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Published: Tuesday, 3/5/2013

Marriage and Mars

The tag line for the movie Alien, in 1979, was: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Investment consultant Dennis Tito plans to test that notion by launching a married couple on what would be humankind’s first journey to Mars.

Mr. Tito’s space tourism organization has scheduled the 500-day mission to and from Earth’s nearest planetary neighbor for 2018, when the planets are closest to each other in their orbits. The ship would travel millions of miles without landing, circling the Red Planet before it returns to Earth. Getting humans safely to and from that part of the solar system would be one of the most monumental engineering feats in history.

Mr. Tito, founder of the Inspiration Mars Foundation, says the rocket and capsule carrying the still-unknown couple to Mars would have room for only two people. They would undergo the most rigorous training imaginable, because they would have only each other for support.

The ship will shield its occupants from the radiation of deep space. But scientists have no idea what prolonged exposure would do to humans in that environment for 18 months.

The couple would have to be beyond childbearing age. They would be expected to act as man and wife, so data from their cosmic cohabitation could be analyzed with the other telemetry.

The psychological impact of the long mission is the biggest unknown. Scientists are reasonably certain that humans can deal with the effects of zero gravity for that amount of time. But the darkness and monotony of space travel may have unimaginable effects.

Assuming the couple returns to Earth, either they will have bonded like no other pair in history, or lawyers will have to decide whether no-fault divorce laws apply beyond our planet’s gravity.

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