Forget “The Amazing Race,” Mrs. Brad and I might try “The Amazing Space!”
That was my reaction to news that a billionaire tycoon wants to send a middle-aged couple on a privately built spaceship to slingshot around Mars and then return.
About a year ago, Mrs. Brad and I made a video application to appear on TV’s “The Amazing Race.” Having watched the past few seasons – which featured teams of famous athletes, hillbillies, YouTube stars and twins – I realize it’s unlikely we’ll be picked.
But a spaceship to Mars? Maybe we’ve got a chance.
The plan calls for a couple to spend 501 days in a cramped capsule, passing within 100 miles of the Martian surface and coming back.
Sure, we’re talking about a tiny capsule – half the size of an RV – for about 17 months, but we’ve been married for nearly 28 years. This couldn’t be much harder than raising two sons and a dog in a 1,000-square-foot house, could it? It couldn’t be worse than taking family trips in a car stuffed with toys, luggage and camping gear, could it? It couldn’t be worse when all four of us had stomach flu at the same time with just one bathroom, could it?
No, it couldn’t.
The plan is championed by former NASA engineer Dennis Tito, who was the first space “tourist” in 2001 (with the Russian space program). The particulars aren’t final: Chief technical officer Taber McCallum said the group behind the project “hasn’t quite figured out the technical details of the rocket they will use,” according to a report by The Associated Press.
But they know that it will include no showers and limits on toilet paper and clothing – which sounds like a typical Saturday to me. It also will require the travelers to drink water made from recycled urine and sweat – which can’t taste worse than the stuff you drink before a colonoscopy. I’ve done that.
But imagine a 501-day journey to space! Think of how cool it would be to float in space and . . . um . . . talk about “The Bachelor”? Play cribbage? Argue about politics? Plan our next vacation?
For Mrs. Brad, it would be an opportunity to do something she already enjoys – relaxing while gazing into space.
For me, it will be an opportunity to watch plenty of sports on a satellite TV (I presume a spacecraft would have satellite TV!), check in via Facebook and Twitter, make space jokes (“Why did the cow go into outer space? To go to the Milky Way!” “What kind of music do planets play? Neptunes!”) and contemplate the predicted toilet paper shortage.
Medical officer Jonathan Clark said the mission will likely require the couple to “fix things on the fly like TV’s MacGyver and do more piloting than on NASA vehicles,” which falls to Mrs. Brad – she’s an engineer who is a good driver, while I’m a writer who is inattentive behind the wheel.
So we’re ready to go.
NASA has flown men and women in space, but it’s always avoided the question of sex in space. When AP asked McCallum about it, he said, “It’s a man and wife. Private time. Let your imagination run wild.”
My “letting my imagination run wild” leads to thoughts of me misreading a GPS-like device, leaving Mrs. Brad and I on a path that misses Mars entirely. In my imagined scenario, we’re not able to read the instructions on how to return to Earth because I used them as toilet paper.
A disaster? Maybe. But that’s what we astronauts risk.
Mrs. Brad and I stand ready to go. (Assuming we can pack some extra toilet paper.)
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.