While letting other space science wither, the US president is keen to open up a new American frontier on the moon
There’s plenty that’s atavistic in the buzz about tonight’s lunar eclipse, which will turn the moon blood-red. It’s not just about the apocalyptic associations of this astronomical phenomenon itself, mentioned in the Book of Revelation (6:12, if you’re curious). The whole business of moon-gazing is an ancient impulse, its effects more culturally transformative than we might realise.
The moon landings, which have their 50th anniversary next year, were the culmination of a narrative that began when Galileo trained his telescope on the moon in the early 17th century. Discerning shadows along the boundary between bright and dark, he concluded that the moon had mountains – quite unlike the smooth sphere of Aristotle’s cosmos. It was a world like our own, to which the astronomer Giovanni Riccioli added “seas” in 1651. (Apollo 11 landed in one, the Sea of Tranquillity.)