The one-way ticket is a powerful motif. It marks the end of one chapter of life and the beginning of another more uncertain one. Boney-M sang about having a “One way ticket, one way ticket to the blues/Choo, choo train chuggin’ down the track” . I have felt that pain.  Recently, I lost a return train ticket and was forced to…[chokes back the tears]….sorry, I don’t think I can talk about it. It’s still too raw.

Now there is a one-way ticket of even more significance than paying €62.50 to get to Dublin. The Dutch organisation Mars One has opened the selection process for astronauts to travel to Mars. The unpredictable effects of a 7-month journey and living in a Martian environment the astronauts’ physique, mean they are unlikely to ever be able to return.

Mars One hope to get  four humans there by the year 2023. Think about it: there will be people on Mars before  water-meters are installed in all Irish homes.

Finally it seems that the future is here.

It’s been a while coming.  It’s only years till 2015, the year in Back To The Future II. We expected to be going around on hover skateboards by now. (Actually for most Irish people, when it came out in 1985 Back to the Future 1 looked futuristic especially the bits set in 1985 America.)

But now, space is back on the agenda. NASA intend to capture an asteroid. The Chinese have a vague plan to travel to the moon to mine helium-3 for nuclear fusion. Commander Chris Hadfield’s photographs and videos sent to us from the International Space Station have captivated millions. Although he seems to be flying over Ireland a suspicious amount of times leading people to suspect he was involved in the maps for the Local Property Tax. (At least some of the valuations must have been done by Space Cadets)

Before we get distracted by pie and pi in the sky, there are some practical considerations for the first group of astronauts on that one-way trip. How much will they be paid? And who will stick up for their rights in any Croke Park-style bargaining. After all you can’t get more front-line worker than someone in Space. On the other side is it reasonable to expect them to pay tax when they won’t be available of any services? If you think non-parents are disgruntled about funding children’s allowance, imagine how annoyed you’d be on Mars to know you’re contributing to the needs of an entire species? Maybe they should just be declared as self-employed and file their return,  when they return.

Applications are open – all you have to do is record a one-minute video. Be warned though, there will be a reality TV element to the whole process. So, a bit like The Voice Of Ireland, except in Space no one can hear you scream.  Though that shouldn’t put off anyone determined to get there, one way or another.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on April 24th, 2013

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