To the Moon, Alice


OPINION — ‘Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her five-year mission: To explore strange, new worlds. To seek out new life, and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.’

When I was six years old, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d’ve told them I wanted to be Captain James Tiberius Kirk. I loved Star Trek, and if you’re going to spend five years on a spaceship, you might as well be the captain. Otherwise it would be just another job.

Captain James T. Kirk from the original Star Trek series that aired in the 1960s - performed by William Shatner.

Captain James T. Kirk from the original Star Trek series that aired in the 1960s - performed by William Shatner. 

My parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. That’s what American parents told American kids during the 1960s. It’s possible they even believed it. By the time I was eight I realized how silly that was. Few people get to be whatever they want. Because reality. So I gave up on being Captain Kirk, and decided I wanted to be Sergeant Sam Troy, from Rat Patrol, instead. At least he got to drive a jeep around in the desert and shoot at bad guys.

But becoming an astronaut was still there, in the back of my mind, floating around like the elusive answer to a problem on a freshman algebra test. The idea was enticing, but I knew it would never happen unless I ran into William Shatner at the post office, or something. I still wondered if it might be possible, right up until fourth grade, when I was given a vision test at school, and found out I was legally blind. Because reality.

So I had to give up on the dream of space travel for good. Until a few weeks ago. That’s when it all came back in a rush, when I heard Japanese rich guy Yusaku Maezawa had invited me to fly to the moon with him.

Well, not me, personally, specifically, exactly. Yusaku put the word out that he was going to the moon and was looking for volunteers to go with him. Because who wants to go to the moon alone, right? So I thought, here’s my chance to finally fulfill my lifelong dream of going to space, the final frontier. And the best part is that Yusaku has more money than France, and he’s paying for the whole trip himself. It’s like your rich relative offering to take you to Red Lobster and buy you supper. Or it would be, if Red Lobster was 239,000 miles away, and had no oxygen.

Yusaku Maezawa and Elon Musk

Yusaku Maezawa and Elon Musk

What happened was, Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX, decided there’s no reason only governments should have a corner on the space travel market. His attitude seems to be that, if government can do something, the private sector can do that something faster, cheaper, and more efficiently. Which is generally true. As Milton Freedman once said, ‘If you put the U.S. Government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there would be a shortage of sand.’

So SpaceX has been building rockets and stuff, and blasting them off into space for a long time now. The goal has always been to eventually send people up there, and since Musk is primarily a businessman, he plans to make a buck or two in the process by selling tickets for space flights, pretty much just like the airlines do now, except without the annoying hassle of being groped by a TSA employee. SpaceX has built a ‘Starship,’ with room for ten or twelve people, capable of week-long trips into deep space. Or at least shallow space. Basically, around the moon and back. Which is probably plenty far enough, with space.

But space travel isn’t cheap, especially if you plan to zap any aliens with your photon torpedoes during the trip, so your average McDonald’s cashier probably won’t be able to afford a ticket. Or even your average McDonald’s manager. Or even Ray Kroc, unless he’s been frugal with all those Big Mac profits.

Yusaku knows that, but he’s made a bundle from a Nigerian prince, or something, and he can afford it. And since no one really likes to roll the dice on who they end up traveling to the moon with, he decided to buy out the whole ship, and choose who gets to go along. And since he evidently doesn’t have any friends, he put the word out for volunteers.

The SpaceX Starship

The SpaceX Starship

So I sent in an application, and was emailed a more detailed form to fill out. Yusaku will choose eight people from all the applicants, and I was hoping to get chosen. Until I looked the form over, and found that being the captain of the ship was not really an option. I decided to pass. If you can’t be in charge, what’s the point?

Plus, about the time I applied for the trip, I found out that another SpaceX ship, the Starship SN10, made a successful test flight, and then exploded when it landed back at Boca Chica, Texas. So I’m thinking maybe I’ll wait until they get all the bugs worked out, or at least offer a reasonably solid assurance that everyone on the trip won’t die in a horrendous fireball.

To paraphrase Davy Crockett, you all can go to the moon, I’m going to Red Lobster . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and minister who rarely travels outside earth’s atmosphere. Write to him at [email protected]

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