Reality Checkpoint: The Moon

Caption from A Moon Project

While our life on Earth seems to be more complicated every day, within financial, social and political conflicts all around, the magical connection of the Moon with our planet has been inspiration for musicians, scientist, and artists to design a micronation called Republic of the Moon. The idea of registering and reinterpreting an “object” which is 238,856 miles away has been almost immanent and now the Moon is conquering our imagination again. As we can read on Getting There, Being There:

Where is architecture in this extreme adventure? What are the implications for the design practice of “going there”, for the idea of what is indeed human, or what is essential to sustain life? And on the nearside, how does this affect our daily lives right here?

Our first attempts to understand Earth’s satellite were based on mapping it. The first serious attempts at naming the features of the Earth’s moon as seen through a telescope were made by Michel Florent van Langren in 1645, but it was with the work of Giovanni Riccioli when the moon craters were divided into a series of octants and grouped names by type regionally. The Moon mapping history passed through astronomer and scientists until the 1950s, when the soviets sent up Luna 1, the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon and then, on October 7, 1959 when Luna 3 returned the first images of the hidden side of the Moon. In 1968 the Americans launched the lunar lander Surveyor 7, with a total of 21,091 pictures transmitted to Earth.

Maps of the Moon by Surveyor 7. Source: NASA

But what comes after that, once the Moon is mapped and known? The “Republic of the Moon” is one of the projects that uses all this information as a source of inspiration. The project moonmeme by Liliane Lijn reveals her concept to write on the Moon from the Earth using a laser beam. The word ‘SHE” is projected onto the surface of the moon, the meaning of this word being gradually transformed as the Moon moves through its phases.

Moondust. “I wish I could send you some,” says Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. Just a thimbleful scooped fresh off the lunar surface. “It’s amazing stuff.”
– Feel it—it’s soft like snow, yet strangely abrasive.
– Taste it—”not half bad,” according to Apollo 16 astronaut John Young.
– Sniff it—”it smells like spent gunpowder,” says Cernan.
How do you sniff moondust?
Every Apollo astronaut did it. They couldn’t touch their noses to the lunar surface. But, after every moonwalk, they would tramp the stuff back inside the lander. Moondust was incredibly clingy, sticking to boots, gloves and other exposed surfaces. No matter how hard they tried to brush their suits before re-entering the cabin, some dust (and sometimes a lot of dust) made its way inside.*

WE COLONISED THE MOON is a project by Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser defined by the motto “Different planets. Same concept.” In their project Moon, Scratch & Sniff they used the Moondust experience quoted above as the main point to develop an image imprinted with the smell of the moon [as described by Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke] and designed as a scent by flavourist Steven Pearce at Omega Ingredients.

“It is really a strong smell. It has that taste – to me, gunpowder – and the smell of gunpowder, too.”
Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 astronaut, 1972

According to the book ‪The Moon: resources, future development, and settlement‬ by David G. Schrunk, there are two important reasons to explore the Moon. The first reason is to know more about the Moon itself. The second reason is to apply that knowledge to a useful purpose —the future colonization of the Moon. In our post Terra Luna Incognita we wonder if the idea of Moon colonization is an idea progress or simply the human ideal of power. In this context we want to bring the poetry behind Leonid Tishkov’s “Private Moon“, a visual poem telling the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. Tishkov’s metaphor refers to loneliness, an emotional state which means means that we exist, we are here, we are at the center of the universe and we are comparable to the Moon, to the other celestial bodies.

Among all the existing proposals for Moon settlements, from domed lunar cities to viral architecture, the most interesting fact of this Republic of the Moon is that combining lunar narratives, fantasies and futures, this proposed micronation reclaims the Moon for artists, idealists, and dreamers without any intention of colonization, they challenge utilitarian plans for lunar mines and military bases with artists’ imaginings and interventions. Nothing it’s impossible for imagination: want to spray your message or logo on the moon and capture video while flying past? You can do it. Want to buy Moon properties with 20% discount? You can do it. Want to send microorganisms to explore space life? You can do it.

DEEP DATA Prototype 1 by Andy Gracie

Moon Capital by M. Zhang

At this point, we want to mention the Moon Life project, which speculates on the possibility that humans will live in space in the future, pointing:

With the interdisciplinary character of the project [science, technology, art and design] in a futuristic context, Moon Life aims to initiate a new development in design culture. Is it possible to create a future-oriented, innovative impulse for instance in the same way that Constant’s New Babylon did in his time?

Now, what can we learn from all of this? Can we say we’re designing utopias for the future or are we getting closer to a reality checkpoint called Moon? The Lunar Journal, which presents news from the Moon and beyond everyday is an example that makes us think that we are closer to finally reach the ideal of occupying the Moon. In 2010, for the MOON CAPITAL Competition, SHIFTboston received several entries from different countries, proposing parks, stadiums, settlements and even energy collectors. In 1979 somebody proposed to have the 2020 Olympic Games on the Moon. On the book Return to the Moon, we can read:

One possible view of the future of humankind consists of a positive, expansive continuum —the ‘Star Treck’ vision. That view assumes a continuation of hundreds of thousands of years of human migration into new habitats and the perpetuation of our search for new opportunities, personal fulfillment and freedom.

Let’s think about it… is it worth to fund a Republic of the Moon? Maybe it’s enough to leave our political and economical reasons to conquer the Moon and, as The Arts Catalyst pointed, keep on dreaming with the stories created by writers, film-makers, and artists. And also try to find an answer to their question: “Can artists’ quixotic visions reconcile our romantic notions of the Moon with its colonized future, and help us to reimagine our relationship with our natural satellite in the new space age?”

* From The Mysterious Smell of Moondust. NASA Science News

– Soundtrack. Lunar Tunes, a playlist by Mojo.
– Volume 25. Getting There Being There.
– Lost Astronaut on Facebook and Twitter
Terra Luna Incognita. More reflections and thoughts on the Moon colonization.


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