A short yet eventful tale of a boy who keeps trying to disprove an old wives’ tale. Sheer luna-cy guaranteed!
Don Liu financed the Malaysian Space Habitat and Interstellar Telescope, aka as the MySHIT.
Blame it on his grandmother.
This obsession with the construction of Big Dumb Objects In Space began when Don was nine years old. Bored during his annual visits to his grandmother’s house, he would make his way up to the roof and gaze at the night sky. On various nights Don called Grandma up to the roof, eager to show off his knowledge of moon phases.
“Waxing moon!” Don pointed up at the night sky.
Faced with this precocious display of knowledge, Grandma trotted out the old superstition about how if you point at the moon, you’d get a cut behind your ear.
“Why?” asked Don.
“Bbecause you will anger the Lady in the Moon and the Jade Rabbit!”
Ridiculous as it sounded to him, Don didn’t mind Grandma’s explanation, as she lived alone with her guinea pig since Granddad died, Grandma must’ve felt some kinship with the Lady in the Moon and her rabbit. But the severity of the penalty increased with each visit over the years and turned into outright THREATS:
- “Both of your ears will get cut off!”
- “Your tongue will be pulled out!”
- “You’ll be blinded!”
Such groundless threats had no effect on him. Don figured a way to piss off Grandma even more. The next year he visited he brought his telescope and set it up on a tripod stand. This time he was armed with FACTS and he told them to Grandma when she found him on the roof:
- “There’s no Lady in the Moon because there’s no life on the Moon.”
- “There’s no rabbit in the Moon too. Those rabbit-shaped markings visible on the surface are traces of ancient lava flows.”
- “Moonlight takes 1.3 seconds to reach the Earth, so the cuts, blinding or tongue-pulling would occur 1.3 seconds later. Fair warning!”
Grandma didn’t know what to say to Don and retreated from the roof.
“I hear you’ve been rude to grandma.” admonished his father during the car drive back home.
“Not my fault – she kept telling me idiotic superstitions about pointing at the Moon!” Don replied.
“Superstitions do contain a grain of truth – no matter how miniscule it may be,” his father conceded, ” Now we are shooting all sorts of things into space. But remember– in your grandmother’s time the Moon was out of reach.”
“I’m so glad I don’t live in the Dark Ages!” Don returned to his game on his iPad.
Grandma died years later when Don was at home during a university break. The dead can’t speak to the living but their voices leave behind persistent echoes. Wide awake during the funeral and stoned out of his mind, Don gazed at the closed casket and was reminded of the old superstition. He attempted to rebutt it in his mind, but ended up creating more questions than he could answer. Such as:
- What’d happen if you point at the moon during a lunar eclipse? Since the moon is obscured by the Earth’s shadow would you still get a cut on the earlobe?
- What’d happen if you point at the Sun during a solar eclipse and unintentionally point at the Moon, since it is in the way?
- What if you’re standing on the Moon and you point at the Earth?
- What’d happen if you point at Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System?
- What’d happen if you pointed in the general direction of the largest moon ever discovered in the history of astronomy?
After the funeral and several lines of cocaine, these questions drove Don mad, so he wrote an article and submitted it to the International Space Agency’s quarterly journal. They rejected it without comment, but here’s an excerpt:
“…Lets say you live on a planet such as Jupiter, which has *65* moons. On a romantic Jovian night, you have one arm around your date and you point at the multiple moons in the sky (for the purposes of this article imagine that Jupiter has a solid surface, breathable atmosphere,cloud-free skies and parks for lovers…) “Oh darling look, there’s Io, Europa, Callisto, …OW!OW!OW!”
Don graduated a year later and put his MBA to good use. Through a dorm-mate, he invested in a start-up company operating out of a tax haven in Iceland, launching makeshift satellites into the Earth’s orbit. Don rode the 21st century wave of tech start-ups and made it big. He made it so big that although he didn’t have the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise, he had more than enough money to hire the people who had them, and to get the right people to pull strings and slash through red tape.
