When Will You Fly Me to the Moon (and Beyond)?

A few weeks ago, I heard a news story about an Israeli moon mission. You may have noticed I’m a sucker for space related things, so hearing about Israel sending a lander to the moon caught both my attention and imagination—especially since I’m currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s book, Red Moon, in which settling the moon plays a big part in the plot.

NASA image of the moon taken on Feb. 1, 2014 by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, who tweeted this view of a crescent moon rising and the cusp of Earth's atmosphere. Distinct colors are visible because the dominant gases and particles in each layer of the atmosphere act as prisms, filtering out certain colors of light. https://www.nasa.gov/content/crescent-moon-rising-and-earths-atmosphere
NASA image of the moon taken on Feb. 1, 2014 by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, who tweeted this view of a crescent moon rising and the cusp of Earth’s atmosphere. Distinct colors are visible because the dominant gases and particles in each layer of the atmosphere act as prisms, filtering out certain colors of light. https://www.nasa.gov/content/crescent-moon-rising-and-earths-atmosphere

When I heard some of the details about the Beresheet moon lander (developed by SpaceIL and launched by SpaceX) mission, though, several elements reminded me more of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey than of Robinson’s Red Moon.

For example, the fact that Beresheet is carrying a time capsule made up of digital files designed to last eons immediately brought the image of that monolith found on the moon in 2001 to my mind. Wasn’t it also supposed to be some form of highly advanced technology found somewhere one would not expect to find something designed with such advanced knowledge?

Moon Space Exploration image by LoganArt at https://pixabay.com/illustrations/planet-moon-orbit-solar-system-581239/
Moon Space Exploration image by LoganArt at https://pixabay.com/illustrations/planet-moon-orbit-solar-system-581239/

I know, I know, technically 2001’s monoliths weren’t designed by humans from Earth, but rather supposed to be left by an alien race from outer space. To me, Beresheet’s time capsule seems more like the alien race’s role in 2001, but still radiates similarity between the two. Just the fact that Beresheet is intentionally leaving cutting edge technology on the moon for the purpose of rebooting everything on Earth in case we find ourselves needing a backup of all knowledge ever acquired … I mean … I hate to be a buzz kill, but wouldn’t that kind of occurrence only happen under doomsday circumstances?

Think about it—if all knowledge from Earth really was destroyed, how would we even get to the Moon to retrieve it in the first place? (I mean, we kinda wouldn’t be able to—assuming we’d lost the know-how…) Rather, it would be more likely that aliens from another world would venture into our solar system to discover the Beresheet time capsule on the moon. Of course, they would then be left to try to investigate what became of us Earthlings—because we would be gone, I’m supposing?

But I’m digressing! Another correlation I found between 1968’s 2001 A Space Odyssey and 2019’s Beresheet moon lander is their interest in moon magnetism. In 2001 A Space Odyssey, the investigation of a magnetic disturbance—the “Tycho Magnetic Anomaly One”—is what leads to the discovery of that alien monolith on the moon. I could not help but associate this with part of Beresheet’s mission to help study some magnetic anomalies on the moon. Israel’s Beresheet moon lander is planned to land in the lava plain called Mare Serenitatis in the northern hemisphere of the moon, then take measurements with its magnetometer. And if Beresheet is able to do it, SpaceIL may have Beresheet “hop” to another location to take more magnetic readings.

Lastly, I couldn’t help but note the shared genesis vs. evolutionary theme. You see, the name “Beresheet” means “genesis” or “in the beginning” in Hebrew. According to the Hebrew Bible, God created humans “in the beginning”. In 2001 A Space Odyssey, the implication is that humans evolved at the prompting of alien intelligence, and will continue to evolve into some further advanced form.

When I stop to ponder other themes, I find that Beresheet and 2001 share others as well, but I’ll leave you to ponder those further. For now, if everything goes well, Beresheet should land on the moon April 11, 2019. I know I’ll be watching to see what happens next! 🙂

“Good night, Moon” ISS image by Astronaut Scott Kelly, who posted this picture of the moon taken from the International Space Station with the caption, "Day 97. Good night, Moon. Good night from @Space_Station! #YearInSpace". https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/good-night-moon
“Good night, Moon” ISS image by Astronaut Scott Kelly, who posted this picture of the moon taken from the International Space Station with the caption, “Day 97. Good night, Moon. Good night from @Space_Station! #YearInSpace”. https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/good-night-moon

(Interesting side note—I tend to think of 2001 A Space Odyssey primarily as a book by Arthur C. Clarke and secondarily as a movie directed by Stanley Kubrick, but I found that Clarke & Kubrick collaborated to develop both simultaneously.)

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