A newspaper headline last week grabbed my attention. “India Launches Lunar Mission With a Shot at Winning This Year’s Moon Race,” said the headline in the New York Times.
This year’s moon race? I did not realize that a race to the moon was taking place this year. The only “Moon Race” I was familiar with was the one in South Korea, in which Seung Hyun Moon nipped Min-Yeong Moon at the finish line. Former NFL quarterback Warren Moon was far behind, feeling totally eclipsed.
According to the NY Times article, Russia, Japan and the United States are all potentially sending robotic missions to the moon this year. That means, of course, that if India’s mission, Chandrayaan-3, reaches the moon first, India would be crowned the 2023 Moon Race Champion.
The phrase “moon race” makes me think of other races that will eventually take place on the surface of the moon. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is considered the fastest person on Earth, but who will be the fastest person on the moon? It might be an Indian, a Russian or a Japanese person. Almost everyone has a chance, as long as we don’t see any rockets taking off from Jamaica.
Many runners would love to have the title of “fastest person on the moon,” even if they have to travel 384,400 km to compete in the 100-meter bounce-and-hop. Because the force of gravity is much lower on the moon, running might be impossible. Nevertheless, the title of “fastest person on the moon” would carry plenty of prestige, almost like being crowned the “skiing champion of Zambia.”
If I went to the moon, I would not only make sure I was crowned fastest person on the moon, I would set thousands of Guinness Moon Records.
Here are just some of the records I would set on the moon:
1. Records involving moon rocks: most moon rocks collected, most moon rocks set on top of each other, most moon rocks worshiped.
2. Sleep-related records: longest non-interrupted period of sleep, loudest snore recorded, most consecutive snooze-buttons hit.
3. Food-related records: most chili cooked on the moon, most chili eaten on the moon, fastest bounce-and-hop to the bathroom.
It has been more than 50 years since a human walked on the moon, but at least the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) plans to have a dog walking on the moon. Oh wait, perhaps they’re talking about a different kind of Rover.
According to the ISRO, one of the objectives of the Chandrayaan-3 mission is to “demonstrate Rover roving on the moon.” I know at least one Rover on my street I’d like to send to the moon. But he wouldn’t do any roving — he’d just sit there and bark at the Earth.
The Chandrayaan-3 mission has two other objectives: to demonstrate a “safe and soft landing” on the lunar surface and to “conduct in-situ scientific experiments.” In case you are wondering, “in-situ” is a Latin phrase that means “with little or no barking.”
The experiments will provide scientists with valuable information about the moon’s atmosphere and surface. This information will help them determine if the moon is habitable. Once that happens, there will be a mad dash to buy land on the moon. Why live in California when you can save millions by living on the moon?
ISRO Chairman S. Somanath, speaking at the recent Human Space Flight Expo in Bengaluru, explained why it is important to find out whether humans can live in space.
“There is no guarantee that life on the earth won’t go extinct in the future,” he said. “As human beings, we are not ready to go extinct.”
If humans ever settle on the moon, the “moon race” may eventually have a different meaning. But hopefully, all of us will be welcome on the moon, no matter what race we are.