GRUMPSTER: Filling in the gaps of space talk

Columnist 'The Ely Grumpster@

Columnist 'The Ely Grumpster@ - Credit: Archant

I have always been fascinated by space. As a kid, I would pore over books on the solar system, intrigued by artists’ impressions of Venus, Titan and Mars. I can remember Neil Armstrong’s immortal words as he set foot on the moon and fearing for those on the crippled Apollo 13.

Talk of commercial trips to the moon, or the blasting of pioneers to Mars, has brought this interest of mine back into sharp focus. Two of the biggest egos on the planet want to become the biggest egos in the solar system: Elon Musk and Richard Branson, slugging it out like a couple of schoolboys fighting over a conker. Branson’s low earth orbit offering has been trumped by Musk’s latest nutty innovation. Frustrated by trying to foist submarines on cynical cavers, he has signed up a certain Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, who purportedly will fly to the moon and back in Musk’s Big Falcon Rocket.

Trouble is, this life-changing experience won’t happen until 2023 at the earliest. A lot can happen in 5 years. Musk will soon grow bored, find a new boy toy to amuse himself and flog off his fleet of rockets. My money would be on a mob like Thameslink-Govia picking up the franchise.

2023 arrives. Yusaku is strapped into his seat, desperate for this adventure of a lifetime to begin, then over the intercom, a disembodied voice announces “we regret to advise that the 14:26 Great Northern Service to the moon has been cancelled due to shortage of train crew. Your next service will leave from Launchpad 6 in 2036. We apologise for any inconvenience caused”.

A trip to the moon would be incredible, but Mars is off the scale. How would one create an environment where humans could survive, grow food and source water and oxygen? From a psychological point of view, would you be prepared to head away from our imperfect yet beautiful planet in the full knowledge that you could never return? Earth would look to you as Mars appears to us – a tiny speck in the sky.

My answer would have been an unequivocal “no chance”. Then Doris informed me she has booked us a week’s holiday with her family in Norfolk. I am trying to get hold of Elon Musk’s mobile number. Perhaps Mars isn’t that bad after all.