There’s [Fill in the Blank] on That There Moon!

Many years ago, Kurt Vonnegot wrote one of his justifiably less famous novels, The Sirens of Titan, in which an inexplicably important Earthman becomes involved in a web of intrigue involving, among other innovations, a “chronosynclastic infundibulum” and three assorted scantily clad women. For old Kurt’s hero, the trio of Titanian tarts (only one of whom was Titian in coloring, however), were the impetus for undertaking a major and risky exploration of space.
These days, I have seen in recent news reports, “the young” (that demographic which only the media seems to think is influential) are said to have difficulty understanding the value of the space program. Young folks don’t see the excitement in exploring other worlds, they say, and have become so used to the marvels of medicine, communications, computing and other space-derived technology that they regard these miracles as “normal.”
Sad news for the future, if these reports are accurate. And somehow, I doubt me that NASA’s attempts to address this condition with PR will be successful. It could happen that in fifteen and twenty years, when the texting-addicted, IPOD-wearing, chatroom lurking masses have outlived enough of us Space Cadets, the American space program will be neglected right to death (not that the recent administrations haven’t done a fair job of it all on their own). Could be that the Russians and Chinese will own Outer Space.
But wait! There’s hope. As you will see from the link above, robotic space probes have found that that self-same Titan of Vonnegut’s musing may be covered with “vast oceans of hydrocarbons,” with an atmosphere rich in methane (phew!) and nitrogen.
Yep, that’s right! There’s OIL on that there moon!
Not only does this indicate that either there is a) life on Titan or b) hydrocarbons are geological, not biological in origin, but also, this could be just the lure to excite the gum-chewing masses in a way that science, exploration, discovery, knowledge and adventure apparently cannot. Can’t you see it?
[Pan in from Saturn orbit to cloud-wrapped Titan, dive through the clouds to a turgidly heaving sea and a drilling rig where space-suited wildcatters tug on slimy hoses]
Voiceover – “ExxonExoEarth is working to keep your tanks full, your homes warm, your IPODs charged. Our teams of Sino-Russian technicians are working hard so you won’t have to.”
Now that’s something they’ll understand. No imagination required. They’ll buy it at the pumps, if not at the polls. We can leave space exploration to the multinationals – what’s good for Exxon-Mobile is good for Earth.
If not, maybe NASA could convince the teeming multitudes that are our posterity that there are armies of scantily clad and inexplicably human babes up there beneath the stinky clouds of Titan. That might convince them log off for an hour or two.

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