Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You can't put lunar water in my jalopy!

I HONESTLY don't know what to make of NASA's report that it has discovered 26 gallons of water on the moon. Taking care not to mislead earthlings that its revelation ranked anywhere near finding Martians at home on their own planet, NASA did award itself a star for advancing science a few more trickles into the universe. One of its experts even suggested that such pioneering could very well lead human beings into a lunar sanctuary in the event that we would have to evacuate the earth after a nuclear disaster. It would even give us an option if the Teabaggers assume total control of a vanishing civilized society.

The NASA report might have been easier to consider if oil had been discovered instead. In minutes, Iraq's s oil wells would have been abandoned for more lucrative deposits deep down in the moon's craters. McDonald's would soon lock in and Glenn Beck would look for new fans lured by another book about loony socialists. ("A siren call," is how the Hartford Courant described the moon's lure.)

Seriously, we have come a long way since Copernicus. Even the Vatican, which once condemned the Polish astronomer for declaring the earth was not the center of the universe, is heavily into astronomy. It recently staged a "study week" for astronomers and other specialists who might offer a new perspective on the mysteries of the universe, explaining that the church has a stake in what might be happening out there and might find such knowledge useful to advance its own mission. It also wanted people to know that such initiatives prove that it is not "anti-science."

As the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, astronomer and scientific adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, explained the church's celestial position to the New York Times: "Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can't put limits on God's creative freedom. Why can't we speak of a 'brother extraterrestrial'? It would still be part of creation."

Still, as a pragmatic earthling I would be much more impressed with oil. My 16-year old station wagon wouldn't get very far on 26 gallons of water. In fact, oil or water, my machine is doubtless headed into one of those black holes in space that so fascinates the astronomers these days. With that in mind, I urge NASA to keep looking.

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