The Amazing Soviet Moon

As the Summer Silly Shows creep up on us via national television (as in Portuguese National :) ) , RTP2 - as usual - detaches itself and is showing a range of documentaries about the Moon. Today I caught one called "Tank on the Moon" - from what I gather, done by/for the Science Channel - and I was amazed, both from my own ignorance on the subject but also from the sheer magnitude that certain scientific feats have.

During the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a feverish competition to be the first to set foot on the moon. We know who won this race, but less about a secret chapter. The Soviets many not have sent a man to the moon, but they successfully guided two small robots by remote control from the earth. For 16 months between 1970 and 1973, these "Lunokhods" traveled more than thirty miles over the moon's surface. With the declassification of the former USSR space archives, along with recollections by several of the key participants in the Lunokhod program, the true story of the Russian lunar robots can finally be told.

The documentary tells the tale of how Russian scientists / engineers put two rovers on the moon in 1970 . Two robotic, remotely operated Rovers on a Celestial Body that they weren't sure the surface was solid, dusty, sandy, rocky, whatever . This is the essence of projects and watching the Documentary had a profound effect on me, because we know all about the Apollo 11 and Neil Amstrong and everything surrounding that - mind you, an equally yet different amazing feat - but this suffered from what I think were two key aspects, the American Shouting Power and the Soviet Whispering Politics , and this is my own personal-average-joe-on-a-country-possibly-equally-apart-from-both-superpowers view , not a certified one :) .

Sojourner Rover
Sojourner Rover (Wikipedia)

The important thing for me was, 27 years before the Mars Pathfinder - a project that grasped my own imagination and awe, a group of people built, in a world where - probably :) - the total amount of computer power equals my phone or possibly micro-wave oven, launched, landed and controlled a robot on the surface of the Moon . Now, this also takes me to my second immediate thought ... damn , this was all because of the Cold War , the un-nobliest of reasons . I know I'm from the computer boom generation, and I - too easily - expect every single aspect of technology to follow a sort of Moore's Law rule, and yes, we still fill huge tanks of super powerful combustant and blast (literally) heaps of metal into space, but the Moon is again on our scopes in what will probably be some 50 years after man and machine had been there .

Damn the Cold War but how can we reproduce its effect in this day and age? I'm guessing we need to find a way to make a profit from the Moon, I'm sure that would spur the right amount of interest in the world :)  . How sad is it, that we (as in the Human Race) need to be motivated by hatred and power struggles to find the motivation to do the things we've shown we can do ? Humans always need a higher purpose :) , I almost wish Religion would step in and say that God wants us to build a space ship (no Tom Cruise, not you :) ) .

“Everyone is capable of doing extraordinary things, each in his own way. Some are perfectly happy doing simple things in good spirits; others, however, concentrate on details. We are all different, and it really doesn’t matter if you focus on space travel or work in the fields. What is important is to do what you really want.” – Alexander Kemurdzhian