Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

We'll vote someone off Earth, onto Mars

Weighing the pros and cons of life on the faraway planet

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I was over the moon when I learned at least 35 Canadians are among the more than 78,000 people from 120 countries who have applied for a chance to be among the first human settlers on Mars.

But, tragically, I came plummeting back to Earth after hearing Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford aren't among the candidates we can literally vote off our planet.

If your job doesn't involve watching TV or surfing the Internet, you may not have heard the thrilling news about the Mars One Project, a $6-billion scheme to send four volunteer space pioneers on a one-way trip to establish a human settlement on Mars in 2023.

This ambitious project is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, who, for humanitarian reasons, is scouring the globe for four "astronauts" to fire into space with no chance of returning to Earth.

Where's the money coming from? Well, according to its website (mars-one.com): "Mars One intends to fund this decade-long endeavour involving the whole world as the audience of an interactive, televised broadcast of every aspect of this mission, from the astronaut selections and their preparations to the arrival on Mars and their lives on the red planet."

From a purely scientific perspective, you know these guys have to be legitimate, because, on their website, you can fork over cash to buy Mars One T-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs and posters.

In a news release last week, Lansdorp boasted: "With 78,000 applications in two weeks, this is turning out to be the most desired job in history. These numbers put us right on track for our goal of half a million applicants."

The way it works is, you can apply online to be a Mars settler until the end of August. Eventually, they'll hire up to 40 applicants, who will train for seven years, which I believe is how long it takes to learn to operate the deep fryer at McDonald's.

In the end, "an audience vote" will select the four lucky winners who will be packed off to Mars in 2023 to live in a special habitat that, with the help of robots, will be sent up first, which seems like a good idea, scientifically speaking.

Despite being a courageous journalist with fire in his eyes and naturally curly hair, I currently have no interest in going to Mars, even though my wife feels it would do a lot to improve our marriage.

From what little I have read, Mars is cold, bleak, desolate and unfriendly to human life, so it's a lot like Saskatchewan, only there aren't as many people wearing watermelons on their heads, which is a plus in my book.

Part of my reluctance to be a Martian settler is the fact that, to get to the fourth planet from the sun, you would be required to travel on a rocket ship, which would involve huge amounts of gravity, which is the most powerful force in the universe other than the force that pulls me into Tim Hortons doughnut shops when I drive to the office.

What with being the size of a major kitchen appliance, gravity has never been my friend. For instance, a few years ago, I went to the Red River Ex on Media Day to report on their deadliest thrill rides, the end result of which was, thanks to gravity, I spent about 20 minutes hunched over trying not to lose my lunch and my dignity, a tragedy that was captured by pretty much every local news station.

Still, I do not wish to dissuade anyone from submitting an application for this ambitious quest, which I am sure will get off the ground provided they sell enough T-shirts. If you are thinking of spending the rest of your life on Mars, you might want to mull over a few pros and cons.

On the plus side:

1) You would never ever have to mow your lawn again, regardless of what your wife or your neighbours say;

2) You would no longer be exposed to episodes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or The Real Housewives of Wherever unless you brought the DVDs along;

3) You could say things like "Beam me up, Scotty" and wear your Star Trek pyjamas all day long without being ironic;

4) If your earthly residence is Toronto, the Maple Leafs would never break your heart again;

5) You'd finally lose weight, largely due to the fact that you will (a) eventually starve; and (b) have to eat out of toothpaste-style tubes for the rest of your life, which shouldn't be all that long.

On the downside, I'm thinking you might miss a few of the comforts of home. Maybe not Don Cherry and Rob Ford, but oxygen certainly comes to mind.

And chances are the basic-cable package on Mars does not include the NHL playoffs, which shouldn't be a big problem for all you Leafs fans.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 15, 2013 A2

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