Friday, May 24, 2013

To Mars and beyond!

I really may have done it this time.  I was researching for this column when things got out of hand.  Snowballed, as it were.  Ricocheted.   

Now I may actually have to go to Mars. 

As I said, it began innocently enough.  I was following my nose, looking for a good story for you, my Reader.  When, what’s this?  Christian Science Monitor?  They never got me in trouble before.   

Their headline:  78,000 to live on Mars: Have you signed up? 

I’ve heard about the Mars rover, but this article says that 78,000 people have already applied to take a one-way trip to Mars?! 

You’d be curious too, wouldn’t you? 

Of course you would. 

So I pulled up the article.  Turns out Mars One, a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands, intends to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent colony.  They’ll go on to deliver more astronauts every two years thereafter. 

And get this:  They will kick off their two-year, televised search for Mars explorers this summer. 

That’s right.  Mars One will fund its $6 billion mission with a global reality television series that will follow the colonization effort from astronaut selection to the first landing and on through the settlement’s expansion.  With that, and the sales of hoodies, posters and coffee mugs. 

I hope you’re appropriately boggled.  I was.   

A TV show recruiting and selecting astronauts and sending them to MARS!  Shades of “Running Man.”  You remember - Arnold Schwarzenegger and yes, Richard Dawson.  Futuristic and cheesy all at once.  

It’s “Survivor,” but they’re going to vote people off the planet!  For real! 

It was perfect for me.  And for you.  That’s why I did it.  I clicked on the link.  It led me to and from there to the official website. 

Mars One has already posted application videos from aspiring space travelers.  Of the one million anticipated applicants from around the globe, 3,000 will make the first cut.  Then 28-40 finalists will train for seven years before four are finally selected to leave earth and live forevermore on Mars. 

Well, I had to see the videos.  For you.  I had to see.  Oh, register here to view them?  OK.  Email and password.  I’ve done it a million times.  Easy peasy.  

And OMG was it ever worth it! 

Pages and pages of one-minute videos from future space cadets, all answering prescribed questions, many while holding their iPhones at arm’s length.   

What makes you a perfect candidate for this mission to Mars?  Ljubinka from Serbia says she’s ideal because her double major in geology and interior design will allow her to “prettily arrange the rocks on Mars.” 

How would you describe your sense of humor?  Mike from the United States says his sense of humor is “essentially goofy.”  That could be because Mike, sitting shirtless in the dark, seems essentially high.  

Rajkamal, leaning too close to the camera in Bangladesh, says he employs “situational humor including sarcasm and puns.”  Key characteristics for space travel and interplanetary colonization.  

OK, we must know the selection criteria!  I’ll just have a look at the application.   

Oh.  Another form.  Hey!  They’ve already filled in my name, gender and birthdate in that weird Netherland-ic format: date/month/year.  That’s odd. 

It looks like I’ll have to fill in more blanks before I can see the rest of the questions.   

Before I could say “Carl Sagan” I was telling someone in Amsterdam that I’m a curious and engaging person who gets along well with all kinds of people.  As though under a spell I explained my long-standing interest in the cosmos and our place in it.   

I couldn’t stop.  Zombie-like, I was drawn to the Private Questionnaire.  Now we begin to see the kinds of situations they anticipate on Jersey Shore, er, Mars.  

They want me to “describe an event that increased your stress levels dramatically” and “an incident that frightened you.”  Well!  I was a high school principal!  I don’t know how Mars can top that for fear and stress.  I mean, I could tell you stories! 

That’s when I began to realize that I am an ideal candidate.  I’ve come this far.  My conscience won’t let me turn back now.   

Yes!  With your help, I can make the cut.  Look for my video this summer.