To the Moon I go and Other Stories
Nair, Subha Purushothaman
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What an astronomer or a physicist imagines is not what an astronaut or a spacecraft finds. All prominent astronomers including Aryabhata, Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo were astrologers too as at the time, astrology was a discipline tied to the study of astronomy and mathematics. I’m extremely interested in astrology: the study of the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies for the way that they influence human affairs and the natural world. I find it fascinating how we have modified the precious technology of astrology, by refusing to look at it in depth, for mere entertainment purposes in the recent past. With the Moon that tugs at our tides, Jupiter that constantly deflects asteroids from us, and the Sun that sits in the right spot to protect the Earth from becoming a molten rock or an icy ball, it’s hard to dismiss the power of the planetary influences on both the animate and the inanimate. ‘That the sky does something to man is certain, but what it does specifically remains hidden,’ said Kepler. Doesn’t all that is hidden conceal itself within us also? What is interesting to me are those intangible aspects of planets, those planetary properties and archetypes that ‘get inside a person’. Rocks, silicates, orbits, methane rivers, diamond rains, supersonic winds are all elements of outer space. Of these, some we know to exist while some we imagine. One cannot fully know through explorations or observations as their inferences always change with time and technology. For the ancients, studying the movements of celestial bodies, was a question of survival. It was important to keep track of their positions relative to the Earth and understand how to prepare for a season and predict future events. As a result of their observations over eons, we have a complex, empirical, intuitive technology for forecasting that is used to this day. Such a tool is the birth chart ─ a snapshot of the sky that shows the position of each planet at the moment of our birth. A typical birth chart starts with the ascendant or the rising sign and illustrates which planets, constellations, and signs occupy the twelve houses that it’s divided into. The country that introduced me to astrology is India and for the same reason, my short stories are set there. In India, I find a wide variety of interesting characters from different strata of society and I see a drastic difference in culture, beliefs, and customs, from state to state. The inspiration and ideas for my stories come from my study of NASA explorations, missions, my research on astronomy, specific planetary positions in birth charts, mythology, planetary mediums, compositions, and visible features of planets, stars and other celestial bodies. I’m sharing my dreams, emotions, fears, and thoughts about celestial bodies in this collection. My stories invite dialogue about questions from the planets’ perspective. How would a planet feel being in a deserted orbit? How would it feel when it comes in close contact with another? How would it feel when a spacecraft encroaches on its privacy? If astronomers develop emotions and cry for spacecraft they sent out to space, and if astrologers can find ways to worship and appease the planets, why can’t we all feel for planets too?