Place: Transit Camp on the Ninth Sky. Year: 2050
Men at the transit camp on the Ninth Sky are agitated; the Mangalyaan that is to take them back to the Earth is late. It would come from Sriharikota with a fresh group of travellers to Mars and take those back to Earth who have come back from Mars and are waiting at the transit camp. Another vehicle will take the new arrivals to Mars. Travellers from across the world are waiting at Sriharikota for their turn to fly to Mars.
Well, you may dismiss it all as science fiction - in the way our fathers viewed stories of man going to the moon or a satellite fired from Chandipur orbiting Mars. Even by that standard, tourists winging away to Mars may look a little too much to gulp. But science has a way of making science fiction real.
Who knows what the future might hold in store for us! A leap in faith need not be that far off from the reality. Like your scepticism now over going to Mars, centuries ago people had found it hard to believe that a satellite, a celestial body orbiting the earth or another planet, could exist, that it could move round the earth. And the story began in 1957 with the Soviet Union launching the Sputnik 1, the first ever satellite in space.
While touring Mars might be a future prospect, let us trace back the growth of ‘new age tourism’, the buzz word coined to elucidate nextGen tourists. Times are changing and so are the demands and expectations of the ‘new’ travellers. The search for different experiences, different adventures, different lifestyles has paved the way for this concept called the ‘new age tourism’. The salient characteristics of this form of tourism are a preoccupation with the self, in which learning and self development become leisure activity amid ecological sensibility. Attention is being turned to exploring new frontiers or daring to go where traditional thought did not allow in the past. Then, why not Mars three decades later!
Today’s tourists, the well-heeled or footloose back-packer, are well informed and fully aware of what they want from the travels. The first thing to define their priorities is adventure. Look at the number of travel cruises leaving everyday for Antarctica, the vivid emerald, violet tinted frozen continent. Passing huge icebergs in the flat calm of a polar morning reshapes the way one looks at the world. Huge whales, enormous rookeries of penguins and stunning landscapes are the ultimate adventure in the paling sunrays in vapouring mist. You enjoy them in freezing cold and in camp that would often be hit by snow storms. You love them. You are a participator in the huge expanse and not just a spectator.
Of course, the new age tourism is not all about the adventure of visiting Antarctica or undertaking the Sikkim Kanchenjunga trek that offers superb views of high mountain peaks. One can enjoy floral sights in summer, a spectacular wildlife walk and views of pristine forests. There are smaller places at your backyard which are beautiful, soothing, and may bring you closer to nature giving a new meaning to and experience of travel. And thus, the new age tourism is more about how you look at your travel than what you visit. If so, you may not miss much by not visiting Mars.