Making It to Mars

July 23, 2014

in Travel Essays

  • SumoMe

After reading Robert Heinlein’s 1949 sci-fi novel, Red Planet, more than a half-century ago, I was convinced that someday I would be living on Planet Mars, not Planet Earth.

After seeing the 1956 film, Forbidden Planet, in the theaters, I had no doubt that since interstellar travel was technologically feasible (at least in Hollywood) flying to our neighboring planet would be a space cakewalk.

After seeing the Russian satellite, “Sputnik,” flash across the night skies of Seattle the following year, I correctly surmised that my country, the United States, would soon be sending people into “Outer Space.”

From 1961 through 1972, American astronauts flew in space. Forty-five years ago this week, the most famous of them, Neil Armstrong, became the first human to set foot on the moon.

Since then, we’ve seen cosmonauts and astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle, space stations, and other craft, but my dream—and no doubt that of millions of other “Earthlings”—of being space colonists on Mars has remained unfulfilled.

But maybe, just maybe, home sapiens is finally getting a bit closer to blasting off on a voyage to that “Red Planet.”

And maybe I’ll be on-board when the first space flight to Mars takes place.

NASA has orbiters orbiting above and rovers roving across the surface of Mars.

But there are a host of hurdles, many technological in nature, that have to be overcome in order for the U.S. space agency (or that of any other nation) to successfully land space explorers on Mars and bring them back again.

 The effects of a long spaceflight, providing food and oxygen, and developing a propulsion system capable of delivering astronauts and supplies to another planet are just some of the challenges facing NASA.

However, in this recent interview with John Hockenberry, host of WNYC Radio’s “The Take Away,”  the space agency’s Chief Scientist, Ellen Stofan, said a Mars landing might be possible by 2030.

And back in June, Ira Flatow of public radio’s “Science Friday” talked with scientist Jonathan Lunine about what it would take to make a manned mission to Mars a reality.

Astronaut (and later U.S. Senator) John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth and, at age 77, the oldest person to fly in space. But if I’m still alive and ride the first rocket to Mars sixteen years from now, I’ll easily wrest the “Space Geezer” title from him.

But even if I’m long gone in 2030, I could still travel to Mars, and become a permanent part of the landscape of Heinlein’s crimson world.

(Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, has dreamed of becoming a “space cadet” for many years. Some would say he has, figuratively speaking, had that dream realized. Purchases made from Amazon.com through links on this page will help him continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories while he’s still alive and well somewhere in the universe.)

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