To the people-higher-up, he proposed MySHIT, a combination of the Hubble Telescope and the International Space Station, locking into a geostationary orbit around the Earth. Since Don provided the funding he oversaw all aspects of MySHIT. The people-higher-than-the people-higher-up didn’t care what MySHIT did or how it looked, as long as the country was occupying one of the prestigious orbital slots in space around the Earth and the Moon, slots which were usually taken by developed countries and developing nations with budding space programs. The gamble worked– international investors sudden took notice.
Besides, the people-higher-than-the-people – higher- than the people-higher-up did’t care about exploring space. They gleefully rubbed their hands at the chance to use future MySHIT expenses to write off big spending on other Big Dumb Public Projects. Don Liu could have launched a huge turd into space and stuck a middle finger up to the rest of the world.
Which was exactly what he did with MySHIT.
“It’s not like we had zero idea of what MySHIT looked like during the planning stage, ” said the head of the design team (who had his face pixellated) in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Cooper Anderson, a year after the MySHIT Lunar Accident, “Liu had been very specific about the specs. He had a vision and was determined to realise it.”
At that point in the interview, Anderson referred to the infamous photoset of MySHIT, taken by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. From one angle the telescope shaft and its housing looked like a massive turd covered with reflective and solar panels. From another angle, the long shaft of the telescope receded into the background leaving the bukly of the main section of the labs, engines and living quarters prominently in the foreground.
MySHIT resembed the severed hand of a giant flipping the birdie, if said giant was wearing a glove covered with glitter.
After MySHIT was launched (in stages) from an undisclosed and top secret location in the Gobi Desert and assembled in orbit, the world laughed and scoffed at MySHIT and at Don. Questions were raised in the UN , and the USA, Russia and China engaged in furious negotiations to form a three-nation agreement about about stricter enforcement of Space Law.
In the meanwhile, internet memes were circulated and people watched the night sky for a glimpse of MySHIT. Fans of the late Michael Jackson were angered by the glittering gloved hand resemblance and sent death threats to Don’s office in a Shanghai mega-skyscraper. They needn’t have gone to all the trouble – Don was never there.
Don was high up in his home office suite on MySHIT and his refusal to speak to the media resulted in more speculation and ridicule, such the following memes, such as “DON LIU DOESN’T GIVE A MySHIT” and “WOULD MySHIT BE BIGGER THAN UrSHIT?”.
Don didn’t care – he was literally living the high life and he had all the time in the world to devote to stargazing.
He managed to formulate answers to the four out of the five questions which had troubled him and set him off on the journey to building MySHIT:
1. Nothing happened when I pointed at the Moon with the MySHIT Optical Reflector Telescope (ORT).
2. There was a solar flare the second after the MySHIT ORT was aimed at the Sun, but the tech team reported no cuts behind their ears or injury to other parts of the body.
3. I made a trip to the Moon’s surface to answer this question – when I pointed at the Earth some dust settled over my visor and scratched it. An irrelevant outcome.
4. The MySHIT ORT was pointed at Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System is a moon of Jupiter. Since light from Jupiter takes 43 minutes to reach the Earth, the tech team waited for 86 minutes (a round trip) before reporting no cuts behind their ears or other major injuries.
5. Unable to answer this final question- the tech team resigned en masse last week and returned to Earth.
Don discovered a new exoplanet orbiting Alderberaan in the constellation Scorpio, but lost out in his bid to name the planet “Henessey Exo.”. Various tinpot dictators (including the PM) and entrepreneurs seeking instant publicity bombarded Don with requests for a tour of MySHIT. He rebuffed them all, and soon began gradually dismissing of the rest of the staff, technicians and lab personnel. The onboard computer, MySHIT PC, took over the running of the station. It was all working out very well for Don.
Until MySHIT crashed into the Moon.
