By Gerry Moran
“Space, the final frontier, these are the voyages of the star ship Enterprise, its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
This introduction began every episode of the original Star Trek series which I loved because I love space. I love space because we all – men, women and children and every living creature on earth – came from an exploding star! “We are stardust,” to quote a line from Joni Mitchell’s wonderful song Woodstock.
I mention all this because this is Space Week (October 4 – 10) the nation’s premier celebration of space exploration and science (see www.spaceweek.ie) How I became fascinated with space I do not know but anytime I look up at a star-studded sky, the philosopher breaks out in me (as it does in many of us) when I ask the age-old, clichéd questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? And why are we here?
Back in 1924 Captain Jack Boyle in Seán O’Casey’s play Juno And The Paycock asked: “What is the stars, Joxer? Ah, that is the question. What is the stars?” Well, we now know what the stars are – massive balls of gas, hydrogen and helium, just like our star, the sun, all of 93,000,000 miles away. A hell of a distance but consider our nearest neighbour, the star Proxima Centauri which is 4.24 light-years away.
And let me try and explain light-years. Light travels at 186,000 miles a second. There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. Multiply that by 186,000 and that’s how many miles light travels in a year (a light year) – 5.88 trillion miles (check it if you wish as maths was never my forte). And then, the easy bit, multiply that by 4.24 and that’s how far the nearest star is from us! And there are billions of stars in our galaxy, The Milky Way, and there are billions of galaxies in the Universe! Which is why yours truly believes that there has to be intelligent life, aliens if you wish, out there.
In fact I am so convinced that there’s life out there that I occasionally stand in my back garden at night, look up at the star-studded sky and say: “Listen, aliens, if you are out there, come down, introduce yourselves, I’m a sociable guy, give me a ride in your flying saucer, or fancy flying contraption, take me on a tour of the galaxy, but get me back in time for Match of the Day.”
So far the aliens haven’t answered me yet. Which is okay but it would prove once and for all, that aliens do exist. Plus, I’d also like to check out the seating arrangement on alien aircraft – just to see if it’s any roomier than Ryan Air or Aer Lingus. And I’d like to see if they serve better in-flight meals (which wouldn’t be hard). Plus it would be the mother-of-all excuses for coming home late from the pub. Wife: “And where were you till this hour of the morning?” (maybe five or six am.) Moi: “On a quick tour of the Milky Way.”
Wife: “You need psychiatric help, Gerry Moran. And you need it NOW.”
On the topic of aliens I watched an American TV chat show some years back dedicated to aliens. On the show a very articulate blonde claimed to be an actual alien. Now if aliens look even remotely like this lady, we humans (males in particular) are in for a pleasant surprise when the flying saucers arrive. Asked how she knew she was an alien she said it was because of memories she had of belonging to another civilisation, not human.
Jeez, I know people like that. But I don’t call them aliens. I call them something else entirely.
As it happened I was watching the show with my two sons. “Guys,” I jokingly asked, “by any chance are any of you aliens?”
“Da,” said my 14-year-old: “You KNOW I’m from Saturn.”Ah humour. Must be in the genes. By the way how much does a DNA test cost these days?
PS: Star Trek Day takes place on September 8 every year in honour of the premiere of the original TV series which started on that date back in 1966. Okay, so September 8 has passed but you can still check it out on the Net.