Colombo, Foreign Relations

How Sri Lanka Missed the Moon

When Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the Moon 40 years ago this month, they were more than just Americans taking that historic first step on to another celestial body.

Apollo 11

They did plant the American flag there, acknowledging the nation whose tax payers had financed the massive operation. To allay any fears that one nation was claiming the Moon — which was explicitly ruled out by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 — they also left a plaque which read: “Here men from the Planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” It was signed by the three astronauts –- Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins –- and President Richard Nixon.

The plaque received wide publicity at the time, but the astronauts actually left behind some more items. Amidst the various scientific instruments and other items gathering dust at the first landing site — in the southern Sea of Tranquility — is a small white cloth pouch. It contains a silicon disc, which is one of the most important and symbolic items taken to the Moon.

Disc
Etched on to that disc, about the size of a half US dollar coin, are miniaturised messages of goodwill and peace from 73 heads of state or government around the world. These letters were received by the US space agency NASA only during the final weeks running up to the launch on 16 July 1969, yet this disc helped turn the Apollo 11 mission into an international endeavour.

The disc was a late-breaking idea. It was only in June 1969 that the US State Department authorised NASA to solicit messages of goodwill from world leaders to be flown and left on the Moon. In those days before fax, email and Internet, this triggered a minor diplomatic frenzy. Hurried invitations went out from Thomas O Paine, the NASA Administrator who was ultimately responsible for the lunar missions.

In all, 116 countries were contacted through their embassies in Washington DC, but only 72 responded in time (The United Nations had 127 member states by that time.) With the initiator US, it made up 73 nations. The disc carried statements by US presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, each of who had provided political leadership to the American space programme.

Some countries were confused by NASA’s unusual request. Others asked for more details — without realizing that the window for their inclusion was closing fast. Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, was among those countries that did respond. But for unknown and unexplained reasons, Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake declined to send a message to the Moon.

SL to NASA

In a letter dated 15 July 1969 addressed to the NASA Administrator, A T Jayakoddy, Charge d’Affairs at the Embassy of Ceylon in Washington, wrote:

“The Government of Ceylon whilst thanking NASA for its kindness in requesting such a message has decided not to send such a message.”

The reply, cushioned in diplomatic niceties, gives no hint or reason for the decision. Ceylon thus ruled itself out from being part of the historic mission to the Moon.

Was it some misplaced geopolitical considerations, or simple diplomatic arrogance that led to Ceylon’s negative decision? Why did the Cambridge-educated, liberally inclined Prime Minister turn down the historic opportunity? After all these years, we might never know.

The Ceylonese government’s letter of decline is now part of the public record, thanks to a book that came out in 2007. Titled “We Came In Peace For All Mankind: The Untold Story Of The Apollo 11 Silicon Disc”, it was researched and authored by Tahir Rahman, a Kansas-based physician and space historian.

Last minute rush

The book documents the full story behind this little known facet of the very widely covered Apollo 11 mission. It also reproduces each of the 73 goodwill messages, as well as those which were received too late for inclusion on the disc.

“I was amazed at how NASA and the State Department rushed to get these messages before launch,” says Rahman. He took two months to locate from the Library of Congress the boxes in which Administrator Paine had preserved the full correspondence.

When I contacted him recently for additional insights, Rahman replied: “I do not have any information about why Sri Lanka did not send an Apollo 11 goodwill message.”

Sir Arthur C Clarke, with whom I worked for over 20 years, was also intrigued by Ceylon’s decision, which he didn’t know about until Rahman’s book reprinted the official letter. His only remark: “Mysterious are the ways governments think and work.”

The Apollo Program, initiated by President John F Kennedy in 1961, was mandated to land a man on the moon before that decade ended. It was one of the largest and most expensive technological undertakings in history, which eventually saw 12 American astronauts walk on the Moon in six successful missions between 1969 and 1972. (One mission, Apollo 13, was aborted due to an accident but the astronauts returned to Earth.)

The engineering and biomedical preparations for the first Moon landing had been meticulously planned for years. Yet the silicon disc idea had to move from idea to launch in just about a month. That didn’t allow much notice for world leaders to respond.

But the few dozen who did congratulated the United States and its astronauts for making history, and expressed hope for peace to all nations of the world. Some handwrote their messages while others typed. Many were in local languages. A few included intricate artwork, such as the Vatican’s message by Pope Paul VI.

Among those who sent messages were a number of Asian countries including Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Korea. Ceylon’s South Asian neighbours Afghanistan, India, Maldives and Pakistan also joined.

“I fervently hope that this event will usher in an era of peaceful endeavor for all mankind” wrote Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India.

M Yahya Khan, President of Pakistan, said: “Greetings and felicitations from Pakistan to the American Astronauts who blazed a new trail for mankind by landing on the Moon.”

