Thursday, September 18, 2014

lunar letdown


We humans have evolved greatly, but the primordial connection to our environment has not changed much. What child is not fascinated by fire, water, wonders of nature, and the stars at night? As an architect and engineer, I have great enthusiasm for the built wonders of the world: the pyramids of Giza, Brunellschi's dome, the Empire State Building, London Bridge...the list goes on and on. But nothing can compare to the vast wonder of the universe above us, the ocean below us, or the landscape the that rises around us. I had a friend who vehemently stated that she hated nature; show her to Champs Elysee for the spring fashion clearances and she was in heaven. I questioned where her humanity went. We barely talk anymore. What's there to talk about when she shudders at the thought of the world beyond luxuries and I judge her for being materialistic.

SB has barely grown up from the boy that he once was so on a recent trip to Macau, he was delighted when I suggested that we stop by the Exhibition of China’s Lunar Exploration Programme. What is there not to love about machines engineered for extreme conditions and outer space? Well, as it turns out, there is a lot not to love. I've been to Cape Canaveral when the shuttle launch wass imminent and many of the visitor areas were restricted, but could still find plenty of wow to be experienced. I've been to Johnson Space Center when the lunar rover exhibit was shut down for renovations but the Gemini capsules provided plenty of consolation. I have been disappointed and recovered, but I have never been bored like I was at this exhibit.

In comparison to the materials that have been invented since the first moon missions when everything was hand sewn or welded and riveted, I am aware that our generation has come to expect a level of precision that wasn't achievable back then. I recall staring in shock at that humans actually volunteered to be placed in some of those early Gemini capsules and rocketed into space. However, there ain't no damn way that the Chinese lunar modules really looked like that, is there?

SB: less than impressed

I can only surmise that the person doing the reproductions of the Chinese lunar vehicles was given a very low budget...and spent half of it on liquor. Some of those explorer reproductions looked like they were fashioned out of baking foil and bicycle parts. I could have forgiven the shoddy craftsmanship at least a little bit if not for the utter lack of imagination of the exhibit. The exhibit went in chronological order, and read like an itemized checklist: once upon a time there was a moon and then we used an interferometer spectrometer imager and CCD stereo camera to take pictures of it, and then we used this lunar probe to go probing, and then zzzzzzzzz.

This stylized calligraphy poster was probably the highlight of the exhibit.

Since China landed on the moon in 2013, I have been waiting for a press release showing the updated map of China's strangely bloated territorial borders. 

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