There are lots of exotic places I would like to visit before I die. The far side of the moon is not one of them.
But I understand that traveling to distant lands is a calling unique to the individual. It explains why there are people in the world who seek to explore the Mariana Trench or the Greenland Ice Sheet or Des Moines, Iowa. So I guess China has its reasons for going there.
Despite the distance, the far side of the moon is actually easy to get to. Even though it is not on Google Maps, or Google Earth for that matter, one simply steers a rocket to the moon and upon arrival goes around back to the service entrance. But it is best to travel at night. During the day it is hard to navigate.
And there is a certain appeal exploring the far side of the moon. After all, the posterior of the moon is a mystery. Contrary to the front side, It is not visible from earth. Even with the most powerful telescopes we cannot see the far side of the moon because the front side is always in the way, the same way we can’t see the back of our heads in the mirror.
That is another place I have no interest to visit. The back of my head.
Given that the moon spins like a slow top, it would seem that staring at the moon over eons would reveal every pore, wrinkle, pimple, and blemish. But it it’s vanity, the moon only shows us one side. Presumably its good side, the side with green cheese.
Here is how it works. The moon slowly spins about its axis in perfect lock step with its orbital path around the earth such that it always rotates to keep one side perpetually staring at the earth.
It makes me wonder what the moon is trying to hide.
Obviously China wonders the same thing, because several days ago they landed a probe, identified as Yetu 2, where we can’t see it to explore that which we cannot see.
China states that the probe will measure soil composition as well as listen to the final episodes of the Big Bang Theory, apparently because cosmic reception is better on the lunar backside. They are also harboring a mini greenhouse to see how potatoes and silkworms cohabitate in limited gravity.
Given that no one is there to water or feed them, I don’t hold out much hope they will do all that well.
Of course since they have landed on an area we can’t see, we have no way of verifying that any of this is real. Given the comprehensive use of Computer Generated Imagery today, the images we see of a Chinese R2D2 leaving tracks in the lunar dust as it patrols some vast lunar crater leave plenty of room for doubt.
We could just as easily be watching a trailer for Star Wars: The Dark Side. On the other hand, if China really does have a probe on the moon where we can’t see it, who is to say they are not building a base in hopes of slowly converting the moon into a death star?
It is hard to know what to believe these days.
This Chinese lunar mission is called Chang’e 4, meaning I guess that there have been a few Changes since the first one. And the Chang’es missions are not apostrophic typos from a David Bowie song as has been reported. Nor are the missions piloted by Major Tom, nor are they trying to locate Spiders from Mars, nor do they have anything to do with Pink Floyd.
And it is also not true that Bono is shooting a music video entitled You too can view U2 and Yutu 2 on YouTube.
These are just more silly conspiracy theories.
No, the Chang’e mission is named after Chang’e, the goddess of the moon from Chinese mythology. And the Yutu probe that we see stands for Jade Rabbit, because a pet rabbit was the goddess Chang’e’s only companion on the moon.
And the Chang’e 4 mission is just one of many preparing to send a Chinese manned spacecraft to the moon by 2030, with the ultimate aim of establishing an outpost on the South Pole of the moon.
This is pretty impressive. And pretty scary.
Because as someone who strives to see both sides, I can only put it in perspective this way:
The US put a man on the moon decades ago but has now shut down arguing over a 2,000 mile wall. China, on the other hand, built a 5,000 mile wall hundreds of years ago but has yet to put a man on the moon.
It makes me question the direction of progress.