Sorry Spock, space is no longer the final frontier. Centuries after the cow jumped over the moon, the Golden Spike Company promises that in 2020, it will start commercial lunar flights. They are asking for the moon—around $1.4 billion per tourist. Newt Gingrich’s poll promise was to establish a permanent moon base by 2020 if he is elected president. Fortunately, the lunatic scheme didn’t take off; he didn’t even get the nomination. Must do some time travel to check with Aryabhata about 2020—even Virgin astrophile Richard Branson wants to walk on the moon in 2020, as part of a team of four moony billionaires.
Moonshine? Nah. For centuries, man has been over the moon, over the moon.
He has always wanted to go to the silver wafer in the sky to explore its mysteries. Many moons ago, in 2 AD, writers imagined fountains that travelled all the way to the celestial pumpkin, crossing the Straits of Gibraltar. The father of science fiction, Jules Verne’s two novels on moon flights—From The Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon—foresaw the perils of space travel: collusions with asteroids, free fall into the sea at great speed and even a dog on board. The silver satellite inspired the first sci-fi movie ever made—a 14-minute animation wonder named A Trip to the Moon made by Georges Méliès in 1902. Finally, it took a small step by Neil Armstrong to end the speculation that the moon is no longer made of green cheese and no rabbit lives on it; in fact, no rabbit has ever lived on it.
For anything to endure in human gestalt, its dark side has to appeal to the inexplicable fear of the unknown. The dark side of the moon casts its shadow over both the scientific and the occult—studies show the largest number of suicides happen during a new moon. At full moon, lunatics (the word is a Latin derivative from Luna, or Moon) are at their weirdest (so are werewolves), and crime increases exponentially. Ayurveda physicians base their calculations on the lunar cycle to determine the fate of diseases: studies show that during full moon, the electrical charge in living cells becomes amplified. On the bright side, coral and deer have a great sex life and expectant women have better chances of getting knocked up. On the astral sphere, the moon occupies an exalted position in astrology; it governs our inner life—the subconscious, instinct and emotions, past lives and our secret self. Astrologers calculate the moon’s position at the time of one’s birth to divine inner nature.
No other celestial body has fascinated human imagination as the moon. It hides in Lord Shiva’s matted tresses as a crescent, which is also Islam’s sacred symbol. It is the patron planet of lovers, and the ruling orb of magick. It seems closest to the earth— since the first Neanderthal gazed on it in luminous wonder, it has symbolised the accessibility of distance, while retaining its unattainable mystique as the primary principle of duality.
Commercial moon flights are the first step to the colonisation of a great mystery. What would happen once in a blue moon—Apollo 11 to Apollo 17—promises to become a space jam. Man’s tendency to banalise the unknown in the name of science and turn it into profit has made the world unlivable. Millennia-old coral reefs are destroyed, species become extinct because of human interference in the ecosystem, and ancient rain forests are destroyed—all in the name of progress. By demystifying the moon and turning it into a chunk of real estate, technology will triumph over enigma. Post-2020, it is a dismal lunar future: high-rise apartments, malls, pollution, traffic jams and tourist trash in craters. There will be wars on the moon, for the moon. There will rise temples, mosques and churches on the acne-pitted, volcanic maria, terrae and craters, and the first lunar suicide bomber will be one step closer to the waiting virgins.