Packing for Mars . . . Would you?

Watch out, Mars . . . here I come!

An illustration of Curiosity‘s descent (JPL)

Okay, not quite, but I’m as close as I’m allowed to be. I’ll be leaving on Sunday with my daughter for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Montreal to watch Curiosity land on Mars. Excited. Giddy. Scared. Those are all perfect words to describe how I feel.

So . . .  question of the day: would you choose to visit Mars if you could? Keep in mind, the voyage would take about 9 months. And that’s just to get  there.

Mars is actually relatively close to us. During its opposition, when our two planets are closest, Mars is about 55,000,000 kms (34,000,000 miles) away. A spacecraft voyaging to Mars would be speeding along at roughly 22,000 km/h (14,000 mph). Being close and travelling that fast means a short trip, right? Wrong. Fuel is the problem. It takes a LOT of fuel to get us there. We are somewhat limited by that because more fuel means a heavier payload and higher costs. So we do the best we can, which takes us to roughly 9 months. Once we’re there, we have to wait roughly another 15 months until we hit opposition again. And then there’s the 9 months travel back home. That’s almost three years. Three years away from friends, family, blue sky, the wind, flowing water, television, the internet . . . and all with the same people. But you’d be on Mars. Think you could hack it?

Let’s also not forget the inherent dangers that comes with space travel. There’s solar radiation, cosmic debris, not to mention the stress on our bodies.

Given the opportunity to go tomorrow, I’d have to pass. There’s just no way I could put myself in harm’s way and leave my daughter.

So for now I’ll do the next best thing: sit on the edge of my seat with many others at the CSA waiting to hear word that, after slightly more than 253 days, Curiosity is leaving its mark in the Martian soil and living out the dream I can’t.


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