Who doesn’t love a vacation? If you’re the exploring type, who loves a trip to remote exotic locales, you might wish to consider a space vacation. On Friday evening, October 19, at Columbia University’s Pupin Hall, with equal parts good science and tongue-in-cheek humor, Jana Grcevich walked her audience through her top 10 holiday locations in the Solar System. In fact Dr. Grcevich has just co-authored a book, Vacation Guide to the Solar System, on the subject with science journalist and engineer Olivia Koski, so her presentation incorporated some of the highlights of this rather unusual travel guide.
First up was the Moon. Given our satellite’s tidal locking, the Earth always appears in the same place in the sky when seen from the Moon, and doesn’t budge, all day, every day, all year (although the Earth does go through phases and of course, rotates). So, the rooms with an Earth view are of course pricier than those on the far side.
Next up was Venus. And you had better be up if you go there, hopefully 35 miles or so in altitude, where the temperature and air pressure are more Earth-like. A floating holiday resort awaits you, sailing safely above the crushing pressure, sulfuric acid and temperature of the surface.
If you’re more adventurous, you might wish to sky-dive through Jupiter’s outer clouds…for a few hours perhaps, before the increasing pressure and temperature obliterate your body. As Dr. Grcevich noted, be sure to bring a heavy-duty radiation suit, as the Jovian radiation belts are not to be trifled with.
Or perhaps you’d prefer to moon-hop among Jupiter’s 79 moons, particularly the big four: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. For the scuba divers among you, Europa offers her subsurface ocean to explore.
Pluto is a skier’s paradise: with a surface gravity only 12% of the Earth’s and lots of nitrogen snow, you could set new records for ski-jumping! You will want a lot of padding if you fall. The snow is very hard packed and icy because there is no surrounding air and the snow is as hard as rock.
If you’re one who loves to photograph beautiful landscapes, consider Saturn. From a comfortable perch far above the planet’s north pole, you’ll have a front row seat for its mysterious hexagon and the stunning beauty of its rings. Or perhaps you’d prefer a Martian sunset, which is the opposite of ours: blue sunset tints against a generally reddish sky.
Are you a fan of Yellowstone’s Old Faithful? Well, Neptune’s moon Triton offers you its beautiful nitrogen ice geysers, sending up material miles high at a velocity of 300mph.
And then there’s Titan, where Earthlings can feel surprisingly at home with a similar surface air pressure and gravity. Also, there are and rivers, lakes and rain, except that these are all composed of liquid hydrocarbons and the temperature is a tad chilly (~-179 degrees Celsius), to say the least.
Dr Grcevich finished her tour by presenting a photo from the past: a book written one century ago in 1918 which touted the fantastic speeds at which our technology would eventually enable us to travel, thereby, the author hoped, enabling space travel. This was 2 miles per minute! Will future astronauts equally laugh at our current chemical rocket-induced speed limits on the order of 40,000 km/hour?
Dr. Grcevich closed by citing her space travel agency’s web address for those of you who would already like to book a tour, and which features VR flyovers of some of the tour destinations: www.intergalactictravelbureau.com!