Here Thar Be Monsters!
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Got Yer Chang-e Hangin'
The Chinese are to be congratulated. They have made the first soft landing on the Moon in nearly 40 years, and have now joined a very exclusive club of three nations to have done so (that we know of, at any rate).
At about 6:30 this morning Jakarta time, the Chang-e craft settled down in the Bay of Rainbows just northwest of the Sea of Rain. If you're looking for it from down here, it's the right eye of the "man in the moon". Interestingly, this is roughly the same area where in 1970, the Russians landed Luna 17 with Lunokhod (Moonwalker) 1, the first rover to successfully operate on another heavenly body. The Chinese rover being named "Jade Rabbit" is also appropriate, since they have always seen a "rabbit in the moon", rather than the western "man".
This singular event may start a new age of exploration, led not by the US and USSR superpowers, but rather by new powers that have only emerged in the decades since the Great Space Race. We can only hope that this new age will be one motivated by peaceful intentions and not military, though comments by certain leading Chinese in their space program belie an intent to seek the high ground of military advantage.
Like the exploration of the New World, led by the Italians and Portuguese, but colonized by the Spanish, French and English, the new age of space exploration may go into history books as being led by the US and USSR, but colonized by the Chinese, Indians and Iranians. Much remains to be written on that account, though.
What the Chang-e may do in the near term is force the US hand in revealing much of their hidden space program, long speculated by researchers like Hoagland, Dolan and Farrell. It will become increasingly difficult to hide things when disinterested third parties are poking around with HD cameras and rovers. The Japanese could be controlled, but the Chinese, Indians, Iranians, and the new Russia less so.
For far too long, NASA has dominated the amount and content of information being disseminated from space exploration. When unchallenged, this control gets out of hand, just like state secrets and surveillance. Competition from up-and-coming space powers means that the monopoly is about to come to a crashing halt.
Will it mean that we the people will start getting more truth? A bit, maybe. More likely, secrets will be used in smoke-filled back rooms to bluff and cajole in trade and finance negotiations. It does, however, create a lot more holes in the dike to plug, and leaks are more likely to occur when spread over a larger area of political landscape.
The sheer volume of information fed back to NASA by its probes ensures that there are many things we the people don't know. NASA's unwillingness to share unadulterated information with the general public was unchallengeable when there were precious few alternative outlets.
Chang-e 3 and little Jade Rabbit have changed that, and more are likely to follow. What happens when cultures whose creationism is seasoned by Hinduism and Buddhism, discover evidence of ancient high civilizations? Will they be more likely to release that intel, because their religious and philosophical histories are not threatened by this knowledge, but are actually vindicated?
The US and USSR are, despite all outward appearances and marketing, fundamentally christian nations with certain beliefs and narratives flavoring their collective weltanschauungs. China is fundamentally Taoist/Buddhist, which evolved out of the Indian Hindu traditions that plainly describe ancient high-tech civilizations. Here we have a cultural underpinning of reincarnation and ancient advanced societies. Does that forebode a greater likelihood of certain information coming out? Time will tell, but their foundational beliefs would be less threatened then the Judeo-Christian narrative.
In any case, the Chang-e 3 and Jade Rabbit are game-changers. Whatever is "up there" will now belong to a larger club, whose members are moving away from a strict Western, Judeo-Christian underpinning. This subtle difference may not seem important in the greater scheme of things, but it predisposes the players to a much different view of the Universe and Man's place in it. That bit of difference in philosophical predisposition makes for some interesting speculations on likely outcomes.
Meanwhile, in Rainbow Bay, just off the northwest corner of the Rain Sea, fresh tracks are being laid in a renewed Age of Space. Where those tracks will lead is anyone's guess, but the foundation is laid for a very interesting future.