The Moon and Sixpence by Trevor Plumbly
Lost in space
‘One giant leap for mankind’, but was it really? I don’t want to belittle Mr. Armstrong’s or even America’s achievements in 1969, but I can’t help wondering what, outside a bit of boffin back-slapping and national flag waving, the moon landing and the ensuing trillion dollars’ worth of junk chucked up there has provided any real benefit to improve things down here. I guess the main benefits could be communication, but increasing the current speed of communication is like gilding a lily that’s got a bit rotten in parts. Even countries with serious economic problems it seems must have a satellite or two, and I can’t help wondering why? Surely we’ve got enough photos of the world’s surface to keep us going, and electronic weather forecasting seems about as reliable as the elderly gent with a pointer in early TV days. That only leaves intelligence gathering, which is a bit stupid when you think about it, after all if everybody’s got one up there, they must be spying on us spying them. Welcome to expensive, senseless infinity.
A brave new world
There are of course those, throughout history, that firmly believe that ‘There’s life up there!’ Those who have fictionalised this theory have been blessed with vivid imaginations. Those who seriously believe it to be true are more stark, staring bonkers than factually naive. Given the amount of metallic scrap we’ve been lobbing in their yard for the last 40 odd years, logic alone would suggest that they would have responded by now. Space has always held a fascination for us since being considered the house of the Almighty, the launching pad for flying saucers filled with little green men and latterly an astral motorway for flying cameras. It’s even going to become a tourist route! Yep, a group of extremely well-heeled folk are going to experience the ‘ultimate trip’ by orbiting this fair earth. I’m not sure whether that will add to their knowledge of the planet, but I suppose it’s one way of spending the stuff they’ve got too much of anyway.
Down to earth
It’s horrifying, at least to me that countries can spend obscene amounts of money exploring wastelands millions of miles in space but find themselves helpless to accommodate hordes of refugees escaping poverty, religious or political persecution. This year alone over two thousand have drowned attempting to reach Europe, they’re not invaders or terrorist just frightened people struggling for stability of some sort. Meanwhile, relatively small terrorist groups are virtually free to kidnap or slaughter civilians and destroy cultural treasure houses. While the United Nations wrings its powerless hands in Geneva, a twelve year old boy suffocates to death attempting to enter Spain in a suitcase. That alone is an indictment on all of us in the so called developed countries.
If there’s funny money around for scientific vanities, why not use it for real human benefit by making available the unused spaces in countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand for more refugees to settle? Give them a space to grow, a space to cultivate and a space to belong. Surely that’s more practical in human terms than chasing alien life forms and a hell of a lot more valuable than a piece of moon rock, a dirt sample from Mars or even a snapshot of the arse end of Pluto.