NASA may be struggling to simply get man back to the moon, but that hasn’t stopped the dreamers and scientists at The American Intergalactic Travel Bureau from plotting whimsical hikes across Mercury and promoting family vacations to Uranus. “Over the years I’ve probably planned thousands of space vacations,” says Columbia University astronomer and interplanetary travel agent Jana Grcevich. Indeed, she and her bureau partner, laser engineer Olivia Koski, have planned theoretical solar system excursions as far as the outer dwarf planets—all in the name of teaching families about science.
A travel guide was long overdue. Enter the newly released Vacation Guide to the Solar System, a fun family read full of ideas for interplanetary jaunts, and information about distant planets, moons, and stars. Which is all well and good—but which solar system getaway would be the best for kids? Fatherly asked authors Grcevich and Koski, and they have some pretty wild ideas.
The Moon: Sports Mecca
Space travel, while scary-fast compared to terrestrial travel, can still require a long haul. “I can’t imagine how many times you’re going to be asked ‘Are we there yet?’” Grcevich says. That’s why parents may want to opt for a relatively short jaunt to the moon.
It’s pretty familiar, so there’s not such a terrible sense of being disconnected from home, Grcevich says. It’s also a great place for boosting self-esteem through sports. Your kid might not be able to throw a ball on earth—but on the moon, it’s a snap! Incidentally, Grcevich told Fatherly that moon baseball would be more of a fielder’s and batter’s game than a pitcher’s. You can’t throw a curveball on the moon (that requires air resistance), but you can hit a pitch a helluva long way. Perhaps fielders would wield long nets instead of gloves. In any case, lunar ball players would certainly need a larger-than-regulation baseball field.
Mercury and Mars: Playing with Time
Mars is also a strong choice, if only because the planet can offer kids the only thing more beloved than baseball—longer summer vacations. On Mars a year lasts twice as long given that it takes about twice as long as earth to circle the sun, which means that “if they go to Mars, they have summer breaks that are twice as long,” says Koski. Mars isn’t the only place in the solar system where a kid can mess with time. The closer you get to the sun the shorter the years become—until you hit Mercury, where entire years can go by twice in one Earth-day. Could there be a better planet for kids who love birthday parties? “On Mercury, you can celebrate your birthday twice in one day,” Koski says.
Jupiter’s Moons: Adventure Above and Below
For truly adventurous kids, you can’t beat a trip to one of Jupiter’s moons. Grcevich is particularly fond of Titan. Not only is its gravity super minimal, it has an unusually thick and soupy atmosphere. This would travelers in wingsuits to fly under their own power, over the seas of methane and the black dunes that circle the equator. And after flapping around the equator of Titan, what better way to top off a perfect vacation than searching for alien life at the nearby moon Europa? “It’s one of the best places in the solar system to look for life,” Grcevich explains. That’s due to the salty water ocean that sloshes around underneath the moon’s thick ice sheet. An intergalactic submarine journey beneath the ice could very possibly put the kids face to face with alien fish.
The Way Way Out
Now, it’d take a while to get to Pluto—with current technology, no less than 12 years—which is one reason why committing to a 24-year roundtrip vacation could be an especially poor decision for elderly. “We talk a lot about how going to the outer planets is a challenge if you’re older,” explains Koski. Outer dwarf planets, then, are a young person’s game. Koski and Grcevich think there could be great family vacation fodder on Pluto. “The great thing about children is that they’re young,” Koski says. “By the time they reach Pluto they’ll be young enough to enjoy all that Pluto has to offer.” Still, Koski says Pluto may not be the perfect family destination. “Parent’s might be able to accompany their kids only part way,” she says. “You simply might die en route, of old age.”
Just what you want to hear from you travel agent.