I’m really just a bus driver.

OK, the bus I drive is a multi-million dollar space vehicle and I am a highly trained astronaut, but all I do is ferry vacationers to the moon and back for what they think is the holiday of a lifetime.

It’s always the same. On the out going trip they are all excited. The kids, as you’d expect, are jumping up and down and asking if we’re here yet but even the adults are excited. You can tell by the gleam in their eyes and the spring in their step.

All of them are first timers. I know this, because no one ever comes back for a return trip. Well obviously the odd freak does come back, but you can tell them by the look of madness in their eyes. But on nearly every trip the passengers are likely to be 100% first timers.

People don’t come back because basically the Moon is Boring and I mean mind-bogglingly, drop-dead, tedium, as wearisome and wearing as a place can be.

My grandfather once told me about when man first stepped on the moon. It was on TV and it was all over the papers and it was a magnificent achievement, a giant step for mankind and all that. But after he had watched for a few minutes on the TV he had switched the set off. It was boring, he said, who wants to watch a couple of guys in a space suit knocking golf balls for miles in the middle of a desert on a flaky black and white picture? The adventure was in the getting there, was his view, once they were there then it was simply of no interest whatsoever!

It’s very much the same for the people who travel today. Oh the travel people have tried to make the moon interesting. The hotel complex is in a domed area and contains all of the 5 star amenities you would expect. In addition there are bars, sports centres, nightclubs, casinos, theatres, cinemas, and even an enormous fairground. You get to wear space suits and travel across the moon’s surface on specially designed buggies. There are visits to the scientific stations with their visitor centres and there are the fabulous views of the earth.

For all of that though, there is something about the moon that is life sapping. The stay lasts for a month and yet a couple of days would probably be enough for most people.

The novelty of low gravity, which initially seems liberating, doesn’t last long and is replaced with unpleasant feelings of disorientation. The air, though perfectly regulated, is suffocating and there is a clawing, claustrophobic miasma everywhere. The temperature is set at a constant 22 degrees centigrade and yet it seems much colder and at times people shiver uncontrollably.

Worse than all this though is an overwhelming sense of isolation, of dislocation from the human world. It’s difficult to explain why this should be when there are hundreds of people all around, and yet it is so. The moon itself seems to exert some irrationally, grim malevolence that though intangible drips into each and every soul.

You would think that people would stop taking the trip nowadays, now that hundreds of thousands have been. It makes me wonder what people say to their friends when they return. I guess that after laying out all that money they have to pretend to have had a good time that they tell other people that they simply MUST go.

I suppose that even if they go back and tell their family and friends the truth that they’re not believed. People don’t want to hear that this most exotic of all holiday destinations is simply crap, after all it looks so good on the advertisements and who wouldn’t fall for the “ultimate holiday experience” hype if they had the money and hadn’t been before?

Anyway, for whatever reason, people still come. They even have to queue to come, there’s a waiting list of over two years.

I love it when they get on board for the outbound journey. There’s the fantastic rush as the rocket blasts off and the thrill of the G-forces as the vehicle breaks through the ring of fire that is the atmosphere. On reaching space they experience weightlessness for the very first time and their enjoyment is both palpable and contagious. I feel young and inexperienced again, I flashback to my first time in space and I drive with a silly grin on my face mirroring the happiness that surrounds me.

It’s all so much different on the return trip. At best, the whole ship is awash with morose and irritable people who want to get home as quickly as possible; at worst, well you’ve all read the stories about space madness that has resulted in riots, mutilations, suicide and even murder.

Needless to say, I always ask for a collection for the driver on the outward-bound journey.