The exact causes of the mishap are still not known, although the MySHIT PC’s black box records nothing out of the ordinary in the station’s operation until an hour before the event. Don is heard talking to himself and yet addressing his long deceased grandmother:
<Black box transcript excerpt>: “….nothing happens when you point at the Moon at any time! The size of the finger or finger-shaped object doesn’t matter too! You hear me, you silly old lady? I don’t have any cuts behind my ears, my tongue is still in my mouth and I can still see! Just to prove you wrong for eternity I am going to manually change the orbital position of this station so that it will always point at the Moon!” <sounds of metal grinding and explosions in the background>
MySHIT crashlanded on Tycho, the impact crater in the Moon’s southern hemisphere and the one facing Earthside. No one on Earth heard the explosion, because sound does not travel in the vacuum of space, but when they saw a massive turd/ hand-flipping-the-middle-finger disfiguring the surface of the beloved Moon, the international furore could not be silenced.
“CLEAN UP MySHIT!” raged the headlines. All the people-higher-than-the-rest-of-the-people-lower-down denied any involvement in MySHIT and claimed that since the space station was a private venture, the onus was on Don Liu and his associates to salvage the wreckage. The MySHIT wreck was not of national concern.
However, Don did not have to wait long for a team to pull him out of the wreckage and transport his battered body back to Earth. After anesthetising him in the shuttle, the team pulled a black bag over his head.
Don came to when they pulled the black bag off him. He was still breathing recycled air and the low ceiling above him was stamped with sheet metal. He was in an underground bunker. He thought he was still trapped inside MySHIT.
Later, he really wished he was.
“Do you know who we are?” asked a female voice. Don focused his eyes, and saw he was sitting across a table from a young Chinese lady dressed in camoflage fatigues.
“No?” replied Don, and received a blow to the head.
“Wrong answer.” said the lady and gestured to the wall behind her. Don’s tearing eyes read the red letters painted on a banner of pearly white silk:
THE ARMY OF THE MOON LADY
“What is this shit?” spat Don, “Do you know who I am?”
(Another blow to the head)
The lady laughed, it sounded like a glass window breaking. “You got a real nerve talking about shit when you’re the creator of the biggest piece of shit in human history!”
“Okay, the game’s up — how much do you – or your army want?”
The lady sneered at Don, “We don’t want your money! We want you dead. Before that, tortured to death for your sacrilege against Our Lady Moon!”
“OUR LADY MOON!” three guards behind Don saluted the banner and genuflected.
“AND HIS LORD RABBIT!” the lady clasped her hands in prayer.
“What is this- a cult?” Don asked, now petrified as the anesthesia had worn off.
This time, a guard lightly pistol-whipped Don.
“Stop hitting him,” the lady waved the guard away, “Mr. Don Liu needs to understand the penalty for his crimes against our Lady Moon.”
“Penalty?” yelled Don, “Says you and what army?”
By way of reply, the lady pointed at the banner on the wall. Don shut up and whimpered while she continued talking:
“MyShit besmirched the face of the Moon every time it passed in front of it. We were tolerant but not accepting of this and the presence of the space station. When we heard of the crash we rejoiced, and thought our vigilance could come to an end. Until we saw the mark MySHIT left on the Moon.”
Don pleaded, and tried to get up, but the pain was too much, “I’ll get my team to salvage and clear up the wreckage! Just let me go and I’ll give you and your army anything you want!
“Anything?” asked the lady.
“So be it.” and she snapped her fingers at the guards.
They put the black bag over Don’s head again. Don’s body was later discovered at the Gobi Desert launch site, missing both of his ears and his tongue. His eyes had been plucked out. At a checkpoint near Siberia, the border police arrested a guard of the Army of the Moon Lady, but never caught Don’s lady interrogator or the rest of the army.
“The prisoner was the strangest one I’ve seen,” recalled the guard. He had been present during Don’s torture and murder, “His final words before we punished him were, ‘Grandma, I’m so sorry, you were right after all!’.”