When we abandon this increasingly useless planet and head, as surely we must, to Mars, there will be a few problems on arrival. It's not just that there is, as yet, no baggage reclaim, but rather that, after a 15-month flight across space, prey to radiation from solar flares, having recycled again and again our own urine and solid matter, we won't be ready to hit the ground running. In fact, our muscles and bones will have wasted so much during that 56m km journey that we will have to be carried from our landing craft and nursed until we recover the strength to stand upright.
In Alex Hearle's superb, if sexistly titled, Horizon: Man on Mars (BBC2), there was footage of enfeebled Russian cosmonauts returning last year from the International Space Station. They were carried through the press scrum like Whitney Houston in the arms of Kevin Costner. But for human outliers of Martian colonisation, at least, there will be no Kevin Costners. There may, though, be some very angry locals.
Nasa - developing the rockets, space suits and on-board toilet arrangements necessary for a mission to Mars - doesn't seem to have considered this. Rather, it's working from the complacent hypothesis that not only was HG Wells wrong but that the Clangers have expanded their distinctive lunar settlements to Mars. But there's no reason for such optimism. Rather, most likely Earthling outliers, weakened by the journey and riven by the dissension that typically results from Pictionary tournaments devised to pass the time on long journeys, will be easily slain by allied Clangers and tripods. We will never be able to get a toehold on this ostensible colony.
There are other problems, Horizon reported. The expeditions of Shackleton and Amundsen tell us that long, arduous journeys with unchanging co-workers can be psychologically more damaging than working in a call centre, even one in Cumbernauld. But a Martian jaunt multiplies such opportunities for psychic meltdown exponentially. Mars is 140 times further from Earth than the Moon. The view from the window changes only minimally. There are only so many decent box sets you can watch. Wi-Fi is probably patchy. Galactic cosmic rays make astronauts lose their memories so they may forget not just where they put their reading glasses but where they're going.
And then there's the vexed question of testosterone. Nasa's psychologists pointed out that doses of hormone help reduce bone depletion. But testosterone risks making men more caveman-y and women develop what psychologists euphemistically called male characteristics. Too little and you arrive too weak to battle Clangers; too much and it's an onboard fight to the death between Neanderthal men and bearded women. I'd probably subscribe to Sky if they had live coverage of that, to be fair.
If you do arrive on Mars, there are dust storms that can last for months, no drinkable water and the hotels haven't been built yet. You've been on holidays just like that, am I right? Plus, as Nasa's rocket scientist Dr Adam Steltzner disclosed, he hasn't yet worked out how to get humans off Mars and home. All things considered, probably best to staycation. The great virtue of interplanetary space travel, though, is that it offers so much time to really get to grips with old prog rock concept albums - Tales from Topographic Oceans, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Still by King Crimson's Pete Sinfield - to stave off boredom. Or, more likely, add to it.
In Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades (BBC4), the host defended this indefensible 1970s musical genre. Across the studio, panellist Viv Albertine of the Slits demurred. For her, the early 70s was like being being trapped in a Mars-bound spacecraft for years with testosterone-charged guitarists noodling through 30-minute guitar solos while their singers sang sub-Tolkien lyrics about goblins and mead. Hence, she argued, punk. Quite so, countered another of the show's panellists, Loyd Grossman, sagely, but "all revolutions end in the banality of the disco ball". Good point: just as Robespierre had the unintended consequence of Napoleon, so Johnny Rotten made Buster Bloodvessel possible and facilitated Spandau Ballet to wear fashion accessory car rugs on Top of the Pops. A fine, historically revisionist programme, then, but marred by the fact that while we heard panellist Peter Hook's Joy Division, we didn't hear Albertine's combo. Remedy that omission now by playing the Slits' New Town or, better, Typical Girls.
AND ANOTHER THING
I've never laughed at anything to do with Jim Davidson before, so thank you Channel 5 for giving me a new experience with the title of its profile of the Celebrity Big Brother winner, At Least I'm Not Boring
We're on our way . . . Men on Mars