A recent poll revealed that what most mothers want is a little “me time.” Ladies, I hear ya. But where to find it? I’m not really the spa type. All those attendants telling me my hair could be better, my skin softer, my shoulders more relaxed…it’s a little stressful. Besides, I can look in any mirror and know that—without paying for it.
Get my nails done? Although I’ve recently started painting my nails, I don’t relish sitting in a shop filled with the kinds of odors usually associated with industrial disasters and hazmat suits. Even the term “mani-pedi” seems more like a category on some government crime list than a relaxing outing. Going out for coffee, reading a book, or shopping for myself only reminds me of the dishes in the sink, the magazines that are piling up, and the laundry I haven’t done.
In other words, true “me time” is hard to find. So I started looking around for other opportunities, and I think I may have found the perfect solution: a trip to Mars. The Mars One Project, the brainchild of a group of scientists and marketing professionals, offers most of the qualities I value in a get-away. It promises intellectual stimulation, luxurious accommodations, exhilarating experiences, and three companionable companions, with four more added every two years. There are only a couple of downsides to this “once in a lifetimes” destination: 1) Three hours of daily exercise, and 2) you never come back.
Well, I thought, the idea of a world without the Kardashians, Congress, and spiders doesn’t sound too bad, so I went on the Mars One website (marsone.com) and learned that a lot of other folks have had the same idea. In fact, I would be getting at the back of a very long line; a line almost as long as the list of people who signed a petition to “remove Justin Bieber from our society.” How long is that? 200,000 people have applied to go to Mars. 200,000! Really? I mean, I know things aren’t great here on Earth, but is it really that bleak? Let’s check those top stories once more: ABC News–Arrestee’s “Handsome” Mug Shot Goes Viral; Atlanta Daily World–Beloved Felon, Jeremy Meeks’ Previous Mugshot Photos; NewNowNext–8 Celebrities Who Could Take a Lesson from Jeremy Meeks’ Mug Shot; Los Angeles Post Examiner–Jeremy Meeks Sets Internet on Fire.
Yyyyep. Give me that form. Last year my son filled out college applications, so I’m familiar with the invasive probing required to make it into a top-tier program. Perhaps, if this whole space travel thing takes off, they’ll institute a Common App accepted by all planets in the solar system. And while the first launch to Mars is priced at $6 billion, slightly less than a Harvard degree, the cost will be offset by selling souvenirs (including T-shirts, mugs, laser engravings, hoodies, stickers, and posters), collecting donations (which, as of May 8, 2014, add up to $573,923, including $1.00 from Bosnia and Herzegovina—come on, guys. Couldn’t you both give a dollar?), and a timeworn…I mean, time honored…idea that I will reveal to you later, but about which you might now sense the specter of Simon Cowell and have a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.
So I sat down with the website to begin my journey to Mars. There were several questions I wanted answered. First: did I qualify? I learned there are five key characteristics to being a Marstronaut (©witlovekath.com). These are Resiliency, Adaptability, Curiosity, Ability to Trust, and Creativity/Resourcefulness. These seem pretty straightforward, but upon delving into the definitions, I began to feel the first pricks of fear that I don’t have what it takes:
Under Resiliency: Your thought processes are persistent. Would they accept me, I wondered, if they knew I often reheat my tea in the microwave and forget it then run around the house looking for my mug before finally abandoning the idea of tea, only to find the mug the next day when I open the door to cook peas for dinner?
Under Adaptability: You adapt to situations and individuals while taking into account the context of the situation. I can only hope they haven’t seen me waiting behind someone at a stoplight who doesn’t move when the light turns green because they’re texting, eating, talking, or can’t see above the dashboard .
Under Creativity: Your humor is a creative resource, used appropriately as an emerging contextual response. Never have I heard humor described in such a depressing way. I can just imagine my interview:
Interviewer: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Me: To get to the other side?
Interviewer: Wrong! There are no roads on Mars. Your answer is clearly inappropriate and contextually ludicrous….
Me: But…but…can’t you adapt to me as an individual while taking into account the context of this situation?
Interviewer: Nice try. You can see yourself out. Next!
I’ve always considered myself pretty well qualified for any task (except brain surgery. Well, okay, heart surgery might be a little tricky too), but after pitting myself against the requirements of the Mars One Project, my confidence was a little rattled. I decided, however, to persevere (bullet two under Resiliency) and check out my competition.
