WELL, it had to happen. Long a symbol of romantic purity, a luminous orb to be flown to, jumped over, or lassoed, the Moon was overdue for a massive reversal of fortune.
As tall poppies go, it’s our tallest. So it couldn’t just sit up in the heavens forever, waxing, waning, and providing a sweet light that makes even Rush Limbaugh look decent. Just this week, Earth’s only satellite was accused of major malfeasance. Asked Discovery News, “Did the Moon Conspire to Bring Down Titanic?”
Now, I’m not here to play “Judge Judy and executioner,” as Homer Simpson once put it. An actual forensic astronomer called Donald Olson lays out his theory in the April issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, claiming that the Moon may have caused the sinking of the massive ocean liner 100 years ago.
It so happens that on January 4th, 1912, the Moon was at its perigee, the closest it had been to the Earth in 1,400 years, six minutes after it was full. This phenomenon is apparently known as a “Supermoon.” Just the day before, the Sun was the closest it had been to the Earth in a year, its perihelion (who says you never learn anything useful from this column?). The alignment of the Moon, the Sun and the Earth allegedly created an intense gravitational pull that caused abnormally high tides. The three-month stretch between these “spring tides” and the appearance of the fatal iceberg in the path of the Titanic was just the amount of time it would have taken for troublemaking Canadian icebergs to drift into the shipping lanes. “It sunk/Ker-plunk/What a rotten piece of junk,” as the classic tune goes.
The Moon ought to be ashamed of herself. Mind you, over the eons, she’s occasionally been a controversial pie-in-the-sky. Branded female in Greek and Roman mythology, she’s even been linked by some cultures to the “curse” of menstruation. Although she inspired no less a composition than Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, by contrast, the Moon’s also been called a “harsh mistress” in a much-recorded song by Jimmy Webb. Nevertheless, she’s not often accused of mass murder.
If the Moon gets her choice of lawyers, I’d recommend Jupiter. He’s big, he’s bright, and he’s full of helium. (You know what I’m saying, even if you aren’t a lawyer -- actually, especially if you aren’t a lawyer.)
Despite taking some heat right now, the Moon’s desirable enough that she’s at the centre of various land grabs. A dozen years ago, one Dennis Hope, who called himself “Head Cheese” of the Lunar Embassy Commission, announced that he owned the Moon and much of the Solar System. He said he’d registered his claim with the U.S government, also informing Russia and the United Nations. (I don’t believe Canada got so much as a phone call.)
At the time, German Martin Juergens scoffed at Hope’s assertion, saying he already owned the Moon because Frederick the Great gave it to one of his forebears in 1756.
Nowadays, however, we seem to have accepted that there’s no need for a formal handover. This land is your land. According to the website of “Earth’s Leading Lunar Real Estate Agency,” Luna Society International, “The future of the Moon, including settlement, tourism and resource development is in your hands.” It’s currently offering a “select group of properties in the Sea of Vapors” at only $18.95 per acre (transportation not included).
Here’s the blurb, in case your interest is piqued: “THE MOON ON A BUDGET! Breath-taking vistas and a prime location … plus a great price! The Sea of Vapors has everything the smart moon property shopper seeks! Add the beauty of the nearby Crater Manilius, a distinctive center-of-the-Moon location, and you’ve got the total package!”
Of course, to see your lunar property – there are no on-site show homes -- you’ll need to buy the full CD-ROM version of The Full Moon Atlas online. (Don’t be alarmed if it seems to resemble a pair of buttocks – that mountain range in the middle is likely a topographical anomaly.) Do bear in mind that NASA’s next trip is not expected until the mid-2020s, so you’d better get to work pronto on your hand-built spaceship.
If, as a more practical-minded terrestrial, you’re concerned about the lack of oxygen, grocery stores, off-leash dog parks or neighbours on the Moon, maybe you’re better off buying a memorial there for your loved one.
“Your memorial crater will be located in a specially-designated section of the Sea of Tranquility, the Sea of Serenity or the Lake of Dreams,” promises the website of Luna Society International. Once again, the price is reasonable – only $39.95, plus $10 shipping and handling.
If you buy that, I’ve got a property on Mars I’d love to sell you. Let’s be in touch.