Google, Inc. Announces Plan To Mark Lunar Surface With Giant Image Across 1,500 Miles Of Terrain
Using State Of The Art Tech, Google Launches Plans To Mark the Moon By Stirring Up Its Sun Bleached Soil -- But Creates Public Dust Up In The Process
By TRAVIS MOORE
Published September 7, 2014
An announcement on Friday by Google, Inc. of plans to alter the surface of the Moon and create an image visible from Earth has sparked controversy. Google CEO and co-founder Larry Gage told a small group of tech reporters that the Silicon Valley-based tech giant's first mission beyond the Earth will be to land 27 golf-cart sized robots on the lunar surface. The robots’ purpose: create a 1,500-mile wide shape on the lunar landscape that will be easily visible from Earth. The shape will be appear from earth as a giant “G.” According to Gage, it will take over three years for Google to mark the surface if successful landing the rovers.
Public reaction to the announcement has been mixed. Late Friday evening, Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a statement accusing Google of “seizing for its own gain something that has belonged to the world for the history of humankind.” Also, a number of House members have suggested during the weekend that Congress might pass legislation to protect the moon.
Constitutional scholars question whether Congress can control what happens on the moon. “The Constitution allows Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not interstellar commerce,” said constitutional law professor and CNN commentator Alec Derbowitz. “Google can set up a separate entity offshore, and Congress would have a difficult time stopping it.”
On Saturday, the public’s poor reception of the plan became evident across various social networks. Apparently feeling the heat, Gage circulated a message on his Google-plus account: “Everyone’s assuming the ‘G’ is for Google, but it also can stand for ‘God,’ ‘Goodness,’ and lots of other ‘good’ stuff.” He also underscored that the shape will not be permanent. “The shape will be subtle, will fade over time and not even be visible after a few centuries,” he wrote.
In a posting on Google’s official website, the company provided an image (above) of what it hopes to achieve and also describe at least some of the specifics of the plan. It appears that much planning already has been done. Google intends to use an updated Russian N-1 rocket which it would “co-develop” with the Russian Space Agency. A new space arm of Google – “Google Space” – will contribute the know-how to land the devices on the lunar surface. Google technology will be used to guide robots across the lunar surface to create the giant “G” shape.
They don’t even need to remove the top layer, just mix it up with the soil below to make it a gradation or two darker.”
Perhaps the most elegant part of the plan is how Google will mark the lunar surface. Lunar soil is composed of fine basaltic and anorthositic rock, the product of continuous meteoric impact and bombardment by interstellar charged atomic particles. The very top layer of the lunar soil has a white color because it has been bleached by the unfiltered sunlight for the past 4.5 billion years. Just a millimeter deep the lunar soil has a much darker hue, as astronauts during the Apollo mission learned. By disturbing the lunar soil with a rake or plow-like device dragged by its lunar rovers, Google will be able to create a darker image over a massive area.
“They don’t even need to remove the top layer, just mix it up with the soil below to make it a gradation or two darker,” said New York-based “earth art” expert and social commentator Barbara Wenzig-Eiffel. “I don’t care why they are doing it, I think it’s the most wonderful thing since Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty’ in 1970.”
NASA-watcher and self-professed “space junkie” Bart Sitrol agrees. “Google could never lift enough paint to the moon to mark a sizeable surface,” he said. “It seems like an audacious plan, but I’m not sure what stands in their way given the tech they have in their arsenal.”
Indeed, Google has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in robot technology such as self-driving cars. It does not seem a far stretch for Google to engineer moon rovers to traverse the surface. “The biggest challenge will be moon craters, but the larger ones should not be so difficult,” said former NASA scientist and current Santa Marino College astrophysics professor Herman Mueller. “They can simply skip those small craters that have a steep drop off.”
Google’s biggest hurdle might be on planet Earth: public opinion.