The moon never disappoints! Whenever we need a dose of galactic mystery, the starting point is the moon. With the world celebrating fifty years of the moon landing, a plethora of ideas about the moon begins to surface. One theory is that the moon was actually used as an observation post for ancient astronauts of other worlds monitoring the activities of primitive mankind on Earth.
Do you know, I actually like this idea, though for many, this might sound preposterous!
But then, without such delicious theories, the moon will turn into a drab silver satellite not too far away from Earth.
Pushing aside the various ideas that are in circulation, the world is seeing a renewed interest IN the moon. India has launched an unmanned rover to land it on an unexplored part of the moon while there is discussion about a new frontier in tourism. A weekend on the moon may not be too far away! They may call it ‘Celebrate out of this world with goddess Selene!’
The question is, would it be worth it to have a weekend on a barren planet?
Let’s come to that later; first, why are so many nations making a run for the moon?
Time to exploit the resources
When Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, the main objective was to beat the Russians and claim glory in the Cold War space race. This must have broken Russian hearts because the early breakthroughs in space were made my USSR’s Sputnik programmes.
Anyway, not going into the debate as to whether the Apollo landing was a hoax or not, the records say that the Americans made it first and later, all other moon programmes by other countries were either suspended or lost their impetus.
In fact, they were not discontinued because USA had made it to the moon first but because no country, USSR included, could perfect a rocket to go safely, land on the moon and return to earth with the astronauts safe and sound.
This means that space technology was still in its infancy. In fact, when the USA had landed on the moon, the main objective was to collect a few samples and come back. Going deeper into the moon or carrying out an extensive exploration was still not possible.
But science fiction is far advanced and within the seventies, there were movies, books and stories envisioning moon colonies covered by glass, regular flights to the moon and scientists using the lunar surface to establish highly powerful missile bases.
President Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars programme also included placing moon battalions to ward off threats from the USSR.
Well, the Americans had always been paranoid about the rising influence of Communism; just as they are terrified of Iran today and are constantly trying to exaggerate the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear programmes.
None of Regan’s plans saw the light of day because USSR collapsed in 1989 and the world changed. However, Russia, which was once in complete chaos after the implosion of Communism, is now resurgent, with China leading the global technological drive. And both want chunks of the moon; the other emerging side is India.
The reason is simple: the moon may look barren but underneath that hard surface, traces of water HAVE been found and there may be many minerals.
The grand lunar tourism is just a façade:
There may be a lot of excitement about the concept of lunar tourism but the actual plan for most countries is to access the moon’s resources. What are they? Well, we are not certain as yet but with so much attention given to exploration, it’s safe to say that there must be major mineral, chemical and other resources under the moon surface.
In the last fifty years, millions of images of the moon plus the samples brought back were analysed and the findings possibly yielded something concrete.
Exploration is a major target; but for India, the prime desire is to have her name written among space-exploring nations. Exploration may come much later since their rovers are unmanned.
Science fiction writers predicted lunar colonies in the 50s. Some depicted an ideal space utopia whereas others narrated a dystopia where a community is controlled and ruled by a small group of people.
Such plots emanated from a theory after WW2 that facing impending defeat, some of Hitler’s top generals had taken a rocket to the moon to establish a base. Later on, this outlandish theory was corroborated by concocted photos showing a Swastika on the unexplored dark side of the moon.
There’s actually a very viable reason for such stories, no matter how absurd, to gain ground because Nazi Germany was actually the first nation in space.
Towheed Feroze is a news editor at Bangla Tribune and teaches at the University of Dhaka.