Tell your spouse that you want to coat the walls in your own urine and faeces and he or she will likely walk out of the room in disgust. But take up a multimillionaire’s offer and that won’t be possible — because you’ll be in space.
It’s all part of a proposal by Dennis Tito, who’s using his wealth to make an unusual proposal to a couple. Nope, it’s not Robert Redford and Demi Moore all over again. Instead of a one-night deal, Tito’s request will take 501 days to complete.
Tito is of course an investment management company owner who became the first man to pay for a seat as a commercial space tourist. He now want to fund a manned trip to Mars, although the participants will merely loop round the planet rather than make a landing.
The idea is that the mission, scheduled to launch on 5 January 2018, will involve a man and a woman. They don’t necessarily have to be a married couple, though spending 17 months together in close confinement (the main capsule being seven cubic meters) probably isn’t going to make an ideal first date. As well as the emotional support a couple can give one another, the theory is that if the people are in a sexual relationship, they’ll be able to stave off boredom more easily.
Despite Tito’s wealth, the costs of space travel mean the proposed mission is on an incredibly tight budget designed to do the absolute minimum required to give a “reasonable” chance of survival. The risk is said to be far higher than the likes of Nasa would even accept.
The biggest dangers will come from radiation. Previous estimates suggest a one in ten chance of experiencing a fatal blast from a solar flare or coronal mass ejection, and a 30 percent chance of experiencing a lesser blast that would kill around one in three people exposed to it. These specific risks would be lower on the Tito mission: it’s scheduled to take less time and will take place during a period of minimal solar activity.
Altogether the trip is estimated to increase your chances of developing cancer by three percentage points: thirty times the increase expected for International Space Station visitors.
If you take up the challenge, you and your partner will be living on survival rations made up dehydrated food. Your urine will be processed to produce drinking water, while any spare water will be electrolyzed to replenish the air supply.
Indeed, nothing will be wasted on the mission. Any faeces will be dehydrated to produce more liquid to become drinking material, with the remaining solids put into bags. These bags, along with those containing water (and liquids being converted into water) will build up a 40 centimeter-thick lining wall for the spacecraft designed to act as an additional radiation shield. So romantic.