The Intergalactic Travel Bureau premiered last October at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich as part of the Astronomers’ Ball – check out the sweet review in Culture Lab. This June it made its first international appearance at the FIGMENT Festival. Our girl in New York Olivia Koski tells us about booking trips to Mercury from an island off Manhattan. 

On June 9th and 10th, the Intergalactic Travel Bureau landed on Governor’s Island, a beautiful oasis just a five minute free ferry ride from downtown Manhattan. The occasion was the FIGMENT Festival, a grassroots participatory arts celebration that takes place in four U.S. cities this summer (including Boston, Massachusetts, Jackson, Florida, and Detroit, Michigan). Around 25,000 people attended the island festivities, and many of them became the art during events too numerous to name.

There was lots of buzz about the Intergalactic Travel Bureau before the festival, which was profiled on and inspired a story in Wired about space tourism.

The Bureau helped hundreds of unsuspecting visitors to imagine their ultimate space vacation. The top choice for earthlings planning their holiday was Mercury, followed closely by Saturn and the Moon. A few chose to remain on Earth (no judgement, there!).

Full results:

Mercury: 34 postcards (17.9%)

Saturn: 33 postcards (17.4%)

The Moon: 28 postcards (14.8%)

Venus: 24 postcards (12.7%)

Uranus: 21 postcards (11.1%)

Jupiter: 19 postcards (10.0%)

Mars: 12 postcards (6.3%)

Pluto: 12 postcards (6.3%)

Earth: 6 postcards (3.2%)

Many of The Intergalactic Travel Bureau’s customers were a little daunted by the exorbitant costs of space travel. One postcard: “I’m on Saturn. Don’t come. It’s expensive!

Still, many marveled at the prospect of Mercury’s 4,000 hour days, and believed Pluto could still be a worthy destination even since its downgrading.

I organized the event with help from Mark Rosin, advice from the GSUK crew, and an expert team of astrophysicists and travel agent volunteers. On the first day, Scientific American editor Ferris Jabr and actress Evgeniya Radilova teamed with Princeton astrophysicists Jeremiah Murphy and Renée Hlozek, and Columbia University graduate student Jana Grcevich for the grand opening of America’s first Intergalactic Travel Bureau. On the second day, radio producer and actress Kaitlin Prest and astrophysicist Hanno Rein worked in the tent’s out-of-this-world warm pink glow.

Thanks also go to Colleen Cox and Ceri for their strong arms in helping to cart The Intergalactic Travel Bureau onto the island. Finally, thanks to all of the supporters who contributed to our Fundageek and Kickstarter campaigns.

All-in-all it was a fantastically fun couple of days. Note that you can now follow the Intergalactic Travel Bureau on Facebook and Twitter.

By Olivia