Hundreds of grossly unqualified volunteers have signed up for a proposed one-way trip to Mars as part of a cost-effective private industry effort to colonize the planet.
Douglas Adams fans will recall that one of the three sapient forms of life on this planet actually descended from the Golgafrinchans, who eons ago decided to tidy up their society a bit by tricking the most useless one-third of the population - hairdressers, insurance salesmen, management consultants, telephone sanitizers and the like - to board a great colonist spaceship which was then hurled out into space and eventually crash-landed on Earth. Now, believe it or not, a group of like-minded citizens is hoping to recreate the journey, except this time they want to make it happen in real life.
Getting to Mars is a relatively simple gig. Getting home is something else entirely. Any team that makes the journey to the red planet will have to take everything it needs for the return trip with it and that's just not practical. One simple yet radical solution is detailed in the November 2010 Journal of Cosmology: what goes to Mars, stays on Mars, people included. It's the ultimate suicide mission, yet it's also an idea that a lot of people with dodgy skillsets say they find very attractive.
"I've had a deep desire to explore the universe ever since I was a child and understood what a rocket was," Peter Greaves, a jack-of-all-trades who started his own motorcycle dispatch company and fixes computers and engines on the side, told FoxNews.com. "I envision life on Mars to be stunning, frightening, lonely, quite cramped and busy. Unlike Earth I wouldn't be able to sit by a stream or take in the view of nature's wonder, or hug a friend, or breath deeply the sweet smell of fresh air - but my experience would be so different from all six to seven billion human beings... that in itself would make up for the things I left behind."
"As the human race continues to expand, it only make sense to explore opportunities for human life out in the cosmos," added Reverend Paul Gregersen, pastor at the Clarno Zion United Methodist Church. "Also, I have the feeling that spiritual issues would come up among the crew. The early explorers on Earth always took clergy with them."
Astronaut psychology expert Albert Harrison said he wouldn't be surprised if a future mission to Mars included someone to serve as a chaplain but pointed out that going there wouldn't actually be the exciting and romantic journey that some enthusiasts might think. "Each day will be pretty much like the rest. The environment, once the novelty wears off, is likely to be deadly boring," he said. "Despite being well prepared and fully equipped there are certain to be unanticipated problems that cannot be remedied. One by one the crew will get old, sick, and die off."
Journal of Cosmology editor Lana Tao said she initially thought the responses to the proposed mission were a joke but as the emails continued to roll in, she realized they were sincere. Among the serious (and seriously under-qualified) volunteers was 69-year-old computer programmer Pasha Rostov, who wrote, "I do VERY well with solitude. I am handy with tools, very good at making things work, have generated my own solar energy, built three houses (with my own hands) and am quite sane and stable. And I am ready to go to Mars. Sign me up."
For the record, the one-way trip to Mars won't be launching anytime soon; the Journal of Cosmology estimated it would be 20 years before a privately-funded mission could get off the ground.