In the void (Moon Room)
"There is an ancient saying that the sense of a vessel is not in its shell but in the void. So it is with this room. It is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness." – Dag Hammarskjöld, 1957
OKLAHOMA CITY – Back in 2014, I reviewed Roger Lipsey’s biography of Swedish diplomat and the second Secretary-General to serve at the United Nations – Dag Hammarskjöld.
As I noted in the review, Hammarskjöld (who was most likely assassinated in a 1961 plane crash in Africa) was both a “cerebral man” who also had a “deeply spiritual side.”
At the time, I wrote: “A lover of books and of quiet contemplation, this Christian-raised Swede was key in creating the UN’s “Meditation Room,” also called “The Room of Quiet,” at UN Headquarters in New York City.
MONOLITH: The United Nations' "Room of Quiet" aka "Meditation Room." (UN.org)
The Room of Quiet, completed in December 1957, ‘remains to this day a small space where his large view of the relations between infer life and the world’s work is preserved,” writes Lipsey. With a massive iron-ore altar secured into the bedrock below and a Modernist fresco created by Hammarskjold’s friend Bo Beskow, The Room of Quiet was, as Hammarskjöld wrote, a “small room where the doors may be open to the infinite lands of thought and prayer.’”
Infinite lands, indeed. And opened soon after the Soviets launched the first artificial Earth satellite into space – Sputnik 1. Nineteen fifty-seven was a big year.
The Room of Quiet, it should be noted, was put forth by Hammarskjöld with help from a global-minded group “composed of Christians, Jews, and Moslems,” according to the United Nations website. All of the Abrahamic faiths were involved and it is a room that that inspires “harmony, freedom and balance of space.” This room is meant to unify all faiths and all of humankind.
And the monolith in the center of the room? It is a six-and-half-ton rectangular block of iron ore, polished on the top and illuminated from above by a single spotlight. Sound familiar?
And so Dag Hammarskjöld’s gift to Planet Earth, in the form of the Meditation Room at the UN, was on my mind as I came across a UK Daily Mail story that really caught my attention, headlined: “The incredible lunar TEMPLE: European space bosses reveal plan for 50m high ‘dome of contemplation.’” Very "esoteric" overtones, as writer Joseph P. Farrell put it today.
You read it right. The European Space Agency is taking things a step – or more – further than Hammarskjöld ever could. With a planned lunar base expected to be built and opened in the next decade, a "lunar temple" - a "Moon Room" - is expected to be built alongside mankind's first habitable lunar outpost.
Reports The Daily Mail: "Artist Jorge Mañes Rubio, part of ESA's future-oriented Advanced Concepts Team (ACT), designed the temple to be built alongside ESA's planned Moon base.
Mañes Rubio said: “'I've been having all sorts of discussions with my ACT colleagues, including speculating on the likely needs of future lunar settlers.
'What kind of social interactions will they share, what cultural activities and rituals will they have, and what sort of art and artefacts will they be producing?
'Humans have been creating art for at least 30 000 years, so I have no doubt this will continue in space and on the Moon.’”
Added Mañes Rubio and ESA: The 'Moon Temple' is intended as a symbol of unity for humankind, reflecting the pull that our natural satellite has always had on the human imagination ... Lunar settlement represents a perfect chance for a fresh start, a place where there are no social conventions, no nations and no religion, somewhere where these concepts will need to be rethought from scratch."
CRATER OF ETERNAL DARKNESS
Shackleton Crater at the lunar south pole. (Image via The UK Daily Mail and artist Jorge Mañes Rubio)
The temple would be built on the sunlit rim of Shackleton Crater, which is bathed much of the time in sunlight while overlooking a 4.2 km-deep interior mired in perpetual shadow (eternal darkness).
The location of this ESA lunar base and “Moon temple” is the Shackleton Crater, which is on the south pole of the Moon. It is named after British explorer Ernest Shackleton, who was part of the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration” and was part of the 1901-03 National Antarctic Expedition, also known as “The Discovery Expedition,” named after the expedition’s ship, the RRS Discovery, which was first launched in 1901 – exactly 100 years before 2001.
That, of course, was the year science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke set his most famous story – 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its spaceship Discovery, which was named after the original Discovery, which Shackleton was a part of on the original adventure, alongside expedition leader Robert Falcon Scott.
In Clarke’s novel and the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film of the same name, the United States sends Discovery to Jupiter (or Saturn, as Clarke preferred in his novel) to see what it was that the black monolith discovered in the Moon’s Tycho Crater (not terribly far from Shackleton Crater) was signaling out there on the outer reaches of the solar system.
One-time Red Dirt Report writer Kendal Stegmann reviewed Nick Bertozzi’s book Shackleton: Antarctic Journey in 2014. She writes how impressed she was regarding the “unbelievable and deadly conditions” Shackleton and his men faced in the Antarctic.
He was such a leader that, Stegmann wrote: “He absolutely refused to lose anyone. He made every effort to keep his men from losing hope. Another aspect I found amazing was that there seemed to be very few feelings of mutiny.”
Fastforward to 1985. This was the year that NASA astronaut William Fisher was a Mission Specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-51-I mission, which took 7 days. It was Fisher's only spaceflight and one that impacted his life, undoubtedly. And Fisher, in 2014, spoke with Red Dirt Report about his interest in a "glowing" vinyl copy of the Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I wrote about Fisher's interest in the album here and the fact that no one can tell him why his particular copy "glows" under a black light. The copy of that particular album here at our office does not glow. But so far, nobody's talking.
FISHER OF MEN: Discovery astronaut fascinated with glowing Sgt. Pepper's album. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)
Oh, and 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
I am also reminded of the 2014 science-fiction film Interstellar, a film which uses a ship called Endurance, most likely named after the ship Sir Ernest Shackleton led to Antarctica in 1914 – just at the start of World War I, oddly enough. The ship would experience serious problems en route, in the Southern Ocean and would be met with disaster. Shackleton would survive and later end up in Norway and again in the Southern Ocean and the island of South Georgia, where he died in 1922.
"MYSTERIES OF SPACE ..."
And now, in 2017, as a confused world looks down at their smartphones, to get the latest bad news about the Trump administration’s fascistic edicts and embrace of evil and eternal "darkness," I can’t help but wonder if Trump and his crew will really follow through with his plans to “unlock the mysteries of space.”
As I wrote in my “Space is the place” article, Trump insiders say he is serious about kickstarting America’s role in space exploration. As one insider told Space News: “Human exploration of our entire solar system by the end of this century should be NASA’s focus and goal.”
It looks as though the European Space Agency may be a step ahead of NASA, however. Perhaps we can all work together - peacefully - on a unifying project like a lunar base. And having a lunar temple at Shackleton Crater is a tremendously exciting idea, as we begin to "take a giant step" once again.
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