Moon Guide Encourages Looking Up

The Georgia Straight. February 22-29, 1996
(Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly)

By John Masters

Amsterdam - Carl Koppeschaar holds up a newly bandaged pinkie finger, sprained in a weekend fall while skating. "This wouldn't have happened on the Moon," he says. On the moon, where gravity is one-sixth what it is here on earth, a stumbling skater would have ample time to adjust his downward trajectory. Of course, there are no frozen canals on the moon, so the point is moot.

Or is it? In 1997, both Japan and the United States will launch probes that will look for, among other things, water on the moon. They will pay particular attention to 300-kilometre-wide Amundsen Crater at the lunar south pole. If Amundsen was caused by a comet - basically a huge snowball - then there may be a nearly unlimited source of water on the moon, frozen in the crater's sunless depths at a constant -230C.

Which brings us back to Koppeschaar, who writes for the Dutch popular- science magazine KIJK. He thinks that the discovery of water on the moon in 1997 will trigger renewed earthly interest in our planet's satellite and the establishment of permanent human colonies there by 2009. The first colonists will work for mining companies with names like Lunox, but a flourishing tourist trade will soon spring up. These people will need a guidebook. Koppeschaar has written one.

Moon Handbook ($14) has just been released by California's Moon Publications, whose series of more than 50 earth-oriented guidebooks covers everywhere from Egypt to Australia. Along with substantial sections devoted to the moon's history and its place in the third-planet mythology and folklore, topics in the Moon Handbook include "Where to stay", "What to bring", and "Recreation".

Under the heading "Sightseeing highlights" comes the practical advice that "No one can see everything there is on the Moon in one day" (which lasts, by the way, two weeks). Do you want to spend your vacation doing nine-second dives off the 60-metre board at the Mont Blanc Resort indoor pool, or would you rather pull on a space suit and go crater hoping? There are gourmet meals at the luxurious restaurant in Moon City's Grand Shimizu Hotel, but Koppeschaar "found the service to be highly impersonal" - perhaps you'd better off spending your "selenes" solar-sailing in the Plato Crater Recreation Area. And what about as side trip to the Dark Side?

Some of the attractions Koppeschaar postulates for the moon in the year 2020 are gimmes, such as a Moon Museum near the spot where Apollo 11 made the first manned lunar landing in July 1969. Others, such as the Shepard Driving Range, where golfers can smack golf balls nearly two kilometres, are more whimsical creations. But everything researchable in the book has been, says Koppeschaar, and 90 percent of what he has made up is based in fact. The Japanese, for example, already have plans on the drawing board for a lunar resort.

The Moon Handbook was written mostly as a lark, but Koppeschaar also sees it serving a serious purpose: to raise our eyes from the special-effects universe of small- and large-screen space operas to the wonders that await us in the actual-reality sky. With luck, the Moon Handbook will help whet our appetite for some real cosmic exploration.

"We need to go to the moon," says Koppeschaar. "If not, we just go down and down. There is no future for humankind. If you're stuck here on earth, you're just looking at your own belly button."

In 2020, Koppeschaar will be 66. If the future unfolds as he hopes, look for him when you're wandering through Christa Mc Auliffe Memorial Park. He'll be the fellow with the tattered 20th-century guidebook in hand, seeing how much he got right!

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