#16 Mars Exploration

Travelling to Mars sounds like it would be really cool and exciting. However, for most people, this wouldn't be the case. It would totally, absolutely suck.

With current technology, it would take about six months to travel to Mars, and another six months to come back, which means you'd spend a whole year of the journey not actually on Mars itself. For fun, you'd probably watch a lot of movies or read books or maintain all of the onboard equipment that kept breaking. The Internet connection would be really slow (there'd be a speed of light delay of several minutes every time you clicked on a link) so you wouldn't be able to do a lot of web surfing unless you were very patient. There would be no instant messaging.

Even worse, you'd spend all this time confined to a small spaceship with as much interior room as a very small house, but you'd never be able to step outside and walk down the street unless you wanted to take a nice relaxing stroll through the vacuum of space.

The whole mission would take about two and a half years. There would probably be five other people with you, and you'd be stuck with them the whole time. It's almost inconceivable that you wouldn't get tired of hanging out with these same five people and their annoying habits. Hopefully your ex-boyfriend wouldn't be onboard, and he wouldn't leave his dirty underwear floating around the spacecraft.

The food would be awful. It might not seem bad at first, but after a few months, it would be awful. After a year, you would become wildly obsessed with cheeseburgers and real pizza. The water you drank and showered in would be recovered from your own urine by a machine. It would actually be quite safe and clean, but you'd still have to try not to think about where it came from.

Once you finally got to Mars, quite frankly, there wouldn't be very much to look at, other than rocks and dust. There might be some rocks that are more exciting than all the other rocks, but they'd still be rocks.

The most exciting thing that you could possibly discover on Mars would be living organisms, if there are any. This would actually be quite cool, but it's extraordinarily unlikely, and if you did find something, it would probably only be about as complex as bacteria. It'd be freakishly amazing for a few minutes, until you realized that by this point in the mission, you'd probably have quite a bit of bacteria just like that growing in your refrigerator back in New Jersey.

On Mars, it's also usually about -63 degrees Celsius (-81 Fahrenheit). The atmosphere is only about 1% as dense as Earth's, with almost no oxygen. You'd have to wear a spacesuit whenever you went outside to look at the rocks. The planet is geologically old and dead and has no protective magnetic field, so there would be a slightly increased cancer risk from radiation from space.

To return to Earth, you'd have to wait a long time until the positions of Earth and Mars in their orbits lined up so that you could make the trip with the rocket fuel you had available.

In short, you'd be stuck on Mars, wandering around in the dust, for a year and a half, with five other people who you were already sick of talking to and wanted to get away from long before you landed.

I'd love to go to Mars if the trip would only take a few days, and if there was a gourmet chef onboard, and a masseuse, and Eddie Izzard, but the current version of the mission outlined by NASA doesn't sound very fun to me.

The only way a trip to Mars could possibly be any fun is if you were an extremely extroverted geologist, or a biologist who didn't mind being disappointed, and you'd be happy living in a metal box and possibly dying of cancer a few years after you got back home.

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