I navigated my way to the “supporters” link to check them out. To say it’s an eclectic bunch is akin to saying Comic Cons are a hotbed of diversity. By and large, the applicants are fans of Star Trek (one hopeful is even sporting a natty Star Trek uniform in his profile pic), Star Wars, Jules Verne, Lost in Space, and Doctor Who; they have degrees in or are interested in astrosciences, computers, engineering, science fiction, and music; and want to be—as stated by one eloquent candidate—“an intergalactic representation of humanity.” Much as, I imagine, the shadows on the walls were a representation of people in Plato’s allegorical cave. Or were they actually people? Hmmm.
Indeed, philosophical debate is another top interest among the applicants, which is good because finding answers to issues such as: “how do I remain sane during the 20 minutes it takes each click of the computer mouse to be registered on Earth,” may take some discussion. And lest anyone fear that religous differences will divide the colony, there is this reassurance: “Mars colonization is not about faith, but about human ingenuity and vision.” If voyaging to Mars is not a leap of faith, I don’t know what is, but I guess that’s just me.
Reading on, however, I began to see that maybe I was taking the idea of populating Mars way too seriously. Whereas I was trying to compile a list of interests that would let the reviewers know I could help a colony survive the forbidding landscape, most contenders include hobbys like these: dainty sandals (did I miss the news that Nordstrom has been discovered on the red planet?), creating a Mars music album, dancing, witnessing the Zidane goal against Bayern in the UEFA final, attracting women, and juggling (did I mention the 60% less gravity?).
Well, in December 2013, 1,058 candidates were culled from the original pool of 200,000 and asked to complete two tasks. Successful contenders will go on to the next round in the process. What arduous challenges await our intrepid wanna-be explorers? Will they have to “dis” ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez without getting gunned down?, give North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un a new haircut?, or sing the Star Spangled Banner on key?
No. Only these two trials stand between them and their dream: 1) opening their applicant profile to the public (which any 2-year-old can do) and 2) providing a medical statement of health from their physician. Ah! Now the need for a sense of humor becomes clear. Shall we all laugh together? Haaaaaahaaahaaaaaaa!! Any American who can slog through the morass of automated phone systems, paperwork, scheduling delays, waiting rooms, and insurance payment options to get a physical would be well-qualified for a place on the Mars One team.
From this pool of 1,058, 418 men and 287 women will be selected by “experts.” Yes, the glass ceiling just got 57 million miles higher. But how will the final lucky few be chosen? You know what’s coming. Deep down, you know. Yes—through a Television Reality Program. You, I, and “the entire world” will vote for Our Favorite Martians. In the first round, the TV viewers will pick the individual Marstronauts. In the second the Marstronauts will be divided into teams of four, and the audience will decide which team travels to Mars first.
Each team member will have a special duty. One person will be trained in the way of Mars geology; another will learn “exobiology,” or the biology of alien life (don’t they get it? We will be the alien life); and two will be trained as physicians. Yeah, they too saw the episodes where Bones lingers near death or suffers temporary insanity. Lesson learned.
Okay, so say I make it all the way. Hey, it happened to Lee DeWyze. No? Taylor Hicks? Kris Allen? Never mind. So I’m on Mars, having flown for seven months in a locker-sized capsule, where wet-wipes “baths” and freeze-dried food make this voyage more luxurious than that for “the explorers that sailed with Columbus across the Atlantic in 1492.” Kind of a blast from the past. What will I do there? According to the website, first, I will build—using “methodologies to produce habitable volume from mostly Martian materials,” i.e. dust. My goal will be to construct “a space 10 meters wide by 50 meters long,” where I will live and “also grow trees.” No word, yet, on how tall this structure will be. When I’m settled in I’ll conduct research, not only for mankind, but also for universities, where I try to answer the big questions, such as “is there life on Mars now?” The answer—just off the top of my head—would be “Yes. Me and three other life forms.”
Or is this a trick question to determine if I am “transferring knowledge to others, not simply showcasing what I know or what others do not” (bullet two under Curiosity) or am “flexible in how an issue/problem/situation is approached” (bullet one under Creativity/Resourcefulness).
My leisure hours—and hours—will be spent watching the six favorite websites I chose to upload to the Mars habitat web server before I left home (you know–TMZ, E!, Amazon.co.mars, YouTube, ummmm…) and—because stepping outside without wearing my space suit is an automatic death sentence—doing the kinds of indoor things I did on Earth. Good Grief! Isn’t that what I went to Mars to get away from?
Whatever, I’m still ready and rarin’ to go. I may be too late for the first launch, but I know I’ll be in contention for the second. So don’t forget to vote for me at 866-GO2-MARS. I’m already packed, and because you just never know, I’m bringing my dainty sandals.