The Cold War politics are evident in how governments responded, or chose not to. For example, China’s message came from Chiang Kai-Shek, President of Taiwan –- the only Chinese government recognised by the US at the time. Similarly, the Vietnamese message was issued by the president of South Vietnam, whose regime fell in 1975. The Soviet Union and most of the eastern bloc countries were notably absent. However, Nicolae CeauÅŸescu of Romania sent a one-liner.

Many members of the then fledgling Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) also took part. Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia and a founder of NAM, sent an enthusiastic message.

Some countries were initially cautious or uncertain. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand said in a telegram: “In view of our total ignorance of this project, would appreciate any information you can provide concerning NASA’s invitation to send message… number of countries responding… methods of recording and method of deposit on the Moon.” In the end, the Thai government sent a message just in time.

The king of Thailand is only one of two heads of state still holding office; the other is Queen Elizabeth II. Reading the messages, whose English translations are available online, is like entering a time capsule. Some countries have since changed names. Others have been subsumed by neighbours, or broken into two or more independent states. Geopolitical map of the world has been completely redrawn.

Almost forgotten

Even as the invitations went out, NASA was still trying to figure out how best to archive the messages to withstand harsh conditions on the Moon. Miniaturisation was essential as weight was at a high premium on the spacecraft.

One of NASA’s regular suppliers, the Sprague Electric Company of North Adams, Massachusetts, devised a new technique to inscribe the microscopic messages on the 1.5 inch, 99%-pure silicon disc. Silicon was chosen because it can withstand the extreme temperatures on the Moon.

The same technology is now widely used to make integrated circuits in modern electronics including computers. New at the time, it enabled each letter to be reduced 200 times to a size much smaller than the head of a pin.

The letters, no larger than one-fourth the width of a human hair, could be read under a microscope without any other playback facility. The only text readable by the naked eye is the wording on the rim: “From Planet Earth” and “July 1969”.

Sprague successfully delivered it one week prior to departure, but NASA then wanted to include late arriving messages. The final disc was ready only five days before Apollo 11 lifted off.
Having carried it to the Moon, the astronauts almost forgot to leave the disc behind. In his book, Rahman describes what happened.

Armstrong and Aldrin had only two and a half hours in which to explore the landing site, collect moon rocks and set up some scientific instruments. They also had to take part in some commemorative activities, including erecting the American flag and reading the inscription from the plaque. When President Nixon made an unscheduled call, it further crowded their schedule.

They were about to leave the Moon when Armstrong suddenly remembered the little “package” that was taped on to the arm of his colleague’s spacesuit. Aldrin, already up on the ladder, tossed it down to the ground. Armstrong nudged it with his foot –- there was no time for photographing or filming the moment. They had bigger things to worry about: if the lunar module failed to take off, they would be marooned on the Moon.

“The [transcript] shows that the astronauts almost forgot to leave it on the Moon. Buzz Aldrin confirmed that when I interviewed him,” says Rahman. “The mission was designed for safety first, so I can’t say more attention should have been paid to it. I am just glad it got there!”

After the astronauts returned safely to the Earth to a heroes’ welcome, the silicon disc was quickly forgotten. It earned only an occasional footnote in detailed histories of the Apollo missions. With his detailed account, Rahman has finally filled in the missing story.

Rahman feels that the messages are even more relevant today than they were when hurriedly written 40 summers ago. “The Apollo 11 plaque which states ‘We Came in Peace for all Mankind’ is one of the most important documents in world history — so are those goodwill messages.”

Science writer Nalaka Gunawardene worked closely with Sir Arthur C Clarke as an assistant. He blogs on media and development issues at http://movingimages.wordpress.com/

Other links

NASA official media release on the silicon disc:

http://history.nasa.gov/ap11-35ann/goodwill/Apollo_11_material.pdf

Fox News interview with space historian Tahir Rahman:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0HmCF_Z_Ms&feature=channel_page

  • Saj

    Oh curse Ceylon for not sending a message to the moon! It’s not like the island has bigger problems after all. No, It’s much more important to send a message to the moon so that some little green man will be greeted when he decides to invade earth.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Saj – it’s not like all these ‘bigger’ problems are being sorted are they? Take a chill pill man and get the context!

  • KaluSudda

    I wonder if it had anything to do with religion? After all, at this time in Ceylon we even lived by the Poya Day calendar which was based on the phases of the Moon. Perhaps the religious establishment objected to the whole idea of ‘visiting the Moon’, or the government thought there might be an objection on religious grounds? Come to think of it, to have taken such a massive step for our calendar to be out of sync with the rest of the world the government of Ceylon must have been even more balmy in those days than they are now!

  • Praveen

    Amazing how such a ‘simple’ operation was so complicated in those days. NASA has some similar plans, I believe, for their Mars mission. In fact, this time around, individuals can leave their names to be left in Mars. I have already registered my name, so my name will be part of history 🙂 You can too, by registering here
    http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/sendyourname/

  • Reza, Kandy, Sri Lanka

    In deed, a great piece of information. It is so pathetic that we Sri Lankas stayed away.

