Local Lifestyle

Tuesday, Mar 19 2013 04:47 PM

VALERIE SCHULTZ: A mission to Mars? We're your couple

By The Bakersfield Californian

So about this Mars mission, Mr. Dennis Tito: look no further. My husband and I are ready to help you out by enlisting for that long trip to Mars. No fooling: We're perfect for it!

You want credentials? My husband and I are children of the space race. We grew up watching astronauts splash down in the ocean and astronauts walk in big goofy steps on the moon. We dutifully built scale models of Mercury and Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, complete with little bottles of finishing paint and stickers of American flags.

The space race was a family affair then: Our parents let us stay up until all hours to watch live coverage of men floating around in space capsules. They bought us jars of Tang and packets of freeze-dried ice cream. (I'm assuming the food in space has gotten better. But even if it hasn't, we're flexible.) We grieved for astronauts lost in fiery accidents as though they were our own kin. The end of the shuttle program even made us feel mournful. We love space. We romanticize space.

You want experience? How about this: my husband and I are survivors of yearly trips to Oregon, which is about a 1,000 miles each way, with four daughters in a minivan. I realize that Mars is actually 75 million miles one way, but we have made that voyage north in one day . That means roughly 16 hours of breaking up arguments about whose music we listen to next, whose stomach is turning due to the smell of bagels in the car, whose foot is on whose side of the middle seat, and which child will need the bathroom at the most inconvenient time. We have faced these incredible journeys as a parental team, using the lifelong buddy system, meaning that when one of us becomes frustrated enough to let a four-letter word slip, the other knows it's time to take over the current crisis. To prove we can handle the tight quarters, I offer the facts that our daughters are all still alive and have all their limbs, and we are still married.

Speaking of being married: since you specified that you want a married couple to go to Mars and back, we are quite sure that this is our calling. After all, there must be a reason we have stayed married all these years! Now that our children are grown and raised, we are both in the market for an adventure that doesn't look too much like a midlife crisis, although we haven't actually voiced this to each other. We mention in passing things like selling the house or joining the Peace Corps. A mission to Mars is just the ticket, if you'll pardon the pun.

(The previous pun is something that my husband and I would both think is funny, even though most people we know think puns are annoying. It's just another example of our compatibility, like still snuggling at night, and looking forward to the prospect of 500 days of books-on-tape.)

I know you are seeking folks who are mechanically inclined: this could be a problem, but only on my part. My husband is extremely handy and can fix anything, and I am good at pestering him with questions that keep him on task. This usually works for us, and when it doesn't, may I say that the blow-up doesn't last long. I may not be mechanical, but I will be able to keep up a wicked blog about all the things that my husband fixes. We will rock the Mars mission.

We'll be around 60 by the time the ship is ready for take-off, but as you know, 60 is the new 40. We've made it this far without genetic mutations or chronic conditions, so odds are that we'll make it another year and a half or so. You may prefer a younger couple as a way of not saying that you expect the couple to conduct experiments with weightless sex on their drive to Mars, but let me set your mind at ease: Although our children think we've only had sex four times, we'll be willing to try whatever is on the agenda. As the parents of those four daughters -- and kids, close your ears for this part -- we've had lots of experience with cramped quarters and furtive encounters. And with us boomers at the helm, there won't be any awkward conversations about "late" scares, or worries about how to take a pregnancy test, or deliver an actual baby, with no gravity.

Have I convinced you, Mr. Tito? I have almost convinced my husband, who is sincerely working on overcoming his fear of flying in time for our Mars expedition. (Why do you think we drove to Oregon all those times?) We have been carpooling to work in preparation for Mars, and it's going well. He does the driving, and I do the talking. I'm telling you, we are it! Look no further for the perfect couple to go to Mars. Since I once read a book about how I am actually from Venus, I'll enjoy a look at my husband's home planet.

These are the opinions of Valerie Schultz, not necessarily those of The Californian. Email her at vschultz@gmail.com.

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