A rare lunar event, and Trump's State of the Union address – could there be a connection?
Full moons can do strange things to animals. Such is the case for me I think.
As I tried in vain on a wintery January evening to see the Super blue blood moon, something clicked. (I should say here that I’m talking about the lunar event – I haven’t taken to watching hipsters discussing ‘oh-so-unique’ names for their offspring.)
I saw nothing of course, and even if the clouds hadn’t seen to that it wouldn’t have lived up to the hype. Super – well, it may have appeared around 7% larger, so, no not really. Blood – well, fair enough. As the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow the sunlight that goes on to reflect from it’s surface is filtered by our atmosphere giving it a distinctly orangey-red hue. And it was – or rather wasn’t - this which stirred a thought.
The evening before, Trump had delivered his maiden State of the Union address. A rare lunar event, and Trump – could there be a connection? One, a dense, periodically orange orb probably formed by an ancient near-cataclysmic event. And the other, you know, the Moon.
During his address, other than ordering the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay and doubling down on his Mexican wall, I was reminded that back in December last year he directed Nasa to plan a crewed mission to the Moon for the first time since 1972. Could it be his egotism is now so unchecked that he wants to get America to the moon because it looks like him? Like a celestial Mt Rushmore? As I say the full moon, even if I was unable to see it, has done strange things to me.
Good thing, wrong reason
That aside the directive is exciting. Yet – this being Trump – it seems that a good thing, even if done for the wrong reasons, can’t pass without some small perma-tanned fingerprints sullying it. Trump has said that space is the “next great American frontier”. What now? ‘American’ frontier? The not-so-subtle overtones of pre-ordained ownership hit you like a brick. And there is a reason for that, and it isn’t because Trump is so enthralled by the expansion of our understanding that he wants US scientists to be at the vanguard. It’s because of resources.
With this directive, Mr Trump abandons plans set by his predecessor Barack Obama, to send humans to an asteroid near Earth. One thing Trump has kept though is the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, signed into law by Obama back in November 2015. Sound dull? Certainly, but in essence it means that the commercial ambitions of our species are no longer Earth bound.
The Act will allow space-mining companies – those that are aiming to travel to planetary bodies and asteroids in order to hunt for and utilise resources – to own what they extract. Trump sees gold in them there hills… and he wants to makes sure it is US hands on the launch button when we figure out how to get it back here.
Like so many things in human history, money is the biggest lubrication of all – even when it comes to space exploration. It is now clear that very soon we won’t live in a global economy; we will live in a galactic one.