Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Want to go to Mars?

Mars, showing Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system.  The above mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s.
Image Credit:  NASA

I’m obsessed with Mars. The planet, not the candy bar. I’ve always been a space nut, but it morphed into a full-blown Mars Obsession about 20 years ago (was it really that long ago?), when I first read Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Red Mars” trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars). I’ve now read these books hundreds of times each. I’m not kidding. Below are photos of my paperback copies of Red Mars and Green Mars. Happily, I have them on Kindle now, so I usually read them in digital form when I’m in the mood for a Mars fix (except when my kids steal my phone and tablet and I’m left without technology!).

My battered copies of Red Mars & Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson

A recent new Mars book that‘s a fun read – and is now about to be released as a major motion picture- is The Martian, by Andy Weir. The movie will star Matt Damon, who seems to be perfectly cast as the wise-acre astronaut who’s stranded on Mars after an accident. No, that’s not a spoiler. You find out about it on Page 1 of the book. Seriously, read this book! I’m really looking forward to the movie, which comes out on October 2 – in just a few short weeks! 

So what makes me want to write about this today? Well, it’s really looking like we (meaning people) will be going to Mars fairly soon. Maybe less than 15 years from now. Yes, there’s another organization, called Mars One, that has been out in the news lately who seem to think they’re going to get a permanent settlement on Mars by 2025. I admire their chutzpa, but I don’t buy the hype. Not going to happen. They just don’t know enough about what they’re doing. If they did manage to launch someone up there, I think it’s likely those unfortunate souls would die in the process. 

Regardless of Mars One’s chances, it’s a definite fact that those with much more knowledge and chance of success (NASA, SpaceX) are talking about going in the near future. And not just sending up one measly mission – no, they’re talking permanent settlements on Mars! 

One of my favorite quotes by Elon Musk (SpaceX CEO) is that he’d like to die on Mars, just not on impact! I think having a second career on Mars would be awesome as well. Of course, whenever I say these things out loud, my kids freak out – they don’t want me to go to Mars. I tried to explain that if it did happen, it wouldn’t be next week – they’d be all grown up and on their own before I’d get a chance to go. Didn’t really make them any happier, so I figured I’d shelve the discussion until it’s more pertinent. 

Still, the question is there. What if I did really, legitimately decide I wanted to go to Mars at some point in the future? And what if Elon Musk has his way and starts shipping up colonists in, say, the 2030s? I’m looking at a situation where my age would be a factor. I’m already 44 (gulp). Almost 45. I’ll turn 60 in the year 2030. If I have a prayer of getting my butt up there (even if it’s just a visit!), I’d better make sure I’m in excellent health. Good thing I’m working to get myself back in shape and be healthier! Because you can bet your butt if I’m ever given the opportunity to go to space – even Low Earth Orbit or the moon – I’ll be all over that! 

Anybody else want to go up?