The other day I was reading about people who’ve volunteered for a one-way trip to Mars.
‘Hannah Earnshaw, 23, a PhD student in astronomy at Durham University, said: ‘My family is pretty thrilled. They’re really happy for me. Obviously it’s going to be challenging, leaving Earth and not coming back.’
Apparently there have been thousands of applicants for this journey of a lifetime (literally), their numbers have been whittled down to hundreds, and Hannah is one of the chosen few. They’ve applied to live in pods in a totally inhospitable atmosphere, with insufficient oxygen and a surface temperature of minus 60 degrees. No-one is planning to bring them back. In fact, Hannah is looking forward to being the first mother on the planet.
You can’t help but wonder – do they have maternity units on Mars?
Such self confidence at such a young age – such supreme indifference to the dangers ahead, to the sad realities of suffering and death in a cold climate.
(You can see where this is going can’t you?)
But Hannah knows everything will be just fine on Mars because her friends and family support her decision, and whatever happens – death by suffocation, starvation, or massacre at the hands of green-eyed Martians – ‘we can still communicate via the internet’.
We used to think that Love was All You Need, but now, obviously, love has been replaced by an iPhone. Life without it is unimaginable, but life with it makes every kind of situation manageable – even life on Mars.
They stay here sometimes, the Hannahs, and their male counterparts, the Harrys. They are students, or in their first job. They arrive in urban streetwear, unaware of the climate, or, rather, indifferent to it, having added a scarf to their outfit just before rushing off to the airport. When they arrive they’re not sure where they are, and are often surprised to find it’s cold and full of snow and that their plimsolls with the Aztec prints aren’t so warm. But they don’t need any help from anyone because with their iPhone they can easily find the way to the nearest Starbucks, if there is one.
They do everything at the tap of a screen. To find their way to the centre of town (tap tap), or the times of buses to the Ice Hotel (tap tap). They need some tours (tap tap), some northern lights information (tap tap), and where to find a caffe latte (tap tap).
Companies line up to help them fulfil their fantasies about being here – sled dog tours, snowmobiling, northern lights tours, Sami experiences. You want to experience reindeer? (tap tap) ‘Reindeer Farm Experience’ tomorrow, pick-up 10.00hrs. See wild animals? (tap tap) ‘Moose Safari’, pick-up 15.00hrs. See the northern lights? (tap tap) ‘Guided Tour to the Sky Station’, tomorrow, 21.00hrs.
They tweet where they are, and take selfies in front of huge piles of snow, on top of huge piles of snow, falling into huge piles of snow, making angel shapes on their backs in huge piles of snow. Their photos wing their way across the world and bring back plenty of ‘Wow! Omygod! Shit!’ replies. They post pictures on Facebook of themselves on the dog sled tour, just to keep their parents happy. And the trip was so awesome they tap out a quick review and post it online.
They’re incredibly polite and well-behaved, and always say thankyou for breakfast. They stay for a maximum of three nights, usually two, and head home totally fulfilled and happy.
I admire their confidence, self-assurance, and ability to get themselves around the world. But sometimes I wish they would just stop and think about where they are. But maybe, if you’re on Mars, it’s best not to.