Face to Face with Mr Moon


Excerpts from the interview with Mr Moon who claims that there is more to him than just being the headlights for earth in the dark.

“What would you say about the earthlings??”

Every night, I find the people of earth ogling at me, praising me for reasons I have never been able to figure out. I have always been a round shiny creature in the night sky. I show my same insatiable face to them every night and they still admire me! Thanks to the Sun! If it wasn’t for him, I would never have been visible! Though it’s hard to accept, I must confess that am just a body which reflects the light which the sun sends me! Ugh, ask your next question …

“We thought you were made of green cheese!”

That’s hilarious!! If that was the case, I would have licked myself to death. Sorry to disappoint your tempting imagination, but am made of rock, with an iron core. I don’t have a cozy atmosphere around me, like your earth does, neither is my surface ornamented with waters and greenery! At times, I feel so exposed!

Would we be invited to your abode?”

Oh yes! I’ am around 4.6 billion years old and still without company. It’s disheartening to know that the population on earth is increasing at such an extent that, if all of them blow at me in synchronization, I would get blown away from my orbit, and yet none have had a courtesy to build a home on me. Recently, around 40 years ago, I was delighted to see few people stepping on me, walking around and driving a rover. I thought they were planning on the perfect site to set up their homes. I was rather sure they would come back to at least take back their belongings, which include golf balls, flags, silver astronaut pin, ‘fallen astronaut’ statuette and much other stuff. But how wrong was I? They scraped in a little soil and small rocks from my surface, and never returned back! What on earth did they do with those rocks?!

They analyzed it for the presence of water molecules which is very vital for people on earth for their survival. With due respect, they found that you were incapable of sustaining life! But we do not want to give up, we are still meddling with your rocks and constantly spying on you and hoping that you sprout water fountains on your surface.”

Water? You want water? I have water! See, sun has always been generous to me; the solar winds brush my surface all the time. They contain a constant stream of positively charged hydrogen atoms. 50% of my surface composition is oxygen, bound up in silicate minerals. So these tiny atoms have to just strike my surface with a high-speed, break the oxygen bonds, and there you are, water water everywhere!“

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That surely tells us that you aren’t completely dry as few claimed you to be. But you are drier than any of the deserts on earth. Maybe, around one ton of your top layer would hold 32 ounces of water. We earth people have been advised to drink buckets of water to keep our kidneys and heart working. With all due respect again, you would dehydrate us to death !”

 Suit yourself! Dying dehydrated is better than dying due to , er…that phenomenon …oh what is it called…pol? Politician?…no….POLLUTION !

“ You seem to be quite updated. Why do you shy away on few nights?”

I revolve around your earth and just complete one rotation in one revolution. This task takes me 27 days 7 hours and 43 minutes! Phew! It’s sometimes funny to see the earth rotate like an insane every 24 hours and simultaneously revolve in its orbit. Since I make it a point to show one face constantly to earth and another to sun, and also have the rotation to carry on, either one of my faces always gets the light (obviously the side facing the sun) and the other remains in shadow. I feel the happiest and complete when I face both the earth and sun simultaneously. I become the full moon. I become invisible to earth people when I have one of my faces directed to the earth and the backside directed to the sun! New moon time. The shy stages come in between these two.

“Do you have any entertainment at all??”

Of course I do! When am low on admiration during the earth daytime, I look around the 170000 kg  of debris left by the mankind on my surface. I look around the shiny, weird shaped objects floating around, laughing at their names and hoping they would collide with each other someday. I find many Luna, Surveyor , Lunar orbiter, explorer, Chandrayaan looking at me constantly day and night. It was a little disturbing to see these weird objects shoot out from the earth and occupy a space comfortable enough to stare at me, but now I am used to it. I would like to request earth to stop spying on me! Am right here, am not going anywhere!

Nights are the best part. While I enjoy the admiration, my gravitational pull causes the oceans to bulge out in my direction. The part of earth which is closest to me, gets pulled the maximum, and the part which is farthest from me gets pulled the minimum. This leads to an interesting phenomenon called tides, which I wholly deserve the credit for. I pass the whole night laughing as the earth becomes slightly egg-shaped with my push-pull stunts!

“ Do you have any lines for us before we wrap up”?

Yes. I deserve to be a planet. Earth and I are twin planets. We orbit the sun and also orbit each other! Unfortunately, earth has a greater mass than me. This prevents me from getting the “planet” status. Kids never draw me in their solar system chart and I am never listed in the series of planets which people tell by heart. I need my status…..(sobs)

 

(Article previously published in the ‘Astro Digest’ of the Astronomy club, BSAU,  2011)

 

 

Curiosity shall satisfy !


Curiosity rover lands on Mars.This is a giant step for mankind indeed. But what was a small step then is now 6 Aluminium wheels.

One of the posters in a school exhibition in 2009 displayed a stacked row of houses like a pile of matchboxes and vehicles overriding each other, each violently exhausting the deadly gases, suffocating the babies and graying the leaves. The title read, “Don’t panic. Pack your bags to Mars!” It has been 3 years since then, and now the title seems relevant than ever before. Kudos to the predictive brains !

Before we get consumed with the idea of buying an acre or two and designing our future plots, it becomes necessary to know what Miss Curiosity has been sniffing out  from,well, our future lands!

Curiosity, conceived in NASA’s womb, is a car-size- mobile laboratory. If this in it self isn’t startling enough, it has 4 eyeballs acting as navigation cameras, also robotic arms which can test the chemicals and sense the moisture. What gives it a gothic feel is a position on its forehead from which it can emit beams of laser light, so as to test the composition. Apart from all these features, what makes it even more appealing is the replacement of the clichéd dust laden solar panels with a nuclear generator that converts the heat generated from plutonium to electrical power, and gives curiosity its heartbeat.

Much to the applause, tears and excitement of earthy beings, Curiosity sashayed her way into the Martian atmosphere and gave an elegant landing at the Gale crater, after a 104 million mile journey on August 5 . As she is busy settling down in her new place, which is going to be her home for the coming 98 weeks, scientists back in NASA are busy revising their 10 year work, now ready to be implemented.

The tasks assigned for curiosity are simple. She will have to travel around 12 miles, stamping and crushing the soil samples as she walks and of course analyze them. While analyzing, she must be mainly eyeing for the materials which interact with water. She needs to heat the samples and check for organic compounds, also shoot X rays and laser beams at nearby rocks to check the composition. While all this is being done, she needs to continuously sniff the Martian atmosphere for methane. Oh, and did I miss out the photography sessions?

Though the idea of sending a fellow rover to accompany Curiosity is tempting, the budget constraints imposed by President Obama on Mars missions has paralysed the idea. The budget has been slashed by more than $200 million , which is around 40%. With the manned space programs of NASA transitioning into private enterprise, Curiosity is indeed a compelling venture.

While there would be a moment of sulk, if no traces of carbon or life forms are found, there would sure be no instances of regret. The presence of Curiosity on the land of red planet would give enough scope to find a lot about the history of own planet, if not Mars.