A Brief, Bright Consolation for Hitchhikers

It’s been a rough week for Douglas Adams fans, what with the release of Eoin Colfer’s unwanted and unnecessary Hitchhikers book And Another Thing hitting shelves. But there is a silver lining in that NASA honored Adams in a vastly less mercantile way when they blew up the moon earlier this week. It’s kind of wonderful, so I’ll just let the Guardian tell it:

In one of its less-reported actions last week, Nasa’s LCROSS lunar mission last week gave Douglas Adams‘s
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the extra-planetary exposure it has
always deserved. A Twitter feed from the satellite sent crashing onto the moon‘s
surface on Friday channelled the voice of an improbably created sperm
whale that discovers itself hurtling towards a different outer-space
collision in Adams’s much-loved story.

Published 30 years ago,
the classic novel features two missiles, aimed at Zaphod Beeblebrox’s
spaceship the Heart of Gold, turned into a whale and a bowl of petunias
by the vessel’s Improbability Drive (at an Improbability Factor of
8,767,128 against). The whale spends the last few minutes of its life
pondering its existence – “Ahhh! Woooh! What’s happening? Who am I? Why
am I here? What’s my purpose in life? What do I mean by who am I?” –
before it crashes into the surface of the planet Magrathea.

As Nasa’s LCROSS spacecraft travelled towards the moon at more than 9,000 kilometres per hour on Friday afternoon, it tweeted in the whale’s words:
“And what’s this thing coming toward me very fast? So big and flat and
round … it needs a big wide sounding name like ‘Ow’, ‘Ownge’,
‘Round’, ‘Ground’! … That’s it! Ground! Ha! I wonder if it’ll be
friends with me?”

Then it crashed into the moon, unfortunately
failing to produce the 10km plume of dust and rock which could have
been scanned for evidence of frozen water. Nasa made no mention of
Adams’s bowl of petunias, which thought only “Oh no, not again” as it
tumbled towards Magrathea.

That’s absolutely fantastic, NASA — classy and funny, and a gesture that certainly would have been appreciated by Adams himself.