December 21, 2013

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image by Gonzalo Cao Cabeza de Vaca

When Galileo observed the Moon with his spyglass, everything was so new, and his image quality was so low, that he didn't notice the tiny dark shape moving in front of it. It wasn't until the long telescopes of the middle of the 17th century that it was noticed fleetingly, like a mosquito pestering the Moon. Finally, the diligent, some said obsessed, Schröter, in his years of close observing, recognized that a dark angular object (DAO) was visible about half the time he observed the Moon. Using Schröter's timings of the appearance and disappearance of the DAO at the lunar limbs, Edmond Halley was able to calculate a trajectory, discovering that the object was in an elliptical orbit averaging about 350 miles above the lunar surface. There was speculation that this object might be a comet that was captured in an orbit around the Moon, but Mädler's careful observing demonstrated that the DAO did not look like a comet but had an almost rectangular shape. This led to the belief that it might be a built object, exciting humanity, and becoming the central focus of all science. Ever larger telescopes were made, accompanied by improvements in the precision of motors to track the rapidly moving object. Studies of the lunar surface concentrated on finding built structures that might be connected to the satellite. With his keen eye and the new 36" Lick refractor, Edward Barnard was able to recognize the fine structure of DAO, drawing an object with two closely-spaced rectangular wings, connected to an abdomen that thickened in the middle. Just the terms used to describe the observation indicated the direction of the new interpretation that was emerging - was the DAO a space insect? Based on its known hight about the lunar surface and its angular extent it was found to be hundreds of feet long, bigger than any living creature ever on Earth. There began a frantic effort to devise a vehicle to travel to the Moon to inspect this object closeup to determine what it was and whether it was a threat to life on Earth. It soon became obvious that even the biggest steam engine could not propel a craft to reach the Moon, and the major scientific powers of Germany, England and France worked together feverishly to develop a new form of rocket transportation proposed by the obscure Russian school teacher Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Combining their resources the three countries, aided by worldwide contributions, developed a series of rockets that finally in 1928 flew pass the Moon. The photographs taken of the DAO demonstrated that it was definitely a built object, a machine. This news galvanized the world to form a single government devoted entirely to sending a manned spacecraft to rendezvous with the DAO. The tremendous effort to develop appropriate technology fostered a second industrial revolution with countries everywhere contributing components for a fleet of three ships that blasted off in 1939. Whatever the DAO was it had united the peoples of Earth like never before, and now all waited. Captain James Doolittle, the best space pilot in the emerging United Space Fleet, radioed back from lunar orbit that they had rendezvous with DAO and three explorers used rocket backpacks to reach the DAO and find an entrance. As soon as they were inside, a voice in English said, Welcome, Earthlings. We have been waiting here for 10,000 years, since your development of tools adequate to roam your planet, You have passed two tests that allow your participation in the League of Galactic Civilizations. You developed technology to reach this ship, and you did it peacefully, working together as a united world. You are now ready to mix with a higher level of intelligence. Welcome to Eden.

Chuck Wood

Yesterday's LPOD: 50 Shades of Gray

Tomorrow's LPOD: Happenstance Earthrise


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