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Saturday, October 20, 2007

A space odyssey :Man on the moon

Man on the moon, Malaysian in space... what else does the future hold?

WATCHING the Soyuz rocket launcher take off last week, carrying the first Malaysian into space, my mind went back 38 years ago when I viewed, on TV, the first manned landing on the Moon.

At least, that's what I hope it was, because my recollection of the event is somewhat blurred. Actually, it was ostensibly something of great significance that I watched, back in 1969 - I just can't recall what I made of it as a mere lad.

We did not have a TV set at home, and I vaguely remember my father talking about some major cosmic event. Sometime in the evening, the family walked over to a neighbour's house to watch this on TV.

There was something said about landing on the moon, and of course, the name "Apollo 11" was bandied around, and also, Neil Armstrong. What I saw on TV remains vaguely imprinted on my mind ... fuzzy black and white images perhaps, maybe even the voices of men communicating through a vast distance, although I can't ascertain to this day if these were merely figments of my imagination.

Later, I learnt I had watched the first manned lunar landing.

Almost four decades on, it's still a bit blur to me, whether I actually saw the event on TV. I know and believe man landed on the moon in 1969, despite the conspiracy theories that have been floating around since the 1970s. The point is - did we watch it on TV the way I remember? Does anyone have a clear recollection of the events as shown on TV? I, for one, would certainly like to know.

Give me the details, everything! Anyway, looking ahead, when manned landings on the Moon resume, perhaps we'll see a Malaysian traipse across the lunar surface.

Think of the excellent spin-offs in the food and beverage industry - anyone for a teh tarik lunar or roti canai Marikh? In fact, I'm surprised we haven't seen items like mee goreng Soyuz or roti ISS being offered so far.

Any takers?

While we're on the subject of celestial objects... I recently received an irate missive from a friend who was pretty pissed off because, somewhere, someone had written that we would look to colonising the moon and other planets in future because we would run out of space on Earth.

He was angry that anyone would perpetrate such false hope, because, as far as he and the rest of mankind were concerned, we had just one habitable planet and that was it - screw it up and we're on the slide to oblivion.

He offered one thought to control the expanding population - have fewer children - and cited China as an example. Me, I'm an idealist, having grown up on a steady science-fiction diet of Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Star Trek. I would like to think - well, hope - that somewhere in the future, in half a millennium or so, man would have reached across the chasms of space to call other worlds home.

And that these worlds would be better than we could ever imagine Earth to be now ... and that people like you and me could hop regularly across cosmic distances without undergoing months of rigorous specialised training for this.

Hopes and dreams, after all, are what take us forward and indeed, make today's farfetched vision a reality. Look at how far we've come in communication technology - just take the mobile phone and the Internet for example. Hmm, then again...

Dreaming may be the safer option.

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