Friday, 17 September 2021

One small step - A cosmic writers residency? by Tracy Darnton

Hot on the heels of Branson and Bezos, another billionaire went for a ride in space this week. Jared Isaacman funded himself and three others on the Inspiration4 mission, using Elon Musk's SpaceX craft. 

Where are they off to? Not the moon yet, nor Mars, not the ISS, but basically orbiting while doing a few science experiments 360 miles up. The SpaceX capsule is automated so they don't need years of astronaut training - a mere six months. One of the Inspiration4 crew, Dr Sian Porter 51, is an artist who's going to paint while looking out of the new, extra-large domed window in their Dragon capsule. (She's also a high-achieving geoscientist but let's ignore that for now.) Shortly, a Russian film director and actress are popping up to the space station. Pretty sure there was a real live astronaut who played the guitar in space a while back. So I'm thinking it must be the turn of a writer soon. 

Not sure I can spare a whole six months training what with the house renovations and book edits and I've got a heap of bulbs to plant, but I'm definitely intrigued. It gets me thinking about the future prospects for a Writers Residency gig in space. More specifically, about the prospects for me

"Do you need special pens for space?" I muse over the breakfast table. According to the more science-y members of the household, this is apparently the sort of ridiculous question which would automatically exclude me from astronaut selection. But, as I point out, I have watched a lot of Star Trek in my time, Galaxy Quest is my go-to comfort film and Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce is my all-time favourite children's book. And I have an astronaut duvet cover on the spare bed. 

Why shouldn't I get to boldy go?

Turns out, there are quite a few reasons. 

'I'm a writer, not an engineer, Captain.'

I'm not a high-achiever on the science front - even if my one science O' Level was a grade A. And it may be too late to change that. This is one of the life lessons I've been confronting lately with middle-age. There are some dreams and opportunities which are never coming true - I will never be a Nobel prize winning physicist or remotely capable of fixing anything like Tom Hanks did with the duck tape and a toilet roll in Apollo 13. 

Instead, I would need to throw myself on the largesse of the billionaires currently in the market for paying for strangers to pop along with them. But hey, ho, I may have missed the boat with Mr Isaacman but there's always another billionaire along in a moment and my son directs me to Yusaku Maezawa who is recruiting eight members of the public for a week long trip to the Moon, as you do. And - here's the good news - he's specifically after 'artists'. I'm hoping that's in the broadest sense, as I'm completely talentless with a paintbrush. But I can definitely spare a week in 2023.

My son kindly points out a few more reasons in the 'NO' column. 

Travel sickness. 

I get travel sickness - sometimes quite spectacularly. I had to leave a revolving restaurant in China because I was too queasy and had to lie down. Don't get me started on the Denis the Menace ride at Chessington circa 2005. Also the school trip on a cross-channel hovercraft. Very nasty indeed.

Small spaces.    

I am not good with them. Sorry. Definite claustrophobia. Even a snorkel mask in the big wide ocean can bring it on. And I'm not enjoying the Vigil submarine drama as they keep showing the teeny tiny bunkroom with the little curtains.

Bathroom facilities.

I've reached the stage in my life where I've had my fill of shared bathroom facilities and/or backpacking/camping. The family bunkbed room at a hostel in Milan two years ago finished me off. It's my own en suite bathroom now or the deal's off.

Not sure I've been selling myself as a crew member but maybe Yusaku would get a kick out of selecting the least suitable (aka useless) crew ever assembled. Maybe he'd like to provide a writer in residence spot for a not very well-known writer who could be an absolute liability.  

I check out his  Dear Moon website 

Sadly I'm too late for the application process. The September update says that candidates going forward are already at the medical stage. I've missed out again. I shall have to wait for another billionaire to come along. But it says I can experience what it's like to be a member of the dearMoon crew by trying out the spacesuit filter. 

I'm going to say, Yusaku, I think there's going to be a little bit more to the whole going on a spaceship than that, but what do I know. It's certainly one very, very, very small step for a woman. It may be the closest I ever get. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of YA thrillers The Rules and The Truth About Lies. She is currently Writer in Residence in her own home. You can follow her on Twitter @TracyDarnton


LuWrites said...

I loved this, Tracy! I ALWAYS look at writer in residence opportunities, and the moon is one I hadn't considered - until now! Though I'd need an ensuite bathroom, obviously...

Rowena House said...

Another one for the ensuite option. It'll be a bit crowded but a great trip. Hope the billionaire likes lots of power naps so we can our writing in peace. :o)