Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Wonder no more

from "Le Voyage dans la lune", Georges Méliès, 1902

The moon's been in the news again recently. An Indian satellite and two American spacecraft discovered evidence of water in the moon's soil on a recent trip out of our atmosphere. Great news. Or is it?

I held back from writing about this. I have reservations.

The discovery, scientists were quick to point out, could mean that humans' next manned descent to the moon's surface could be to buy up some housing. Water hugely increases the chances of human habitation of the moon. This discovery could mean the end of thousands of years of speculation about what living life on the dusty regolith would be like.

"The immemorial moon - the Moon of Myths, the Poets, the lovers - will have been taken from us forever. Part of our mind, a huge mass of our emotional wealth, will have gone. Artemis Diana, the silver planet, belonged in that fashion to all humanity: he who first reaches it steals something from us all."

C.S. Lewis, pre-1969

I fear this latest episode of lunar exploration could once and for all rob us of the mystery of the moon. 'Man' has a thirst for knowledge: an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Stepping on the moon showed us our limits; its desolation, its barrenness, its sterility suggested occupation was impossible. Finding water will feed our ambition. Life on the moon will end millenia of wonder (like this) and intrigue and turn our mystical, mythical, romantic, unreachable, distant relative into a sibling we take for granted.  

Sorry not to celebrate but I fear we stand to lose far more than we could ever gain.


~Cheryl said...

Kind of a double edged sword, huh?

Rob Self-Pierson said...

Yes, it's a tricky one. I'm all for pushing limits but I fear greed and competition rather than a genuine desire to explore could dirty the whole thing.

I've spent a year in wonder with the moon by my side. Wouldn't be the same if I knew people were throwing parties up there.