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So you went to the moon?

July 4, 2009

America and the western world is celebrating forty years of moon landing. Those astronauts who went to the moon are being interviewed. They are saying with a straight face how they landed on the moon and all the other details that they know. As a child I remember how the ‘fact’ that man had landed on the moon made news. One of the American embassy magazines – SPAN had beautiful photographs of the Apollo mission. It was really quite thrilling as a child to know that man had stepped on the moon. However, now when I look back I wonder how true this whole story is.

There have been books written on the moon mission and how it was a hoax. This was way back in 1974. Others have questioned as to how true this claim was. I think it is time we as a people accept the truth – man has still not reached the moon. It was a propaganda war that was being played between the two super powers at that time. The Cold War was at its peak and the Bay of Pigs had happened. The world was in a crisis. The Soviets had launched almost eight space missions and after having taken a dog and rats into the space Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. The free world was feeling the heat and the west needed to do something spectacular. The west chose an audacious plan – they would tell the world that they had been to the moon. This was the mother of all space odysseys. The western media went all out and all hell broke loose. While the Soviets had been to the space and walked in space the Americans said that they had been to the moon. That settled the issue – the west was ahead of the Soviets in science and technology and in every other field. It was a childish one-upmanship. Washington slept in peace after the knowledge. The fact is that the Soviet scientists were remarkable and some of their rockets were the most powerful ever built – the Soyuz for one.

The Soviet Union is history. The Russians may not be brothers but they certainly are no threat to the west as was the Union of times past. It is time to bury the hatchet and acknowledge that the whole Apollo moon landing was a story made at the height of the Cold War. It was something that the west needed to do. Man does not have the technology to land a craft on the moon or any other planet and then to comeback. How does one get out of moon’s atmosphere after landing on the moon? Which rocket is stationed on the moon such that it can enter the space from the moon and then enter the earth’s atmosphere?  It is silly and the west needs to come clean on this. This is a story that has been repeated so many times that those who tell this story have actually started believing it.

This is not to belittle NASA or the American people. Those were different times and those were different situations. NASA is an extraordinary organization and NASA scientists are one of the best in the world. The space shuttles that have been launched successfully are truly spectacular achievements by the Americans. But then the Soviets too had some extraordinary scientists who achieved some remarkable feats. The world is more united than it has ever been in the last century. America and the Americans are sensitive, intelligent and considerate people who know how to appreciate what others are doing. Man’s quest to explore the ‘final frontier’ cannot be done in competition with one another. We are one being and we need to think beyond borders. That the space is there to explore is clear to everyone. It is also true that we need to get together to conquer this final frontier. Man’s future is intrinsically linked to how well we are able to go beyond our planet and explore the infinite expanse that lies beyond. Let us cut the hyperbole and get down to the task at hand. The best minds in the US, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan and India must come together. We here in India sent this moon mission – Chandrayan (Hindi for ‘moon vehicle’) which is a small satellite that went into space, orbited the earth and then entered the atmosphere of the moon. Some spectacular pictures of the moon’s surface have been taken, some only a few kilometers from the moon’s surface, which threw new light about the surface of the moon. I guess the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) then shared its data with others including the NASA.  An odyssey to the moon should be man’s next target and no nation can do this on its own. But to get there we first need to accept that we have yet to reach there. This is going to be a huge project with technology that man has yet to master. For starters let us stop celebrating space events that are a figment of our imagination. That will be a small step by a nation and a giant leap for humankind.

Update 22.07.2009: Indian lunar missionChandrayaanmay have to be aborted early. It was supposed to have been a two year odyssey but the star sensor on the satellite has malfunctioned. Indian scientists, with some ingenuous tinkering have managed to keep it afloat for now but the satellite’s trajectory has had to be increased from a hundred kilometers from lunar surface to around 200 kilometers. Chandrayaan is still sending pictures, but the initial excitement has been diluted.

Update 7.09.2009: The Times of India today reported that the Chandrayaan mission faced trouble because ISRO had miscalculated the temperature at 100km above the moon surface. The satellite was designed ffor a maximum temperature of 75 degrees celcius and the temperature it faced crossed 100 degrees celcius. The star sensors therefore malfunctioned forcing ISRO to raise the orbit of the satellite to 200 km above the lunar surface. Goes to show how little we know of our own satellite, the Moon. I don’t think we know exactly the temperature at the lunar surface. And some guys say they have been to the moon. Now don’t tell me they landed on that part of the moon that was away from the sun – on a lunar night. Enough is enough. Just cut the crap.

Update 24.09.2009:  (Bloomberg) — India’s first lunar mission found evidence of water on the moon, a spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organization said in a phone interview from the southern city of Bangalore today. “Our instruments such as the Moon Impact Probe and NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper have found evidence of water on the moon,” S. Satish said. “The data obtained from these instruments show there is evidence of water.” ISRO will release a statement later today along with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Indian space agency is scheduled to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Satish said. The London-based Times newspaper reported that the Indian probe — Chandrayaan-1 — had found evidence of large quantities of water on the lunar surface. The discovery, which will be detailed later today by NASA at a news conference, may change the face of lunar exploration, according to the report.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. paviavio permalink
    July 10, 2009 4:50 pm

    Nowadays, how many people in the USA know about NASA’s recent launch for its effort to go back to the Moon?

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