To my Grandchildren – this week marks another astronomical moment in terms of space exploration. After five years hurtling through the cosmos under the technical guidance of NASA, the Juno probe has entered the orbit of Jupiter, joining its 67 or so satellites or moons. 1 The stated aim is to continue the scientific studies of the gaseous giant from where the previous Galileo probe left off i.e. before it was crushed and incinerated by the tremendous atmospheric pressure and 153 °C temperature.
Now, since we have effectively invaded Jupiter let’s imagine what message we would send to any life forms there might be.
Is anyone there? Do you read us? Do you copy? Do you understand? Comprende? We are sending the following message in dots and dashes as well as 1s and 0s in the hope that if there are life forms intelligent enough to have invented a binary language you will understand.
We have named your planet Jupiter in honour of the top dog Roman god because you are the biggest one in the line of planets that orbits our one sun- you take 11 of our years to do the journey but then you are further away. The probe you see circling is called Juno in honour of Jupiter’s wife (she was warlike and matronly – somewhat frumpy even and hence all those earthly encounters with maidens that made her so jealous) but let us not digress. We come in peace, to scientifically analyse your planet for the sake of education for its own sake and all that. We humans are inveterately inquisitive and…
crackle…crackle…A voice as squeaky as helium inhaled speech…
Fear not – we are multiplangual. Compared to Plutonian, yours is a limited tongue, and since each one of us has a brain the size of your planet, you can’t imagine how much we comprehend. For instance we are fluent in every one of your 6,500 earth languages but in plain English listen to what we have to say:-
Having watched your fly pasts over the years we find your returns as tiresome as said insect. One thing for sure is that we can swat you just as easily for you’ll never be permitted to land until you have signed the ‘Clean up the Cosmos’ campaign. Yours is the dirtiest place in the universe it would seem and each year you add more clutter so that in less than 7 times round our sun, earth from afar has come to resemble those Russian sputniks that went up in the 1950s. It’s a most terrible shame because until recently, your blue earth has been the topic of many inter-planetary poetry competitions We understand you have now assigned the natives of Britain 2 to act as space junk collectors which is a step in the right direction but there is far worse at ground level.
Not content with life giving waters and fruitful land you have burrowed into the earth, exhuming core minerals and pumping the filthy bi-products of decay to the surface. These you have ignited into toxic gases as well as casting a number of death-defying products into the infinity of half-lives. To keep pace with these measures you’ve reproduced yourselves to such an extent that fruit flies are positively circumspect by comparison. In short you are pollutants and your long term goal is to inhabit other parts of the cosmos once your own planet becomes too toxic. We too have watched “Blade Runner” but you will never be permitted beyond the Tannhauser gate.
We suggest therefore that all that outer space expenditure be put to right use by amending all of the above so that once more we can praise your planet in Byronic verse :
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal” 3
Learn the poem well and the lessons even better my Grandchildren – and forgive us for the earth you have inherited.
One for today’s Tale weaver prompt – Bedtime Stories to/for/from Grandparents. A fairy tale of humour, facts and fiction for my grandchildren (all over 7).