Going to Mars—sort of

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You know who deserves to be sent lots and lots of fan letters: The six people who will spend 520 days locked inside a mockup spacecraft in Moscow, simulating the psychological experience of a mission to Mars.

Figuring out how humans respond to this kind of captivity is something you have to test out before you can responsibly send up the real thing. But, oh my god, what a bum deal. You get all of the inter-personal stress, all of the isolation from family and friends, all of the crappy food, all of the monotony ... minus space, minus the thrill of visiting Mars, minus the adulation of school children. It reminds me of Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book: "Do you want to visit the wonderful far-off Land of Oz? Well you can't, because there is no Land of Oz, and there is no Tin Woodsman, and there is no Santa Claus! Maybe someday you can go to Detroit."

With that in mind, I'd like to give a shout-out to Romain Charles and Diego Urbina, two stand-up guys doing important work—and the first two crew members chosen for the depressingly Earthbound mission. They'll enter the capsule June 3. In the meantime, I plan on finding an address where we can all send cute, home-made, crayon thank-you cards so these guys can experience another side of what it's like to be a space explorer. I will keep you updated.