Sorry, it’s been a while. But the good news is that I’m not dead yet and after all, what’s a couple of years amongst friends? Well, it’s about the same amount of time that it takes Mars to orbit the sun and depending on your chosen propulsion method, pretty much the same time it would take to get to the red planet. And back again. But why on earth – or Mars – would anyone contemplate returning?
Against all odds, Mars has so far returned an ideal zero number of Coronavirus cases and it looks set to stay that way, so let’s just move there. OK, there are a few downsides; instead of oxygen, you’ll be breathing mostly carbon dioxide. But vomiting, convulsions and death aside, symptoms of breathing elevated levels of Co2 include fatigue, emotional upset and clumsiness; so at least that will be like any other day on Earth.
And at around 30 million miles (or a-just-above-average mileage for a 1980’s Volvo) further away from the sun than Earth, it’s colder too. We’re lucky here to have a ‘thermal blanket’ comprised of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide to keep us toasty. Without this, life couldn’t have existed and we wouldn’t have evolved into the wonderful species we are, created unbelievably beautiful art, developed phenomenal understanding of science and technology and grown our caring knowledge of the world… before going on to spectacularly fuck it all up.
With a temperature somewhere between -50 and -125 degrees, this isn’t going to be a summer holiday, so be sure to pack an extra cardigan or two and leave your fingerless gloves at home. And at just 1%, the atmospheric pressure on Mars is much thinner than Earth’s, leading to other fashion challenges; if you want to avoid the inconvenience of instant death, you’re going to have to wear a pressurised suit, otherwise much like a can of coke, the gasses in your blood will dissolve into bubbles and boil you rapidly to a fizzy end. Just like Coca Cola, it’s the real thing.
The toxic dust storms could get tiresome too. Blowing a gritty wind of micro-particles that travel at speeds of up to 60mph, they can last for weeks and cover the entire planet. So drying your freshly-laundered pressure suit on a line in the garden is definitely out.
The good news is that there is water, although frustratingly either frozen beneath the surface or vaporising above it; various multi-billion dollar NASA missions have confirmed this and in the process also confirmed that huge amounts of money are much better spent on exploring other planets than addressing healthcare, welfare and environmental issues nearer to home.
So all things considered, life on Mars is going to be a challenge. But then so are the next few weeks, months or maybe years on earth, so why not get packing? Well, ‘super-villain’ Elon Musk, the man who dumped a car into orbit might just be your neighbour. Musk has a lot of interest in the planet. He’s suggested ‘nuking’ Mars to make it habitable and he’s building a fleet of space craft to ultimately transport at least one million people to the planet by 2050. This is a mistake. I’ve seen enough films to know that it won’t go to plan and be it unknown pathogens, grumpy alien mothers or psychotic murderous colleagues, it’s not going to end well.
So I’ve decided to take my chances and stay on Earth after all. And I’ve told Covid-19 to join the back of the line of all the other things trying to kill me.