What planet are they on?

imageThe NASA Hi-Seas (Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) project is intended to simulate what an actual mission to Mars may be like with the crew spending most of their time in a structure located in a barren landscape here on Earth. Obviously, on the actual trip resources will be limited and one reason for the project is to explore ways to improve sustainability. Kate Greene, one of the participants in the mission, has suggested the a crew of women only is the best solution as most women burn 2,000 calories whereas a man will burn in excess of 3,000.

A no brainer you may think. But in a spacecraft full of women the calorie issue will be a minor consideration. In my experience women require a lot more stuff than men. A lot more.

Every holiday I have ever been on which involved a woman packing the suitcases meant that there was enough clothes and stuff to last a month, not just the 14 days of the holiday. The cases as tightly packed as the baggage of an ardent Scottish Nationalist’s filled with a loathing of the English. Invariably, I would wear a couple of pairs of shorts and shirts and walk around in the same sandals for two weeks.

imageOne experience remains lodged in my mind. A holiday in Cyprus with Val, her son Andrew and my daughter Laura. In Paralimni to be exact, a hell hole between Ayia Napa and the border with the north of the island. The holiday highlight; a visit to view, fr om a safe distance, Famagusta, an abandoned town with the washing still on the clothes lines after umpteen years, something I could have experienced in parts of any industrial town in the North of England any day of the week.

But enough of the travelogue. The bus that delivered us to the hotel, a concrete edifice that wouldn’t look out of place in Glasgow, stopped at the other side of a vast patio. Mindful of the health and safety issues the bus driver dragged our cases out of the storage compartment and dropped them onto the ground with a dull thud; the corpse of Cyril Smith accidentally falling off the slab onto the mortuary floor. As Val, Laura and Andrew gambolled towards the hotel contemplating the weeks ahead of them I contemplated the two ominously large cases, the distant hotel entrance and the intense heat. This was in the days before suitcases with wheels had been thought of. I grabbed hold of the handles and braced myself for the snatch and lift. Pulling myself upright I just managed to get my knees to lock and like an Olympic weightlifter I staggered slightly to the left and to the right seeking the point of balance. Then, having stabilised myself, I did a slow ,goose step towards the hotel under the glare of the midday sun and the disdainful gaze of the German contingent sprawled by the nearby pool; the main opponents in the clandestine competition to place towels on the sparse scattering of sun loungers. As I stumbled over the into the foyer I received an empathetic welcome from a group of blokes waiting for a taxi. “Well done there, mate!” said one, “right on!” another blowing his cheeks out.

Based on this, admittedly limited research, I would recommend that NASA recruit men of lean wiry stature, sparse hair and a total lack of interest in fashion. Anyway, if the TV programme ‘The Apprentice’ is anything to go by a capsule full of blokes will make a more congenial environment than a group of women in such a restricted space. Definitely a no brainer!

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