  • Mohamed Ameen, Physicist

    This is a great topic for the polemics in the scientific community. Those who think that this was a missed opportunity better think twice before casting aspersions against a visionary statesman of the caliber of Dudley.
    Apparently Dudley himself decided that any space exploration should have the consensus of the entire international community and in the absence of International Space Law codified at the time, the world community in such grandiose schemes were not represented in a plaque. Thus, Dudley believed that he should inadvertently omit then Ceylon from representing to a “futile” cause. Truly, there were more serious world issues at hand to deal with both domestic and international, and neither in agreement to the request nor the wording on the plaque. Also, Dudley was visionary statesman who was troubled by the religious sensitiveness of both the predominantly Buddhist, the Islamic faith, as well as communities’ that depended for their livelihood -the lunar calendar that consider the lunar surface a sacred ground to all “humankind”. He (Dudley), was such a sensitive and remarkable gentleman who even objected to the wording of the sexist sounding words like “Mankind” and “Man” in the absence of accepting the fairer sex as being omitted. I seriously respect his vision and his mental acumen to not have participated in a move that could have been disrespectful. I wish Buz, Neil and Glenn had his vision and would not have even uttered the word “.. leap for Mankind….” thus learning from Dudley.
    Sincerely, Mohamed Ameen, Physicist – APS

  • Observer

    Mohamed has a good argument also, this was well before my generation but didn’t this happen at the height of the cold war? Correct me if I’m wrong. Nations of the world were divided at the time weren’t they? Democracy vs. Communism.

    Much like now, West and the terror loving middle east and Asia. Sadly I don’t think the world will ever be united until we face a common aggressive alien enemy or an epidemic of mass proportions.

    The moon landing was of strategic value back then as opposed to real scientific need. Sure it’s a valuable and noble feat but the underlying motivations were to do a one up in response to Sputnik.

    I am not surprised that Sri Lanka decided to take a neutral stance. That has always been the wise choice for small nations like Sri Lanka who can’t wield the baton of Nukes to have a fair say in worldly matters.

    So seriously lets not bang our heads on a wall over this and start talking bout all the criminal negligence of missing opportunities to prevent malaria, dengue, aids and other diseases in Sri Lanka!

  • CheeLanka

    Dudley Senanayake, 1969: “Thanks, but no thanks – we don’t want the Moon that comes wrapped in the American flag”

    Mahinda Rajapaksa, 2009: “Thanks, but no thanks – we don’t want Ban Ki-Moon (and his do-gooding UN!)”

  • Thanks to all those who have commented so far. The Moon is said to influence our emotional health, and I’m amused to see how my dispassionate discussion of a historical topic has, somehow, stirred some emotional reactions! But as a firm believer in public discussion and debate, I appreciate all sentiments.

    For those who seem to have jumped to the conclusion that this discussion is somehow an attempt to discredit the memory of the then Prime Minister: please re-read the entire article slowly. You will see that I’m myself puzzled how the western-educated, liberally-inclined Dudley made or sanctioned such a decision. The mandarins of our Foreign Office have not been known for their foresight, so it could well be that they advised PM to err on the side of caution. I hope someone who was in his inner circle could shed light on this – perhaps Bradman Weerakoon?

    As for the sexism in terminology, I don’t know what Dudley’s own views were, but gender-neutral use of English was only just beginning to emerge in the 1960s – this would gather momentum in the 1970s.

    Thus, when Armstrong stepped on the Moon, he said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind“. At the time, the term ‘mankind’ was widely understood and accepted to include women as well. The more gender-neutral term ‘humankind’ would come into popular use a few years later. I’m not endorsing this, but merely suggesting that it probably wasn’t intentionally excluding women (and still less, insulting them) when the lunar plaque’s wording read ‘We came in peace for all mankind’.

    Far more intentional was the exclusion of women from the lunar missions themselves, a topic which I have just discussed in my blog under the heading: ‘She should have gone to the Moon – but wasn’t monkey enough?’
    http://movingimages.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/one-giant-leap-for-mankind-but-what-about-the-other-half/

    I wrote in another blog post in May 2009 how the popular US television series Star Trek, which started airing in September 1966, was well ahead of reality in inclusiveness. When neither the mainstream television nor the space programme reflected America’s true diversity (let alone our planet’s), Star Trek had a multi-ethnic crew for the Starship Enterprise, roaming the universe in the 23rd century in a mission of exploration (not conquest). It included an African-American woman, a Scotsman, a Japanese American, and a super intelligent alien, the half-Vulcan Spock. See: http://movingimages.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/star-trek-advocating-a-world-of-equality-tolerance-and-compassion/

    But even such progressive (for that time) story tellers still opened each episode with these famous and evocative words: “Space… the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

    It was only in the follow-up series that the producers replaced the word “man” with the gender- and species-neutral “one”. From Star Trek: The Next Generation series, the opening read (in part): “….to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

    We must certainly discuss and debate history (and try to learn from it). But we should be careful before we judge.

