Straight-shooting son of a gun
24 May 2017 19:42 (South Africa)
Sci-Tech

NARRATIVE: Ivo goes to the Moon

  • Branko Brkic
    branko3048 a ray
    Branko Brkic

    Brkic is the founder and editor of The Daily Maverick.

    He has edited magazines on business and politics, technology, and wildlife. He has also published fiction and non-fiction books, most of them in Serbian. Though he has never pretended to be a reporter, his wide knowledge of politics (especially in America), combined with his experiences in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, gives him an unusual outlook on events in South Africa.

    Despite the vowel-poor surname, he tells anyone who asks that he hails from Hyde Park, Johannesburg, having spent most of his adult life in South Africa.

    Recent columns:

  • Sci-Tech
ivo on the moon web

Within hours of learning they found water on the moon, my colonising expedition was fully staffed. By Ivo Vegter

I was in the pub when I first heard that they found water on the Moon. I heard it first, because I follow the best breaking news outfit in the entire universe, www.bnonews.com on Twitter (@breakingnews). The NASA LCROSS mission, as the now infamous bombing of the moon was called, caused collateral damage to a pristine ice field, kicking up not only a cloud of dust, but also water.

Immediately, I resolved to go there. Granted, I'd have to challenge Dennis Hope, the swindler who's been selling moon plots, but if I get there first, he can get knotted. Tradition has it that the first man to plant a flag gets the land. Other than the Apollo landing sites (which would make cool tourist attractions once spruced up with a few fast-food outlets), I intend the flags to be mine. I'll print my own, of course, since there's no way I'm ceding the right to tax or expropriate my property to some socialist Earth-bound government.

If there's water there – not to mention other “intriguing” substances, as NASA reports – I reckon the moon ripe for colonisation. I'm sure the natives will welcome peaceful settlers with trade in mind, if they plants their own flag, rather than that of the belligerent USA.

So I sent out a call for participants in the expedition. I'd need a publican, a blacksmith, a geek girl, and a vet, I reckoned, along with a few more useful people.

Applications started streaming in. Almost immediately, Twitter delivered to me a blacksmith, aptly named @dreamfoundry. Back at the pub I recruited a geek who said he could farm. I'm not sure I believe him, but he looked enthusiastic. Anyway, I'm sure the Moon is full of nitrogen and phosphates and all the other chemicals that make barley grow.

The publican was keen at first, but he later demurred. Luckily, a fellow from the brewery across the road popped in for a pint of his own. Between the brewer, the farmer and the blacksmith, I figured we had beer sorted. The brewer also offered graphic design skills, so we can have our own labels. “Lunar Lager”, “Bitter Moon” and “Sat Ale Light” have potential. Beer should trade well to the natives, and suitably marketed, would make a great export.

The farm-geek's Guildwars-playing girlfriend was dead keen too. She's been keen on going to the moon for years, to establish an upmarket B&B, but upmarket B&Bs need water. She also offered to sew spacesuits, which seemed useful.

An Irish carpenter soon joined the crew. Raze enough forest, he said, and we can build a charming town of moonwood. Who cares about the moonforests anyway? It's not like Earthlife can rightly claim an interest.

His wife, a police reservist, can be the minarchist state, protecting life, limb and private property. However, her father, an 80-year-old curmudgeon, called me a slubberdegullion, so I think he'll be staying behind.

While waiting for more applications to arrive, I started on a list of what we'd need.

An orrery. I have pictures of orreries, but I'll need a real one to navigate up there. Besides, orreries are way cooler than sextants and astrolabes.

My Applied Maths notes. I'm a little rusty, but I still have those classical mechanics lectures in a box somewhere.

A phone with a longer battery life. It might be a while before we get our nuclear power station fired up.

A cordless drill. Never go anywhere without it. It's useful for making holes, filling them with screws, and for driving small, ingenious, jury-rigged machines.

Several fishbowls of varying sizes, for our pets to wear. I'm certainly not leaving my cats and dogs behind.

A small tank. It seemed useful to Tintin and his crew, and I'd feel more secure trading with the natives when we have the means to enforce contracts.

Soon my list-making was interrupted, as applications from geek girls started arriving from all over the world. This was immensely cheering, even if some of them appeared curiously disinterested in helping to ensure the future of the colony. As a responsible, progressive colonist, I'm dead set on promoting gender equity, however, so I'm willing to overlook this slight. Besides, geek girls are great at making martinis, and they'd make up the numbers at an AD&D Low-Grav Edition party.

(You should check the dice with that thing. They rock. Well, roll. On the moon, you should be able to get fractions, like 4.5d20, which is cool.)

One of the geek girls turned out to be a nuclear physicist from MIT, so she can help build our power station. After all, we're going to need power for Google, Twitter and playing Guildwars. She's also a greenie, but I'm sure she knows solar panels are simply not economically viable.

The seamstress proposed jet packs to get us there, while the farmer proposed one of those circus cannons. There's no such thing as a bad idea, but after the influx of geeks, girls and geek girls, we were going to need something bigger. A space bus, so to speak.

Twitter to the rescue again. I was soon directed to Raytheon, which is big into minority development, equal-opportunity employment, and missile systems. I have my eye on a largish rocket, and reckon I can offer them the advertising real-estate on the side as a barter-deal for it.

Once we get the items on our list together, we'll be off. Two weeks, at most, I reckon. By George, here's hoping that the “intriguing substances” include oil and gold.

As soon as the first outpost is built, the brewery is running, and we made some profit from trade with the natives, we can send our rocketship back with barrels of beer, and pick up more colonists. Leave a motivation in the comments if you'd like to be on that ship.

While writing this, I got another phone call. Lovely girl, slightly mad. She offered to make tea. As anyone who's ever studied the secrets of the British Raj knows, you cannot possibly start a far-flung colony without tea.

By Ivo Vegter

  • Branko Brkic
    branko3048 a ray
    Branko Brkic

    Brkic is the founder and editor of The Daily Maverick.

    He has edited magazines on business and politics, technology, and wildlife. He has also published fiction and non-fiction books, most of them in Serbian. Though he has never pretended to be a reporter, his wide knowledge of politics (especially in America), combined with his experiences in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, gives him an unusual outlook on events in South Africa.

    Despite the vowel-poor surname, he tells anyone who asks that he hails from Hyde Park, Johannesburg, having spent most of his adult life in South Africa.

    Recent columns:

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