Saturday, October 1, 2016

Colonial Life

Dear Friends,

Led Zeppelin, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, and the Grateful Dead. What's the common thread of these folk rock legends?

They all wrote songs about The Levee.

Oh, The Levee. It holds a singular role in American lore. It's obviously a physical thing, I think. But maybe it's also a metaphor, or perhaps a doctrine of some kind. We don't actually know what The Levee looks like or where to find it, but it clearly represents something we need very deeply. Apparently, we are disappointed when it's not wet, but we fear something bad will happen to it if it gets too wet, right?

For the last 40 years, no one has broached this important subject. The Hard Taco song for October, "Breakwater," reminds us why we so desperately need The Levee, whatever it is, to be strong for us.

Colonial Life

For decades, scientists have known that the Earth has a catastrophic overpopulation problem. To be more precise, they have known that there are too many scientists for all of them to get tenure-track positions.

This has bred renewed interest in relocating humans to space. Elon Musk recently announced a proposal to colonize Mars by 2024. This is great news for people who have job interviews lined up at SpaceX or Tesla, because they will know what to say when the interviewer asks, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"

But why Mars? The fastest spaceship would take six months to get to the Red Planet. The Moon, on the other hand, is only 3 days away. That's close enough that colonists might still get decent cellphone reception. Plus, if they start to feel lonely or nostalgic, they can squint and convince themselves that they see the Great Wall of China. That wall always makes me feel less homesick!

The Moon has other advantages over Mars. Lower gravity means that lunar colonists will be able to travel by putting on roller skates and peeing. (Their gender will determine whether they travel backwards or upwards.)

The fatal hitch is that The Moon has almost no water. Lunar rovers have spent years digging around in craters and sampling soil, looking for signs that water had once been there, like an empty riverbed or the hoof-prints of a water buffalo. After 50 years of squeezing moon rocks, they've expressed about enough H2O to put a tabletop water feature in the NASA office lobby. As quaint as that is, it is not enough to support a colony of Earth's most reclusive billionaires or Earth's most dangerous criminals, whichever we send up there first.

One solution would be for lunar pilgrims to bring bottled water with them, but everyone knows the TSA agents will just make them throw it all out at security.

Mars, as it turns out, may have as much water as one of our smaller oceans. Not only would all that water slake thirst and satisfy crops, but it would also allow our settlers to do things like run through sprinklers, go tubing, and cheat at Marco Polo.

They will even be able to have sleepovers, and put a Martian's hand in warm water overnight to make it pee in its sleeping bag.*

So if you've got a hankering to colonize a celestial body, Mars is the clear choice. Eight years should be long enough to get your lifeguard training. Just remember to pack a dehumidifier and waterproof camera.

With warmest regards,

* The poor Martian would never live that kind of humiliation down, especially once the kids started calling it Martian van Urine.