Earth (literally, "dirt") is the third planet in the Sol system, about 4.3 lightyears from Alpha Centauri. Without significant orbital recreation systems or magma baths, this planet with its pre-warp-drive civilization may not seem to be worth a stop for refueling. But there's more to Earth than meets the eyes, and if you give it a chance, you may find something here that catches your interest. If you do, be sure to tell us.
This sector of the galaxy lacks any major nebula-based or multi-planet metropolis, but there are some quaint villages on Earth that can provide basic amenities for the weary traveler.
Earth's metropolitan areas are unbearably dreary and provincial, but you can find some fun in the rural sectors of the planet.
Belched as a cloud of particles from the core of its central star, Sol, sometime about 4 billion years ago, the Earth coalesced into a roughly sphere-shaped lump soon afterwards (relatively speaking). A thin layer of goo formed on its outer crust about 1 billion years ago, and that goo jiggles and sloshes around every once in a while. There have been some awesome meteor collisions, especially in the areas of Yucatan and Tugunska, and the polar areas have formed nifty frost patterns if you look closely enough. Other than that, not much has happened on Earth except the Cincinnati Bengals going to the playoffs in 2005.
70.8% of the Earth's surface is covered by a noxious solution of dihydrogen monoxide and sodium chloride. The rest is largely silicate, with occasional ferrous deposits.
Flora and fauna
Earth is inhabited by Earthlings, which come in various shapes and sizes. While simple arachnids are present in fairly large numbers, especially in cheaper lodging establishments, the formation of a proper, civilized Hive mind has been inhibited by a hard core that prevents burrowing to suitable depths. Instead, the dominant type of Earthling appears to be a hairless bipedal sack of protoplasm known as a Homo, which has recently invented the digital wristwatch and primitive computing tools with speeds at a paltry ~3-4Ghz.
Earth has an unstable oxygen-rich atmosphere that would produce widespread combustion if not for the annoyingly frequent precipitation of dihydrogen monoxide in its liquid and solid forms. Temperatures generally vary between 223-323°K. You may hear of rumors of "global warming", but this is simply a myth to scare off monsters from far off galaxies, who tend to emigrate to colder locales. Compared to its nearest planetary neighbor Venus, Earth is quite cool.
There are no regularly scheduled spaceship services to Earth, as the Vogons have yet to complete construction of the new hyperspace bypass that would make access easier. Hitchhikers have occasionally been successful, although getting a ride back can be exceedingly time-consuming.
If you charter a spaceship, be aware that decent landing facilities are woefully absent and the natives are afraid of flying saucers. Orbital stations are amazingly primitive and do not have modern docking facilities. Area 51 is widely considered the best option for cheap parking.
Local transportation relies mostly on the combustion of fossil fuels and is grotesquely unsafe and slow, with speeds rarely exceeding 0.002 lightseconds/hour. Earthlings have a primitive taboo about tunneling directly through the planet to other locations, and tend to take the long way around following the surface instead. Consequently, travel times can can be considerably longer.
Jet packs, quantum disappearance drives, and ultranic hyperspace fizzout devices remain undiscovered by Earth's primitive technological priest-caste. Strangely enough, use of these tools will not be greeted with curiosity, but with hostility and fear. It may be difficult to employ them with Earthlings about.
Amazingly, most Earthlings can only communicate by pushing air through flaps of meat, producing series of vaguely musical squeaks and burbles. Utilization of radio for communication is limited to broadcasting political propaganda and mating songs. However, rudimentary digital conversation is possible anonymously over the Intarweb, accessible at 2.4-2.5 GHz near St. Arbucks outlets.
Earth's waterbound delphine population, on the other
There are few objects of interest on Earth, although some visitors have found that Homos make amusing pets. (Ruminants of genus Bos are also quaint, but more difficult to care for.) Try to select your specimens in isolated areas, such as farming communities, to minimize unwanted attention. Turning on your spaceship lights at full blast will usually make them freeze long enough to be captured. Once on-board, be sure to give the Homo a thorough medical examination to ensure it's free of vermin, and if found infested, just drop it off where you took it. Species of the genus Heteros breed at an alarming rate (the process is not pretty), so be careful not to pick up a mating pair of them.
Earthlings are an acquired taste; most find them overly chewy and hairy. Wikitravelers, especially Wikitravel administrators, taste horribly grotesque and bitter beyond belief. It's best to avoid eating any Wikitraveler. Try the fish tacos instead, or a nice tossed salad.
