, you assholes! Now put the fucking top back on the toothpaste!

Besides fighting with each other, just what are “average” people supposed to do all day on Mars, which is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth? I guess they won’t be conducting experiments because they aren’t scientists, or else the experiments they conduct will have to be like the ones from my eighth grade science fair where half the class stuck copper wires into a potato and called it a day. But even I must admit that extra forty minutes would come in handy, and, at the very least, no one will have an excuse for not completing the Amazing 37-Minute Workout.

For most people, I imagine the deal breaker with the Mars One project is that you can’t come back. Still, there seem to be an awful lot of people who aren’t bothered by this requirement. According to yesterday’s news release, there were 202,586 applicants, and that number has now been winnowed down to a crazy lucky 100.

*Wouldn’t it be great if there really were suits you could wear to protect yourself against Walmart?

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17 thoughts on “My Mission to Mars

    • Karen says:

      Yeah, I kinda figured a wayward toothpaste cap would probably not cause the sort of calamity I imagine on Mars, but my understanding of physics is limited 🙂


  1. Michelle at The Green Study says:

    Reading that news release, I hit upon the bit about people showing their understanding of “team spirit” and knew there was no ticket for me. The thought of being cooped up with people I didn’t pick sounds more like prison.

    I don’t get the appeal, but then I don’t have that kind of nature – planes don’t need to be jumped out of, mountain peaks don’t need to be clambered and nobody, absolutely nobody needs to check that milk past its due date. The animated movie about me would be called “Fearful Me”.


    • Karen says:

      When I read it, all I could think about were the various “cross-functional teams” I used to work on, way back when I was a corporate tool monkey employee.

      Does anyone really expect anything other than a triple murder to result from this misguided venture?


  2. The Little Red Head Who Could says:

    Have you ever watched “The Waters of Mars”? (It’s a Doctor Who episode.)
    I’m willing to guess that no one who WANTS to go has ever seen it…because it’s set 44 years ahead of today, and it could TOTALLY happen. (I invite you to google image search it if you haven’t. It’s spooky)

    I’m also concerned about EXACTLY what kind of training these people get. Let’s say 2 Mars-kateers of opposite genders decide to get their groove on, and she gets pregnant. Can anyone up there administer pre-natal care? Deliver a baby? Can a baby survive up there? What if someone breaks their arm? Or needs stitches? Or has a stroke? Or their eyesight starts to rapidly decline?

    What if someone gets out of line? Is there a contingency plan for this? Straight jackets? Beheadings? A naughty corner? Mutiny on Mars? What’s the plan, people?!

    And maybe most importantly (it’s a long and tight trip to Mars, after all)
    What’s the wine situation?


    • Karen says:

      While I am a nerd, I am not a Dr. Who nerd, so no, I have never seen the episode. I will have to check it out.

      After I wrote this post I thought, “Surely one of the broadcast networks needs to get on this project and broadcast this as a reality television show.” I’m surprised none of them have.

      I’ve read too many science fiction stories where space colonization goes horribly wrong to believe anything but the worst about this project. I can’t decide if the applicants are really brave or certifiably insane.


  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    I was surprised when I heard some of the potential candidates have kids. I could never imagine leaving my kids (or spouse) forever! Like you, a nice beach retreat every once in a while would be sweet (sigh…), but forever? No thank you. Plus, as an introvert, the thought of being stranded on Mars forever with people I don’t know sets my teeth a-chattering.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Much appreciated!


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