Did you know that the Man in the Moon, as of Dec. 15, 2013, now has a tiny speck in his right eye? And hardly anybody even noticed.
So what’s the big hairy deal, you may ask though I doubt if you would say “big hairy deal” because hardly anyone uses that dumb expression anymore. More likely, you are saying to yourself, as usual, what on earth (or the moon) is he talking about?
Maybe I should explain.
The Man in the Moon is apparently a geographical feature that moon scientists and other “looney” people with their heads in the starry night sky use to map out the surface of Earth’s personal lunar satellite, our moon.
And who hasn’t looked up at that glowing orb on a wondrous clear night and noticed that the shadows and craters and discarded Russian and American moon exploration spaced junk form, if you use enough imagination, what looks like the face of, say, Winston Churchill.
This face is the Man in the Moon, and his right eye contains a large flat volcanic crater called the Bay of Rainbows.
All of which begs the question: “Who on earth names these things?” and also: “Rainbows? The moon has rainbows?”
Be that as it may, the thing is, what I’m getting at is, is the fact that, as reported by The Japan Times, in December China landed an unmanned space craft lunar probe thingy right on the moon. In fact, the 2,000 pound (907,000 gram) craft landed “in the right eye of the lunar feature dubbed the Man in the Moon.”
This is significant on account of this was the first soft landing on the moon in 37 years and also, the landing craft’s name is The Jade Rabbit, and the rover’s name is Yutu.
(Not to be confused with the popular Irish rock band called U2).
And the reason the shiny silver and gold lander and the small six-wheeled rover robot have such cute names is, and I quote: “The lander and the rover are named for a Chinese myth about a woman named Chang’e who swallowed magic pills and took her pet rabbit, Yutu, to the moon, where she has lived as a goddess ever since.”
Well, of course, that makes perfect sense. After all, the moon has always been a romantic, mysterious, highly mystical chunk of dead rock to us Earthlings, and don’t you think after nearly 40 years, it’s high time we got back to the moon?
And by we, I mean the Chinese. Maybe they can do what the Americans and Russians couldn’t or wouldn’t do — find out for once and for all if the moon really is made of green cheese.
The Jade Rabbit moniker is also important because it makes it possible for bored and jaded (sorry) newspaper and interweb writer folks to make up excellent headlines and bylines like the one posted yesterday on Nature.com: “China’s Moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, has stopped hopping.
But its ears are still twitching — and communicating with Earth.”
And therein lays this week’s news.
The mission for Yutu was to roam around collecting samples in a 10 km (217 mile) area, samples that will (somehow) help the Chinese use the moon to develop it’s “space program,” by which everybody else on Earth hopes they don’t mean “lunar military base.”
Thing is the diminutive Yutu only made it 100 metres (several feet) before it stubbornly stopped bunny hopping.
This was in late January. It is reported that it was the frigid “two week lunar night” that froze Yutu’s little butt.
But, the good news this week is that it can still send information from where it’s stuck somewhere in the eye of the Man in the Moon.
Which means it can keep probing the same spot over and over again and send back the vital scientific space data that confirms the moon is still in fact made up of a bunch of extremely cold rock and dust.
But at least there really is a rabbit on the moon now.
You see, moon bunnies are not strictly limited to Chinese fairy tales. It turns out that there are a number of ancient mythical legends and traditions including Buddhism and Native American folklore that tell tales of a rabbit that lives on the moon. (Honest.)
This is also significant on account of it proves that the Chinese weren’t the only early civilizations to actively engage in mind altering substances such as opium.
But as a matter of fact the rabbit/moon legend has long been so pervasive that according to History.com when Apollo 11 was descending to a first-ever landing on the moon in 1969 Mission Control radioed that there were headlines asking them to “watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit.”
Apparently they said this in jest; possibly to lighten the mood in the middle of quit possibly the most knuckle-biting, sphincter-tightening landing ever attempted.
But command pilot Michael Collins was as cool as a cucumber.
He replied, ”OK. We’ll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.”
Well, she’s there now, only 45 years too late for Apollo 11.
But you know what rabbits are like. If they can ever get Yutu moving again, she might hook up with some of the other abandoned moon rovers and pretty soon there could just be a whole bunch of new little Yutus hippity hopping around the Man on the Moon.
And maybe, just maybe they’ll discover Goddess Chang’e and her magic pills.
Now that would be news.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.