x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

A stellar relationship

A Mars tourism project that could prove daunting for marital relations.

Any couple fancying an out-of-this-world experience may not be far from realising their dreams. Mars awaits. Dennis Tito, the American billionaire who became the world's first space tourist in 2001, has announced his plans to send a "tested couple" on a round trip to Mars in 2018.

But don't expect Little House on the Martian Prairie. There will be no provision to land on the planet, not even spacesuits to go for a spacewalk. The "fly-by" mission - if it ever gets off the ground - only promises a spectacular glimpse of Mars through the launch window from incredibly close range.

The two planets are in perigee orbit in January 2018, meaning that the 501-day voyage is the shortest possible trip between the two. It truly is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. But think before taking the leap. The couple will be stuck together in a no-frills space capsule for 16 months with no possibility of escape as they watch the tiny Earth recede from a distance of about 55 million kilometres.

Mr Tito says he has yet to start raising funds for the cosmic project, but if it is accomplished, the mission will certainly push the frontiers of space exploration. It will be equally daunting for connubial harmony as well.