According to the Intergalactic Travel Bureau, Jupiter is the perfect locale for “modern-day Lewis and Clarks." Of its 67 moons, the consultants recommend Europa, which has deep-sea diving and volcano hiking trails. They remind me to pack for a long journey; it will take at least 15 years, five years each way. “You should let your editor know you might be a little late in filing this story,” says my travel agent Mark Rosin as he hands me complimentary space ice cream. Good thing, for my next vacation, I want an adventure.
The Intergalactic Travel Bureau (ITB) is an interactive theater performance, science class, pop-up art exhibit, curiosity generator— all rolled into one. After a successful run last year and a Kickstarter win under their belts, they're back in NYC, revamping an empty storefront on 37th street into their bright and colorful headquarters. Simply put, the ITB designs outer space vacations for anyone brave or curious enough to stop in.
First launched in London in 2011, and existing under a broader umbrella of art- and science-infused exploratory events by a collective called Guerilla Science, the Intergalactic Travel Bureau is comprised of a team of scientists, event planners and science communicators. Creating playful temporary experiences around a scientific idea or concept, they “Saw an opportunity to sell science as a fun and edgy cultural phenomenon,” says Mark Rosin, who isn't a full-time space vacation consultant, but a mathematician and co-founder of Guerilla Science.
While teaching science to artists as a professor at Pratt, Rosin often thought about the ways in which the two fields complement one another: “A huge amount of art techniques have been opened up by a deep understanding of science,” he says. Citing projection mapping as one particularly technical field wherein science and art go hand-in-hand, he elaborates, “As a cultural and educated person you can’t understand the 21st Century world without being literate in science. I want people to have a deep understanding of how it affects their lives.”
Astrophysicist Jana Grcevich, a travel agent at the Intergalactic Travel Bureau, joined the team because it gave her both a break from staring at her computer screen, and a chance to share some of her expertise with others (professionally, she studies dwarf galaxies). Earlier in the day, a particular participant's experiences got her thinking: “Someday people could be playing Frisbee in space! I had never even thought of that before. What would that even look like?” she wonders. “Thinking about that sort of possibility excites me and reminds me why I love the work that I do.”
The very nature of “guerilla” science, explains Rosin, is targeting an audience who doesn’t self-select to go to a science event. He remembers a MetroPCS employee who was working a sandwich board and hawking the latest deals on their shared corner. A stocky fellow, who probably wouldn’t be caught dead at a museum, to Rosin's surprise, the man came in one day, and then proceeded to visit every day afterwards. “On the street corner, he would shout once for MetroPCS and then once for the Intergalactic Travel Bureau. He became our biggest fan,” he says. “It’s a great example of how an interactive event can make science more accessible. Science should be open to everyone. But often it isn’t.”
Grcevich agrees that science often has a communication problem: “Scientists who’ve been studying one narrow subject for many years don’t spend enough time thinking about how to communicate how neat their work is, in a way people who haven’t been studying it for that long can understand.” She believes the science world should be more inclusive of people who are not experts. Her solution? “You can draw interest with art. Science is already visually stunning. You only need to look at images of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft to be reminded of it,” says Grcevich.
So, what if I want to visit Saturn instead? “Well, Saturn is a gas planet," Rosin explains. "You would fall through it and die horribly"
"...And we can’t really guarantee you’ll get to your destination safely anyway,” Grcevich cuts in. I decide to stick with my original plan: Jupiter. Rosin rises from his hot pink inflatable sofa, and brings back a stack of papers on a clipboard. On the first page, he circles a price with his pen: a bill for $16,000,000,000. He agrees to include a trip to Mars free of charge, because it’s on the way. Convinced, I offer my AmEx. “Sorry, we only take cash,” he sighs, “but feel free to take the form home with you and think it over.”