Trip to Mars: That’s one giant leap for a middle-aged couple from Sunningdale

The first humans to visit Mars could be a married couple, after organisers said that only a “tried and tested” partnership could cope

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There are times,’” said the spacewife, “when I wonder if the whole trip-around-Mars thing was such a good idea.”

“We’ve had this conversation,” said the spacehusband. “Several times.”

“We’ve had every conversation several times. It’s what tends to happen when two people are in a 12ft by 14ft capsule for 501 days. You always interrupt me at this point and then I reminisce about the day in 2013 when we heard on the Today programme about a billionaire called Dennis Tito who was looking for a couple to go on a trip to Mars and back. They had to be middle-aged, married, practical –”

“ – get on well together. We looked at each and said – ”

“That’s us! And, as it happened, we’d just been saying that for some reason no one wanted to go on a holiday cruise with us these days. So we applied to Mr Tito.”

“Of course, we thought there was no chance of a middle-class couple from Sunningdale being chosen to represent the human race in a journey into deep space. Too ordinary by a half, we thought. How wrong can you be!”

“Ordinary was what they wanted. They were looking for  ‘a tried, trusted couple’. Well, there are few married couples in our neck of the woods quite as tried or trusted as we are. We never row, and we have identical views on pretty much everything.”

“I always say, we’re not just a married couple. We’re best friends.”

“And they liked the idea of a woman who understood engineering and a house-husband who looked after the domestic side.”

“Spaceships don’t clean themselves, you know.”

“Stop it, you! But do you know what I found most surprising about our proposed trip to the Red Planet?”

“I do.”

“It was that our friends were all totally supportive. And the kids were positively thrilled. They said they couldn’t imagine a more suitable couple. And yet we have regrets, don’t we, love?”

“A few and not too few to mention!”

“Once the mission had started, these snide comments started coming from Nasa. They had to listen to us all day and, after a few days, there was really quite unacceptable backchat over the intercom from planet Earth.”

“We overheard them say that there was nothing duller than a respectable middle-aged couple who agreed about everything.”

“Dull? Us?”

“And when we tried to liven things up with a few of our favourite jokes – singing ‘Ground control to Major Tom’ and so on – they groaned. We heard one young man, as he logged on, telling his friend that it was like tuning into the latest episode of Smug Marrieds in Space”.

“Mr Tito said there should be ‘no showstoppers’, and he was right. It’s time for ordinary folk to have a go. Space travel started with monkeys, then continued with highly trained young astronauts.”

“Now it has a mature couple chatting away to one another in space as if they were on the motorway to Cornwall for their annual camping holiday.”

“Not that we’ve been entirely appropriate, have we, love?”

“I knew you’d bring that up! Honestly!  They’d said they wanted a couple who could hug each other when times were tough. We went a little further.”

“It was Saturday night! That’s what we do then! Really, you’d think all those people down there had never seen a middle-aged couple floating around a space capsule enjoying a spot of the old maritals.”

“They said it was the ultimate voyeur nightmare. Because it was a live stream, everyone on Earth could see us.”

“It wasn’t our fault. Without gravity holding you down, you can drift all over the place.”

“Afterwards, I said to you, ‘Beam me up, Scotty’.”

“My favourite joke! How we laughed.”

Life on Mars, in Utah

Mars rover Curiosity finds evidence of ancient fast-moving streams on surface of red planet

Mars rover Curiosity drills into Martian surface

Scientists claim new data is 'strongest evidence yet' that Mars may have supported life

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