(originally posted 9/14/2020)
“Houston we have a problem.”
Houston had been expecting this call from the moment they put the four men and four women on board the first manned spacecraft to Mars.
Greg, one of those four men, continued the broadcast. “Me and the fellas got to talking and…”
The man on the other end of the conversation cut him off with “And you figured out that you’d all dated the same woman at one time or another back here on Earth.”
“What?! You knew?”
“Of course we knew. We know everything about everyone on board. It’s the primary reason we selected you and, furthermore, it was the primary reason the four of you volunteered in the first place.”
There was a brief silence. Eventually Mike, another one of the four, asked “Did it need to be the same woman? We were all flabbergasted when we finally realized that we’d all been talking about the same girl” (the differences between being flabbergasted in zero gravity and on Earth, subtle as they might be, remain anyone’s guess).
Greg, audibly irritated, said “I realized it when Andy told us the last words she’d said to him. They were the last words she’d said to all of us.” As if building a little suspense he paused and then finished the thought in a higher, more feminine pitch. “I’m doing this out of kindness.”
There were a few groans in the background that Houston couldn’t assign. The man on Earth figured it was time to come clean.
“You see gentlemen, the whole point of your trip is research. Figuring out not only if we can settle distance planets but who would be willing to make such journeys. Eventually we’re going to develop technology that allows us to travel at near-light speeds. Given special relativistic time dilation, as dictated by the second postulate of special relativity, it means we’re going to be looking for volunteers who don’t mind leaving behind everyone they know back here on Earth. Forever. When they return they will all have been dead for perhaps hundreds of years.”
The vessel that was hurtling towards Mars with eight people as cargo got very quiet.
“What we needed for this first trip is men and women who needed closure. This woman, Jane I believe her name is”, there was some grunts to the affirmative, “seems to have the unique capability of making men want to leave Earth behind after only a few months of being intimate with them.”
More grunting and a barely audible “You got that right.”
“We’re actually studying her as much as we are you. Her DNA might hold a clue to getting us an almost-unlimited supply of potential astronauts when the time comes. Arrange a blind date between her and a promising candidate and he’ll practically beg to sign up for a one-way trip.”
It was now all on the table.
Greg spoke up, “What about the women on board?”
“His name was Tim.”
On board the spacecraft eight eyes sprung wide open and swung about the capsule wildly, belonging to four women who all sported a very distinct “You dated Tim too?” look on their faces.
The vessel that was hurtling towards Mars with eight people as cargo got very quiet again and a chill ran through the occupants. Not an easy task given that the eight had spent the last few weeks traveling through an environments that sat at about minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit.
For a few long moments it felt like minus 456.
Progress is like that.