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I’m With Stupid – June 8, 2012

by Todd Hartley

Hey, all you aging Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, are you looking for somewhere more interesting to retire than Florida or Arizona? Do you have no interest in spending your days playing golf and sunning by the pool? Is warm weather not really your thing? Then have I got an offer for you.

Sign up now to see if you’ve got the right stuff to retire to the hippest new destination in the solar system: sunny Mars! Well, sunny when massive dust storms aren’t engulfing the planet, anyway.

You heard that right; a Dutch company calling itself Mars One recently announced plans to establish a settlement on the Red Planet by 2023, a mere 11 years from now. And while it won’t be a retirement community in the traditional sense, every ticket issued to the settlement is going to be one-way, so anyone who goes will indeed be retiring to Mars.

Therein, I think, lies the fatal flaw in Mars One’s plan, because if you told me I could go to Mars, I’d be all for it. But if you told me I couldn’t come back, I don’t think I’d consider it until I was at least 80 years old. Who the hell wants to spend decades on a planet where, on the rare occasions that you actually get into your vacu-sealed spacesuit and step outside, there’s nothing to do anyway?

I would caution Mars One to heed the words of the brilliant songwriter Corky St. Clair, who wrote: “Nothing ever happens on Mars. No sports or entertainment or swinging bars. You stand around, you stand some more, on a planet named for a Roman god of war.”

Here’s how boring your life would become: Just to get to Mars you would have to spend seven months in a “transit habitat” with three other people. Once you got there, it would just be the four of you in your tiny domiciles for two years until the next batch of four people showed up. I don’t know if any Mars One executives have ever seen “The Shining,” but if they haven’t, they probably should.

Not only will their lives be boring once they leave for Mars, but the Mars One astronauts will actually have to spend the next decade preparing for their journey. I’m not sure what they’re going to practice that requires 10 years of training, but the training will most likely take place in rural Utah to simulate Mars-like conditions.

Yup. Ten years in rural Utah. Talk about a hoot and a holler!

So that’s why I would say to Mars One execs that they probably shouldn’t be surprised when most of the people who try out to be astronauts are elderly Mormons. Not that they wouldn’t make good astronauts with their polite ways and clean living. I’m just saying that’s most likely the demographic we’re looking at here.

As audacious as Mars One’s plan may be, the crazy thing is that they’ll probably end up getting it done. While publicly funded ventures like NASA may never have the budget to go anywhere, Mars One is seeking cash, of which it will need billions of dollars, from the much deeper-pocketed private sector.

Mars One is doing exactly what it should be doing and selling this whole venture as a reality TV concept and trying to generate tons of hype about it. As Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp said, “We will finance this mission by creating the biggest media event ever around it.”

Some TV network is going to pay a ridiculous amount of money for the broadcast rights, and corporate sponsors will be lining up right and left to get onboard, because Lansdorp is absolutely right that everyone in the world will want to follow the astronauts as they blast off from Earth, travel through space and land on Mars. Of course you would tune in to see people land on Mars. You know you would.

The only problem with that as a reality TV idea is that people like me, who don’t normally watch reality TV, would tune in to one episode – the one where they land – every two years. And I can’t guarantee I’d even tune in for that episode more than twice. The rest of the time, however, Mars One’s show will consist of four elderly Mormons standing around being bored. I can’t think of anyone, even my reality TV-addicted family members, who would have any interest in tuning in to that.

Todd Hartley, of Blaine, Mo., collects “My Dinner With André” action figures.

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