Friday, March 1, 2013

What (and Whom) Would You Take to Mars and Back?

by Sara N.

In 2018, one lucky couple could be headed to Mars.

This fab vintage image was sold by Etsy seller julie macneil
Current plans are to launch a couple into space on Jan. 5, 2018. The capsule would travel within 100,000 km of Mars, spend about 10 hours there, and then return to Earth on May 21, 2019, the BBC reports. Studies have shown that this trip is possible with currently available technology.

When I read this, I immediately turned to my husband to ask, "Will you travel to Mars with me, my love?" Naturally, he accepted, and we started discussing what we'd need to bring with us to survive 16 months in space. Not the dehydrated food/life support stuff, of course. The good stuff: books, movies, TV and games. Read on to check out our list and add your own.

First, some background. Dennis Tito, who paid $20 million to fly to the International Space Station, has created the non-profit organization Inspiration Mars Foundation to fund this manned, roundtrip flight to Mars, and the group has already given NASA a $100,000 check to begin work. The group is looking for a middle-aged couple who've already had children because "their health and fertility would be less affected by the radiation they would be exposed to during such a long space mission," according to the BBC. And their marriage should be strong enough to survive a year and a half cooped up in one small spaceship.

That's ... really, really small.
(A sidenote: The proposed spaceship is an upgraded SpaceX Dragon capsule, which, as you can see to the left, is ... well ... tiny. Not that I'm rethinking things. I'm just sayin', those are some close quarters. I hope there'd be a fairly significant space upgrade.)

Anyway, my beloved and I aren't middle aged, but we'll be a little closer to it by 2018. And if we haven't had kids be then, we ain't having any. We're crazy about each other, we've survived many, many long car trips together, and we handle our relatively infrequent disagreements swiftly and usually with humor.  So we're perfect for the trip, obviously.

Now that we've established that, let's talk about what we'd pack. You can't spend months and months in a spaceship without some kind of entertainment or you'll definitely succumb to space madness. As such, you'll have to load up on entertainment options.


Can you use a Kindle in space? I hope so, because mine already has enough books loaded on it to keep me occupied for months and months. If you're using a hand-held e-reader, you'd want to pack a couple of extras for the trip. Can you imagine if you only brought his and hers Kindles and one of them breaks? Oh, the fights that would ensue over the remaining one! You'd need a couple of extras, in case of disaster.

And what would you read over 16 months? My list would include the old-school classic SF/F series I haven't gotten around to yet. I'm thinking Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, Roger Zelazny and, heck, even Robert Jordan. Oh, and Iain M. Bank's Culture novels seem fitting, plus all of those female-led urban fantasy series that I haven't had a chance to plow through. I truly cannot think of a more delightful way to use all of that free time.

Television and movies

Seems fitting. 
The big question here is, will you be able to receive data from Earth? Because I'd hate to miss out on Avengers 4: The Avengening or the sure-to-be freaky insane 11th season of True Blood. If we'd have to forgo new offerings, at the very least we could catch up on shows we missed in their entirety during their runs: classic Doctor Who, Babylon 5, Twin Peaks, The West Wing (yeah, yeah, it's non-genre), the non-Next Gen iterations of Star Trek. Ooooh, and a rewatch of The X-Files. Yesssss.

For some reason, television sounds more appealing than a buch of movies, although I'll take those, too. The James Bonds-es, the Star Wars-es, the Star Treks-es. Also, Mean Girls and Clueless. So all I can do is hope that we'll have the storage capacity to have all of the things on hand. All of them.


European-style strategy games are such a great way to spend a day, and I can't imagine a trip to Mars that wouldn't include this as a distraction. Unfortunately, if you've played any Euro games, you know they tend to have lots of fiddly bits. (I'm looking at you, Agricola.) These would be hilariously disastrous in a zero gravity environment, which is why we'd need the iPad versions of games such as Carcassone, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Small World and Pandemic so you can play them without worrying about your meeples floating away like the pen in 2001.


I prefer to be in a sitting position above all things, unless lying down is an option. Still, you've got to have some kind of exercise when hurtling through space for a year and a half. In light of that, I'll take a COLBERT treadmill along for the ride.


I don't know how NASA feels about cats in space. If I can take my little fellas along, I will.

Also, how hilarious would zero-gravity cats be?


OK, science, if we're going to do this, you have five years to figure out how to make a freeze-dried Black Forest cake that tastes like the real thing. Get started.

Mmmm ... freeze dried ...

So do you think you could spend 16 months on a trip to Mars without flipping out on your travel partner? And what would be on your must-pack list?
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