It appears that dihydrogen monoxide is a required liquid to sustain the existence of the semi-intelligent life forms that inhabit the planet. Although commonly available in juice-bearing fruits, many Earthlings instead add bubbles and mix high fructose corn syrup with it before serving. Various forms of fermented plant product (known locally as "beer", "whiskey" or "the sauce") are also consumed in great quantities. These liquids appear to serve an important purpose in the life of the Earthling male, who will frequently buy them for the females as part of the species' bizarre mating ritual.
One place that Earth falls down on the hospitality scale is in sleeping accommodations. Almost all hotels are tailored specifically for the needs of beings the size and shape of the typical Earthling (18 standard units high, or 2 local "meters"). Typical galactic customizations that could be handled in even the most basic of civilized planets (a bed longer than 300 meters, a bed of molten lava, a comfy prism for intelligent shades of the color blue) will elicit only dumb, moist stares from the local hospitality industry. Only beings between, say, 1/4 to double the size of an average human, and that can tolerate liquid-water temperatures, will find professional lodging of any kind.
Of course, there are ample opportunities for sleeping al fresco. Camping on Earth can be highly rewarding, especially if you can find a section of the planet sufficiently remote to go mostly undetected. The locals are easily frightened, however, so avoid any serious modifications of the environment (boring holes into the planet's crust; igniting whole ecosystems; consuming all atmospheric nitrogen). Remember the galactic campers' code: take only cow entrails, leave only crop circles.
Although the planet boasts countless cosmetology schools, none of them are accredited by any galactic boards and their credits will almost assuredly fail to transfer to degree-granting institutions in your quadrant. Don't be fooled by the names of Har-Vard University and Ox-Ford University; these appear to have no relationship with the famous and prestigious Har-Fart University and Ox-Fart University on Neptune. Earth has no other educational opportunities to speak of.
Earth offers few of the work opportunities found in other systems - the need for hyper-drive repair technicians is unknown, galactic refueling operations are non-existent, and crop-art is frowned upon by the locals and unlikely to generate significant patronage. However, for those willing to assume a visage that resembles that of an Earthling some interesting options exist. Hollywood currently employs numerous non-Earthlings in positions within the entertainment industry, including Keith Richards, Prince, and Robert Downey, Jr. Earthlings are also amused by the simplest of anatomical tricks, and the inter-galactic Cirque du Soleil troupe has found great success on the planet. For those looking for quieter employment, the New York subway system is always seeking drivers, and the country of France offers unlimited opportunities.
Mostly harmless. The inhabitants of Earth have recently discovered the weaponry use of primitive fission- and fusion-based devices. Facilities for inter-planetary deployment of such devices remain lacking, and such devices are unlikely to penetrate the armor of spacecrafts conforming to Intergalactic Automotive Associations Standards 345IR-14. Carbon-based travelers should take note that deployment of such devices may cause some discomfort.
With proper precautions Earth is a generally safe place to visit. The fatalities suffered by Martian visits to England in 1898 and New Jersey in 1938 (naively referred to by Earthlings as the "War of the Worlds" and by Martians as "The War of Earthling Aggression") are easily avoided with use of simple antihistamines. Temperatures on Earth are almost universally lower than on other planets. While these extreme temperatures provide unique opportunities - metals such as lead and tin can actually be seen in their solid form - proper clothing is vital to a pleasant stay on this planet.
Health facilities are completely useless on Earth. Medical technology still utilizes such quaint devices as the tongue depressor (literally a wooden stick used for manipulating organs in the oral cavity) and rubber glove (which Earthing doctors use in unspeakable ways to treat the male of the species). Adding insult to injury, the wait and paperwork required for even this rudimentary level of care is interminable.
Hard as it may be to accept, Earthlings deserve our grudging respect as living, sentient creatures; our brothers from across the stars who may someday join the galactic community as equals and peers. We have so much to learn from each other.
Ha ha! Gotcha! You believed us there for a moment, didn't you? Seriously, you do want to be on your best behavior, as Earthlings are extremely prickly, hidebound, unfun creatures who freak out quite easily at anything they haven't seen before on cable TV. They can get quite cheesed off by pretty much anything you say, do, or radiate, and they get stabby and shooty whenever they're angry. So be careful.
Typical Earthling sore spots include: being proven wrong; consuming any of their close family members; reminding them that they still look an awful lot like monkeys; cool tricks with fusion, subspace, or really anything that shows how backward and remedial their own technology is; making any considerable holes in the planet itself; and the elimination of any native species, however small, inconsequential or squiggly.