Who wants to fly to the moon with a jazz drummer?
This week, I imagine you're all filling out your application forms for a chance to fly around the moon with Yusaku Maezawa. As I don't need to tell you, the Japanese billionaire and latter-day Willy Wonka has just announced that he is widening his search for people to join him on the all-expenses-paid round trip on Elon Musk's starship in 2023. He's no longer looking for eight artists. He's looking for eight creative people. Because every person who is doing something creative, he has concluded, could be called an artist. A lot of social media content providers have already expressed an interest.
"Are you satisfied with what you're doing right now?" he asks. "By going to space, could you do something that's even better, even bigger?"
Is anyone satisfied with what they are doing right now? I mean, home schooling is over and it was very, very satisfying to usher the kids onto the school bus on Monday. Like, one of the happiest moments of my life. But satisfaction has been in PPE-last-March supply this year. It's true that by going to space I'd be doing something bigger, something better. But also, by going for a slightly different bike ride. Or adding tomato to today's cheese toastie.
Don't let me stop you, though. I'm sure, in two years' time, Musk and his SpaceX team will have ironed out all the space-is-hard kinks. Only last week they managed to land a rocket successfully … it exploded only a few minutes later. Don't think about that when you're coming in to land in 2023. People are already way too impatient to disembark after a long-haul flight.
And that's the main thing you shouldn't think about. The flight around the moon will last six days assuming everything goes fine, which it's bound to. On the plus side, you will go further from Earth than any spaceperson has boldly gone before you. On all the other sides, six days is a really long time to be stuck with seven other people who have decided they are creative enough to call themselves artists.
At least half of them are bound to bring far too much carry-on luggage and there won't be any cabin crew to help them hammer it into the overhead lockers. And what if you get a middle seat and the "artists" on either side hog the armrests? What if you're sitting behind someone who reclines their seat before the tray of freeze-dried beef stew has been cleared away? What if you're sitting in front of someone who tuts when you recline your seat even though the tray of freeze-dried beef stew was cleared away ages ago?
It is unlikely there will be any families with screaming babies or business travellers to make any families with screaming babies feel even worse. But there will be, judging by the response to Maezawa's offer on social media, several people who think they have a lot to offer when it comes to the advancing of humankind. And five days into a nonstop six-day flight with those people will be … trying. I don't care how great Earth looks from a very, very long way away.
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Towards the end of a London-Kuala Lumpur flight, the toilet at the back of the plane acquires a heatwave Glastonbury tang but at least there's gravity. Don't think about what the space toilet situation will be like. Don't think about floating urine droplets or worse should two of the "artists" decide to join the 200,000-mile high club. It's in their temperament. Don't think about legroom or DVT or space nappies. Don't watch Gravity or The Martian or any Tom Hanks movies. Just carry on filling out the application. Because you're creative.
I've met a couple of astronauts and they are, by necessity, dull. Not in a bad way — in a professional, calm-in-a-crisis, perhaps-we-use-this-coat-hanger-to-fix-that-rocket-booster way. When Apollo 11 blasted off to the moon in 1969, Buzz Aldrin's heart rate was just 88bpm. And they still managed to get on each other's nerves. Remember that when you're climbing into the spaceship with a craft beer maker, an influencer, two actors, a jazz drummer, the guy from the GoCompare ads and … me.
Yes, full disclosure … I am also applying. Because the alternative is another week camping in the Welsh rain with my family. Anything, even six days of deep vein thrombosis and space defecation, is better than that.
Written by: Matt Rudd
© The Times of London