There’s an intriguing story in today’s Sun-Times about scientists proposing one-way trips to Mars. One-way trips would be cheaper and faster than those designed to bring travelers back. The scientists compare it to settlers in the New World who left Europe with no expectation of returning. The goal is to colonize Mars ASAP as a hedge against a catastrophe on Earth. Sounds prudent.
So far, so good.
But here’s where a merely good idea becomes absolutely brilliant: the scientists want to send folks who are “a little bit older” — 60 or so. Now you’ve got my attention! The reasoning is the mission would undoubtedly reduce a person’ s lifespan because of a lack of medical care and due to high radiation–radiation which would also damage the reproductive organs of younger people.
And think of all the earthly reasons it would make sense to blast seniors into space: what better way to deal with the doomsday scenarios for Social Security, Medicare, and all the issues attendant to an aging society? Blast Grandma to Mars! Sure, she’ll get fried once she lands, but before she gets completely baked, she can help build a cozy retreat for the people back on Earth in case they suddenly need to relocate en masse. No more worrying about nursing homes, long-term care, or becoming a burden to your family. Your golden years await you on the red planet!
The authors of the study think that lots of people would be willing to make the sacrifice and volunteer. They may be right. But if you’re a boomer, as I am, and your adult kids suddenly show up with your bags packed and a one-way space travel ticket, take the hint. Just make sure they’ve packed plenty of sunscreen for you.