There’s a place in our solar system where you could be like Superman! You could leap over the tallest building in the world in a single bound if it were built on the Martian moon Phobos. Burj Khalifa in Dubai rises to 2,722 feet, and you could clear it in one hop because gravity is not very strong on Phobos. This and other fascinating facts about the solar system are revealed in the new book Vacation Guide to the Solar System: Science for the Savvy Space Traveler (Penguin Books, 2017). Authors Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich spoke recently at Town Hall Seattle.
The book sprung out of the work of an organization called Guerilla Science, which connects the public with science in unique ways. Koski, who is head of US operations for Guerilla Science, describes it as “an organization that believes that science is a tool of empowerment that belongs to everyone.” It was founded by graduate students in England, and Koski helped bring it to the US.
One of Guerilla Science’s projects is an Intergalactic Travel Bureau, which Koski calls a “pop-up agency where anybody can come and plan their vacation.” Five years ago she recruited Grcevich to be one of the bureau’s agents.
“I was procrastinating in writing my Ph.D. thesis,” she joked.
They’ve planned zillions of space vacations at live events and pop-up bureaus. The problem was that when people visited, they could typically squeeze in discussion about only a couple of possible destinations in any one sitting.
“We wanted to give them something that they could take away,” Koski said. “That’s how the book came about; we wanted to give them something that gave them the whole suite of options.”
Space vacations and reality
The authors say space vacations are not feasible just yet, but argue the concept isn’t so far-fetched.
“Assuming we don’t destroy ourselves first, humans will go to the places we describe in this book someday, almost without question,” Grcevich said. “With the right resources, and most important the will, we can travel to distant worlds.”
Thus from Vacation Guide to the Solar System Grcevich and Koski offered a bucket list of their top ten places to visit and things to do in the solar system:
- Moon hop Jupiter (It has 67 of them)
- Jump over the world’s tallest building on Phobos
- Sleep in microgravity
- Marvel at the geysers of Enceladus
- Float in the skies of Venus
- Meditate over Saturn’s hexagon
- See a Martian sunset (They’re blue!)
- Skydive into Jupiter
- Ski the pink mountains of Pluto
- Fly on Titan
“If I could go anywhere on vacation, I would go to Titan,” she said. The moon of Saturn has a thick atmosphere and low gravity, so people could fly under their own power using winged suits. Titan also has methane lakes and sand dunes, so it would be like a beach vacation (except it’s 300° below zero Fahrenheit.) “It would be fascinating to visit,” Grcevich added.
There were a great many kids at the talk, at least one of them a skeptic, a little girl who in the Q&A section asked, “Can you actually do any of those things?”
Koski said they get that question a lot. While it can’t happen right now, she noted that, a century ago, folks thought a trip to Mars would take 46 years. Now it’s six months.
“It’s pretty incredible to think about how much technology has changed in 100 years,” she said. Who knows what’s next?
“We’re very hopeful that we’ll be able to go on vacation to Neptune soon,” Koski added.
Go to the Moon today!
Since we can’t go now, they’ve created the next best thing: the Intergalactic Travel Bureau has built a free virtual reality app so you can enjoy a space vacation anyway.
“This is an app that turns your smart phone into a rocket ship,” Koski said. It features a virtual trip to the Moon, and vacations to Mars and Europa are in the works.
“We believe that space vacations are something that should be accessible to everyone, not just the people who can afford the ticket price that Elon Musk is charging to go to the Moon,” Koski added.
We recommend Vacation Guide to the Solar System enthusiastically. It’s a handsome volume with great illustrations by Steve Thomas, and it’s packed with interesting stuff about our solar system. The guide is a great way for kids and adults to learn the latest about what’s out there.
You can purchase Vacation Guide to the Solar System through the link above or by clicking the book cover image. Purchases through links on Seattle Astronomy help support our efforts to bring you great space and astronomy stories. We thank you!