Typical, isn't it?
You wait light years for a trip to Mars then two come along at once. Any more and it's going to be like the M74 up there (Roadchef are probably planning the first orbital services now. "Chocolate sprinkles, sir? Sorry, it's weightless. You'll have to lift your drink up -")
Unless you've been living on the Red Planet this past fortnight – and if you have, this piece is a bit like a Tory candidate down there in Eastleigh: largely redundant – you can't have avoided the stories about US billionaire Dennis Tito who is backing a manned mission to Mars in 2018 when, in space terms, it will be almost close enough to reach out and touch, as Diana Ross once said.
He is looking for volunteers and says the trip would suit an older, married couple. Cue Alan Bennett script. "Is that your digestive floating about?"
"'Appen it is."
"Well, you'd best do something about it before it interferes with 't navigation."
The announcement of Tito's Inspiration Mars Foundation (the initials, amusingly, are IMF – yes, let's send Dominique Strauss-Kahn into outer space. Permanently) comes on the vapour trails of Mars One, an even more ambitious project backed by another fabulously wealthy man, the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp who hopes to start the first human settlement on the planet in 2023.
Both schemes have catches. In the first, you go all the way to Mars in a craft barely big enough to swing a cat ("I didn't say anything about the cat, love. I said 'What about the sat nav?'"), but you don't even get to walk on the planet.
In the second, you also won't have much room on the way there, but at least you're allowed out the other end.
Trouble is, you're not allowed back in. It's a one-way trip – you have to say goodbye to friends and family. Lansdorp wants you to start a colony there. A ridiculous suggestion. What about schooling? The council will never let you get away with it.
Mars One looks like a hoax, or at least a very clever, slow burn campaign for a new piece of confectionery from the famous company.
After all, we've had Mars Planets, and the pods on the website could easily be giant chocolates. Yet you can't find "Mars Incorporated" in the small print anywhere. A mystery. Whatever, start packing – better than the M74.
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