The name might not sound familiar, but if you’ve traveled the length of U.S. Highway 95 you’ve driven right through Soda Springs Valley. Probably at a high rate of speed.
Near its center is Luning and the junction of SR 361, to the south is Mina. There, the locals offer hundreds of miles of ATV trails that you can have almost all to yourself out in cow skull and jackrabbit country.
Parched desert stretches toward the Garfield Hills, Excelsior Mountains, the Pilots and the Gabbs Valley Range. Don’t feel bad if the titles of those sun-bleached mountains don’t sound familiar, either. Not many people have walked them in the past century.
I start with Soda Springs Valley and its surrounding region not because travelers with untrained eyes might mistake it for the surface of some distant planet, but precisely for that reason. While those of us for whom the desert is indelibly imprinted on our souls and psyches would strenuously disagree, for many this part of the state will always be the Big Empty. To them, it’s a brown and boring expanse to be traversed on the way to either Reno or Las Vegas. It’s as strange as Pluto, or at least Mars.
Frankly, I think it’s the perfect place for Bas Lansdorp to visit. In fact, I’d suggest those who hold Soda Springs Valley dear should put pen to paper (the cell service and Wi-Fi are spotty in those parts) and reach out for him at once.
If Lansdorp’s name is as foreign to you as the valley and hills of west-central Nevada, an introduction is in order. He is a 36-year-old Dutch engineer and entrepreneur, according to a recent profile in The New York Times. Lansdorp is a learned fellow. He’s also a big dreamer.
I mean really big.
He wants to put a settlement on Mars.
That’s right. The Red Planet. You know the one that in 2018 will be a mere 35.8 million miles away from Earth.
Before you write him off as a guy who has already spent too much time in the sun, hear him out.
“All the technology we need exists already – or nearly exists,” he told the Times’ Nicola Clark. “I just couldn’t figure out how to finance it.”
Yes, the financing. That’s the age-old problem all big dreamers face. Nevada history is replete with its own colorful examples.
But then Lansdorp got an idea.
“How many people do you think would want to watch the first humans arrive on Mars?”
More than 600 million watched the first moon landing, the Times reports, and that was before high-definition color TV.
His plan is to finance his $6 billion dream of starting a colony on Mars by turning the event into a reality TV series.
I told you he was a big dreamer. But I think he’s onto something, and I look forward to watching his idea reach toward the heavens.
But in the meantime, Lansdorp is going to need to train potential astronauts. He’s going to need to create models of his Martian Motel 6 living quarters. The newspaper’s illustration makes the six residence pods look like so many Airstream trailers parked at a Mojave Desert rest stop.
In short, he’s going to need to simulate living conditions on the distant Red Planet. And he’s going to need to do so on a budget despite what I have to believe will be his remarkable entrepreneurial skills. (The guy already has managed to land a front-page article in the Times’ Business Day section under the headline, “Reality TV for the Red Planet.”)
My humble suggestion: Lansdorp should move his office to Nevada, where taxes are low and we offer a number of landscapes that look remarkably like the surface of Mars.
The Soda Springs Valley, for instance, would challenge even the most intrepid participants in his program in winter and summer.
Not to mention miles and miles of ATV trails, and a nighttime view of Mars that can’t be beat.