A 23rd-century tourist guide to the solar system (pictures)
By 2200, Mars and Pluto could be on your travel bucket list. As NASA, Elon Musk and others make plans to visit the Red Planet, we've compiled our own list of future interplanetary adventures.
Climbing Olympus Mons, Mars
For adventurers in the 23rd century, only the biggest, boldest and most spectacular destinations will do.
For eons, humans were bound to a single planet. But the perfection of an electromagnetic drive, or EM drive, in the 2100s will usher in a new era of interplanetary travel. Humans will finally be able to go boldly where no biological-based tourists have gone before. To prepare future generations for this awesome new age, we proudly present this speculative first draft of our "23rd Century Travel Guide to the Solar System for Extreme and Casual Human Tourists."
Let's start with literally the biggest destination next door. Previous generations scrambled to the increasingly crowded summits of peaks like Everest and Denali. In the 2200s, new Martian bases developed by SpaceXtreme will allow interplanetary mountaineers to visit the geological top of the solar system by scaling the 25-kilometer tall (16 miles, or almost 85,000 feet) volcano, Olympus Mons. The largest volcano around isn't just high, it also takes up an area on the Red Planet roughly the same size as Arizona, which coincidentally happens to be one of the places on Earth that most resembles Mars.
Be sure to bring plenty of extra oxygen on this Martian hike, and watch out for getting stuck in any sunny-side slope lineae quicksand!
Photo by: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech / Caption by:
Sailing methane seas on Titan
For centuries, sailors filled their lungs with refreshing salty sea air and felt alive. To really know your place in the 23rd-century universe, there will be nothing quite like the more, uh, acquired taste of setting sail on the odorific and flammable great methane lakes of Saturn's iconic moon Titan.
Photo by: NASA/Steven Hobbs / Caption by:
Lunar mining museum
The 23rd century's new age of "rocketpacking" tourists will be made possible thanks to 21st century prospectors who will set out to mine the moon and near-Earth asteroids for resources and fuel. That's why a good first stop on any future interplanetary itinerary is the lunar mining museum. There you can witness the harvesting of key resources for space travel and, of course, fuel up for the next leg of your trip!
Photo by: NASA/Pat Rawlings / Caption by:
Floating above toxic Venus
If you're the kind of tourist looking to live on the edge, then a Venusian "float" trip will be the best way to stare certain death in the face in 2200. Float above our nearest neighbor's toxic clouds of sulphuric acid while enjoying the luxurious accommodations of a top-notch cloud city resort converted from the remains of the old HAVOC mission of the late 2100s.
Mars may technically be smaller than Earth, but its biggest destinations tend to be really big. If the Grand Canyon was a bucket list essential of past centuries, then the much grander canyons of Valles Marineris will be an absolute must for any 23rd century solar system tourist.
Just how big is it? Well, it spans about one-fifth of the entire distance around Mars, or roughly the same as stretching the length of the lower 48 United States. There's no Colorado River on Mars, though, so to really explore, you'll want to bring along your jetpack.
Photo by: NASA/MOLA Science Team/O. de Goursac-A. Lark / Caption by:
If you have a need for speed, pack up those vintage Lucas pod racers and hovercraft of all shapes and sizes (but not this kind) and make your way to the premiere destination in the asteroid belt. You'll be able to catch the best racers around while slurping down a delicious Ceresian salt-shake from the comfort of your smartsuit.
Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA / Caption by:
Just like taking a leisurely cruise was the way to have an adventure without missing any creature comforts in 2016, rotating around in a sleek Torus for a spell will be the 23rd century way to travel and relax.
By 2216, storm chasing the way it's done in the 21st century with big heavy trucks on country roads may seem passe. If you really want to see nature's fury up close, only an adventure above one of the solar system's biggest storms will do. Whether it's Jupiter's Great Red Spot or the cyclones of Saturn, NASA's windbot concept will help pave the way for manned pods that will let super-thrillseekers ride the winds of the gas giants in a crazy combination of hangliding and storm chasing. Be sure to check all your systems and your training, though, because if you can't stay aloft you'll surely be crushed by the intense pressures at the planets' lower altitudes.
Photo by: UAlaska/CalTech/Gemini Obs./AURA/NSF / Caption by:
A Europan cruise
23rd-century interplanetary travel will be full of trade-offs. You can sail the beautiful seas of Titan, but you'll have to put up with its methane stench. You can ply the crystal clear waters of Europa, but unfortunately they are pitch black because they're encased in a layer of ice that blocks out the sun. At least if you opt for the Europan option, its dark waters are a little safer to illuminate since they're not flammable. As a bonus, by 2200, NASA will have abandoned a whole fleet of squid-style submarines there that you can cruise around in.
Photo by: NASA/Cornell University/NSF / Caption by:
Enceladus' spray: The new Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is great, but the height of 23rd century romantic settings will be in a probe. You'll drift through the silent emptiness of space with Saturn's majestic rings in the background, when suddenly a mist becomes visible in the distance. Your probe drifts toward a picturesque plume shooting forth from the south pole of the moon Enceladus until it sprays your craft, breaking the silence while gently pushing you back out into the emptiness for another pass. Make your reservation for Valentine's Day 2216 soon!
Photo by: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute / Caption by:
A robot first landed on a comet in 2015. Although we didn't know it then, a new sport was born!
By 2200, aspiring and daring pilots will be landing on comets like the 23rd century equivalent of hobos riding the rails. The thrill-seekers among them will "rodeo" the comets. They'll try to nail a landing when the space rock is near perihelion, or its closest point to the sun, and hang on as long as possible as its steamy tail grows to its longest point and the comet faces the prospect of breaking up completely. The reward? Collecting a galactic bounty worth of space fuel.
Photo by: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Caption by:
By the turn of the 21st century, skiers and snowboarders had pretty much conquered all the slopes on Earth. Naturally the dawn of interplanetary travel will lead them to the frozen reaches of the Kuiper Belt as they look for new places to shred. It's a safe bet that Pluto will provide, with its abundance of water ice mountains, actual snow and even blue skies. Here's to eagerly anticipating some Plutonian pow-pow!
With so many travel options in our future, surviving to the 23rd century by simply uploading your consciousness to the cloud may not be nearly satisfying enough. In order to really enjoy experiences like skiing Pluto, I think I'd be far more interested in just hitting the off switch on my aging genes ASAP.
Since this is a rough draft of our 23rd century travel guide and we've got almost 200 years until the final edition needs to be finished, please tweet your ideas for possible additions @crave and @EricCMack.
Photo by: NASA/K.B. Kofoed / Caption by: