This week NASA launched the most powerful rocket ever made into space. Because that’s what we need right now – another really powerful rocket. You see, with so much going wrong in the world we deserve a glimmer of a twinkle to cling onto. We need a speck of light off the shoulder of Orion to gently stroke our hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow. We need something to take our minds off all the chaos and misery; something to put a great big smile on our hollow, haunted little faces. And what better than to launch billions of dollars’ worth of kit and research high up into the air and then watch as it comes to next to nothing. NASA might think they’re doing us all a favour but in truth their new mission will turn out to be about as productive and useful as a donkey ejaculating into a fire bucket. Surely someone should tell them that if firing rockets into the sky was helpful for humankind we probably would have noticed by now. Just imagine what they could have spent that money on. Just imagine if they’d donated it to Children In Need, where it could at least have been wasted on a pretence of a good cause.
Their latest mission is to go beyond the limits of our wildest imagination and get boots (not the pharmacy) on the moon. But pardon me for asking, and I could be wrong here, didn’t they do that in 1969 and didn’t that prove to be a pivotal moment in absolutely nothing happening next? Never before had so much money been spent by so few on achieving so little, which almost makes it seem normal to do the same thing all over again – just for the blind, aching, human stupidity of it. Maybe this time it’s revenge. This time they’re going back to get their men out of there and restore order to the galaxy. This time they’re not leaving until they’ve found that golf ball. This time they’re going to make it a mission to make a mission out of it, and they absolutely will not stop until they’ve realised that getting boots on the moon the first time round was never, ever going to be the solution to any problem, and that this time is no different.
50ish years ago the missions were named after Apollo, Greek god of archery, music, truth, pencil sharpeners, diseases, rice pudding, poetry, ice hockey and, possibly the one they were after, the Sun (not the newspaper). Apollo may have been a jack of all trades but being God of the Sun was the deal breaker, and he was exactly the kind of chap NASA were looking for; after all, there is very likely some insane, shrivelled hippy ball-bag sitting in a piss stained chair at Cape Canaveral who still thinks that one day we might even send a manned mission to land on the Sun. But the slightly more realistic scientists know that when it comes to space travel you can’t run before you can walk, and you can’t walk before you can fly, and you can’t fly if most of your space launches explode a few seconds after take-off or are manned by a chimpanzee called Dave. So, if it wasn’t the Sun then the moon was the next best target, but what the Apollo missions proved there didn’t add to much more than most intelligent people could have guessed in the first place, and rather than creating a platform for a glorious new age of space exploration they instead created a platform for a mildly entertaining film starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon and directed by Richie Cunningham off of Happy Days. Not quite worth every penny.
It turns out Apollo had a twin sister call Artemis and so NASA has decided to enter a new era of politically correct space travel and named their next big move after her. The fact is that only 12 people have ever set foot on the moon, and they were all male and white. They got away with it because white men seem to have been the dominant species back in the late 60’s, but that just isn’t the case in 2022. NASA has already revealed the group from which they will pick the next person to tee off on the moon and it has to be said they’re a much more diverse bunch, with all manner of ethnic origins and a smorgasbord of genitalia. Naturally this effort to address gender and race equality is to be celebrated, but don’t be surprised if the one they go for still ends up being 28th generation Anglo Saxon and hung like an okapi. Oddly enough Artemis also had a lot on her plate, including being goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, fridge magnets, nature, poached eggs, childbirth, chastity (let’s ignore that those last two don’t quite add up: crazy Greeks, what are they like?), ornamental gravel and, er, the moon. You would have thought the first ever manned mission to the moon would have been named after the goddess of the moon, not Apollo, but I’m sure the big, clever men with clipboards had their muscular reasons, chief amongst which that goddesses tend to be women and Apollo was a white man.
Apparently, there is a timetable in place. NASA reckons they should have some new breed of idiot on the moon in three years, though it is more likely to be six. Or ten. Or twelve. Or never. Once they get there these heroic astronauts will work around the clock to establish that the moon is still made of rock and has something to do with gravity. They then intend to use it an artisan cheese pop-up and a launch pad for the first ever mission to Mars; a mission so stupid and pointless and wilfully unsociable it will have to be manned by someone at such an extreme end of a ferocious spectrum that they would make a certified lunatic look like a perfectly rational and decent human being. I am fairly confident that I will never see a human land on Mars and I’m not even that sure I’ll be staying up late to watch a white, male American or NASA’s fourth best choice swishing through the bushes on the moon looking for another lost golf ball. But I could be wrong. Five years from now the moon could be littered with astronauts. Maybe soon a team of gender neutral, autistic Somalian astronauts in wheelchairs could be racing towards Neptune on a mission to open the first branch of an intergalactic, zero carbon, vegan Burger King. Hey, who knows, maybe even I’ll be living on the moon by then. Or Mars. It may sound daft but the way the world is heading I might just be happy to be sitting in a rocket going anywhere. Or nowhere. It’s a sad day when nowhere sounds like a better prospect for happiness than anywhere. But nowhere can’t be that bad; it’s where all of NASA’s money is going.
G B Hewitt. 18.11.2022