Forget Lake George – we're dreaming of Saturn's Lake Titan.
If entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Richard Branson have their way, humans will soon be taking their vacations in space. As Travel + Leisure reported in April, Branson told reporters he’s aiming to have his first guests aboard the Virgin Galactic by 2018.
“The test program is going really well, and as long as we’ve got our brave test pilots pushing it to the limit we think that after whatever it is, 12 years of hard work, we’re nearly there,” Branson told the Guardian. “I think I’d be very disappointed if we’re not into space with a test flight by the end of the year and I’m not into space myself next year and the program isn’t well underway by the end of next year.”
While we wait to get into space, Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich, a science writer and astronomer, respectively, are giving us mere earthlings a taste of what space travel may look like with their new book, "Vacation Guide to the Solar System.”
“It all started with something called the Intergalactic Travel Bureau, a pop-up agency where the organization Guerilla Science invites members of the public to come and plan their vacation with an astronomer,” Koski told Space.com. She explained that the travel bureau’s mission is to “imbue science into culture, so planning vacations to space was an idea that we had to make astronomy and space science relevant to the average person.”
The book not only explores how humans will experience interplanetary travel, but also looks at just what we will do when we get there, like going low-gravity hiking, or skiing on Pluto.
While Pluto sounds cool, Grcevich said she’d choose to adventure on Titan, a moon of Saturn, because of its lakes. “They're not water lakes, they're methane and ethane — very cold, 300 degrees below zero — but you could have a beach vacation there,” she said, noting that it would be “very unlike” a beach vacation here on Earth, because it would be extremely cloudy with an orange-ish haze. It would also be incredibly dark due to the moon’s distance from the sun. But there would be one major perk: You’d likely be able to fly.
Grcevich explained that the atmosphere is “so thick, in fact, you could probably become airborne pretty easily under human power or with minimal external power, so you could fly on Titan, and I think that'd be a fascinating experience.”
In the book the duo also explores the infrastructure that would be needed to keep humans safe in different environments and looks at the few planets you’d probably like to avoid.
“You don't want to go to the surface of Venus for too long, even if you could. It's just really, really, really hot there, and the pressure is really high, and it's almost like you could probably handle one of those things — really high pressure or high temperatures — but both…I don't know,” Koski said.
As for first-time space travel, Koski and Grcevich said their recommendation is a simple one: head to the Earth’s moon. "It's so close — you don't have to take a ton of time off work, and it's the most affordable, even if it's probably out of reach for most people," Koski said. "But there are people on planet Earth who can afford it, and who have actually purchased a ticket to the moon. That's pretty incredible, if you think about it.”