October 7, 2007

I can't think of anything less appealing than travelling to space. People say getting there is half the fun, but that's not really true.

Thinking about getting there is kind of fun. The actual getting there sounds miserable. I have a hard enough time travelling across the Atlantic. Crossing the solar system? Anything that needs months of rigorous preparation can't be good for someone prone to an upset stomach at the first sign of turbulence.

Not to mention my skin. Are there any dermatologists considering the effects of space travel on dry skin? Everyone seems to be very concerned with loss of bone density. But who's focusing on chapped lips? What kind of moisturiser is there for zero gravity? Also, the germs. If I get a cold from someone sneezing on a plane, chances are I'll get pneumonia on a space shuttle. One thing you don't want is to arrive on the moon with a stuffy nose and a headache. I'm not travelling somewhere if there isn't a pharmacy at the other end.

What to eat on board is another issue. Will the spacecraft offer vegan, gluten-free, kosher, low-fat or low-sodium options? Or will it be a set meal? And if it's a set meal, is it freeze-dried? I've tasted freeze-dried ice cream and it's like eating Styrofoam.

But there's also the cost. Exploring the solar system isn't for those of us on a budget. Tickets start at a lifetime's salary. Which I assume is a round trip.

I'm sure eventually there will be a budget space-travel programme. You'll be able to go on Expedia and check out offers for the moon that are half the cost of Neptune or Mars. And the moon will have a Travelodge. But I'm not sure it's a good idea to skimp on space travel. A rocket engine isn't something you want someone to have ordered from a factory in China.

Moreover, if it's a budget spaceship, that could mean less amenities, like air. Nobody wants to be orbiting the Earth and discover they've run out of oxygen.

The only part of space travel that slightly appeals to me is the packing. A spacesuit and some moon boots. Not only does it look cute, but I'd be packed in less than 20 minutes. Then again, I've heard Jupiter is windy. So I might need some extra layers. At around $200,000 a ticket, let's hope they don't charge for excess baggage.

Sometimes I wish I could start over on another planet. What would that be like? I'm sure it would be a lot like my life here on Earth. Only worse. I'd still be avoiding people but it would take a lot longer to get away from them. If interplanetary travel does become more affordable, it will raise the bar on a good first date. A stroll on the moon will replace dinner and a movie. Which means I'll date even less than I do now. Going for a space walk sounds like a lot of work.

At least while I'm on Earth I can have some perspective by reminding myself there's still an unknown universe out there. I find this a comforting thought. But if we were to colonise other planets? The universe would lose all its mystery. I might as well go to the Upper West Side.

The more I think about it, I don't see myself travelling to space any time soon. But everyone else can go.

How great would Earth be without all the humans?