Friday, May 11, 2012

Sensing and Believing

As someone who did not have the pleasure of being around for the moon landings first-hand I'm admittedly relying on hearsay, but it seems to me as though the basic importance of the landings lied in the experience itself. Everyone was reading the papers, watching the news, following the story together as the journey went along. Even today I'm betting that most of us can conjure up an image of the Earth from the moon, or of the astronauts walking across its surface. Boots in the dust are another example, and there I feel as though you can even get the visceral feeling of planting feet where no one thought they could ever be. This is how we all "experience" the moon, and I feel as though it is in fact just about the only value we get from all of the trouble.

What struck me most about Omon's own trip, in as much as he had one, was the distance he was forced to keep from the actual moon experience. There was no sound stage even, on which they were going to trick him into believing that he was walking along the surface. The only time he steps off the bicycle his eyes are sealed up, for obvious practical reasons as far as the higher-ups are concerned. No touching, no looking, basically. For me, the image is absolutely tragic. I feel as though Omon would have had a better fate were he to be sent to the actual moon on a death mission, as he had been told. After all, it would have been possible to achieve something, and to have a moment or two of that sensation, of being away from and above the Earth and its problems, which he wanted so badly.

I bring this up because I think it has interesting implications for the novel as a whole. In particular, Colonel Urchagin explains to Omon that the idea behind the project is that the Soviets can take the lead in the space race if just one pure soul believes in the mission (149-150). Could Omon have been that pure soul without a true, tactile encounter with the moon? Even if the gun had not jammed, and the mission had gone off without a hitch, would there have been a gain even in the suspect logic of the higher-ups? I'm not certain that there would have been.


  1. Is the whole thing a let down? Maybe this is a commentary on American space travel, too.

    1. Drew, our thoughts on this book seem to be very similar. I don't know if this is a commentary on American space travel, but it easily could be!

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  3. There is no doubt that Omon's "trip to the moon" was a letdown for him. I do think that given an actual mission to the moon, Omon could have been that "pure soul" that the Soviets were looking for. However, I think this would only be possible if the entire automated program was not a farce. That is, Omon's trip to the moon would have been infinitely more meaningful if the space program was designed to send cosmonauts to the moon and bring them back to Russia.

  4. One of my favorite authors is Ray Bradbury,who often writes about space travel.Omon Ra reminded me of his works in a lot of ways, just because they both capture the weird fallacies of society as well as deal with the issues of space travel. One short story of his I particularly liked, "The Rocket," is about a man who makes a pretend spaceship for his kids because he can't afford to take all of them on a real rocket. His kids believe it's real, and he takes them on a space tour. It's a very poignant story, and I think this idea of a pure soul plays into both stories in different ways. In Omon Ra it's a bit sinister and deceptive, but in "The Rocket" the deception is more understandable and less dishonest.