  • Atheist

    Hello KaluSudda,

    Sorry…this really digresses from the moon topic.

    I really get a kick out of reading your responses. It is commendable that you and your ilk are keen on reforming the backward Sinhala Buddhists. I say go for it! If you travel along the rural landscape in Sri-Lanka today, you will see the utter desecration of nature. The once beautiful Buddhist temples are no more; they are overridden by tacky Buddhist temple palaces just like the gaudy mansions of the new middle/upper classes. Everywhere ugly Buddhist statues dominate the landscape because the artists and sculptors of yesterday are rapidly dwindling. To begin with, why on earth do we need this many tacky statues when there are remarkable ones in ancient Anuradhapura? It seems the hamuduruwos are competing with the nouveau riche crowd who are notorious for building tasteless monster homes and businesses.

    KaluSudda, I assume you’re a young person, and it is wise for you youngsters to keep a tab on the diabolical schemes of the orange brigade. At the same time, KaluSudda, please be aware of another group that has its tentacles out. Pardon me for not being politically correct, but it is high time for activists like you to watch out for the born again Christians, Catholics etc… These barracudas have smelt blood and are waiting to pounce on the hapless masses. These religious freaks – whatever the form – are a menace to society just like the bourgeoisie with their mediocre aspirations. Oh, I forgot…they are the ones who pander to these religious nuts.

    Now, KaluSudda, I am very vigilante of any journalists/activists who touts the Sinhala Buddhist rhetoric because this is bigotry plain and simple. By the same token, KaluSudda, please do your bit to sound the whistle on the journalists/activists who claim to have had “visions” instructing them to carry on God’s work in “backward” Sri-Lanka. The only difference between these two groups is that the Sinhala Buddhist nuts are not “westernized” enough to carry on this charade outside Lankan shores.

    Adios KaluSudda !

  • Laughing Sudda

    Kalu Sudda and Aethist,

    Aren’t you both way off-topic in your comments? I know many Siri Lankans who just can’t have a decent conversation about any topic before somehow bringing in their race and/or religion into it. Even in a topic as far away as the Moon, and as far back as 1969, it took little time for Sinhala Buddhist bashing and defending to come up.

    Go get a life, guys! This world is bigger than your little island with its potty little labels and divisions.

  • Fauzer

    I won’t be losing any sleep over it. Dudley had to make a decision, and if he couldn’t trust the Americans, I don’t blame him.

  • Monkey Moon

    This article and discussion is absurd because nobody landed on the Moon. NASA was under political pressure to catch up with the Soviet Union, which had scored many firsts in space through superior technology and intellect, so it staged the biggest hoax in history to save face. The astronauts never left the Earth and the photos and TV coverage were all carefully manufactured with the confidential participation by Hollywood, National Geographic and the major American TV networks, all of who were sworn to secrecy for 50 years.

    But NASA has not been able to fool all the people all the time. Many people have spotted anomalies, discrepancies and holes in their elaborate hoax. There are many websites providing this evidence.

  • KaluSudda

    Well said Laughing Sudda.

    Atheist (and funny thing, I am one too!), the significance of the Moon as something sacred by many religious factions in SL is a well known fact, and PM Dudley’s sensitivity to them as a possible contributing factor has also been mentioned by another poster. This though among heaps of other possible and more likey reasons.

    Monkey Moon: one of the best movies I have seen ‘Capricorn One’! Brilliant! However, the Moon missions involved hundreds of thousands of people over a long period. Whilst it is amazing how they succeeded the conspiracy theories do all fall down I think – there is a simple explanation for all of them. Mainly, some of the photos were faked because the actual pictures ‘could have been better’. So they enhanced/re-shot them in the studio. This is where the direction of the shadows is wrong. But the conspiracy theorists say why Neil Armstrong has never given an interview because he might spill the beans!

    Nalaka, thanks for the memories. As a teenager, I remember being in Galle Face Green in July 1969 looking at the Moon aware of the fact that millions of people around the world are focused on it at that moment. Pity we didn’t have television in those days (but we didn’t miss what we never had). I remember reading about a Ceylonese scientist who was chosen as one of the people entrusted with analysing the first Moon rock to come. Anyone remember the name? Some more space memories come to mind. I remember Galle Road thronged with people to welcome Yuri Gagarin. It was a school trip from primary school. And long queues to file past Friendship 7, the Mercury capsule of John Glenn, at the Colombo Museum. It was tiny like a large dustbin! Then there was the Planatarium. We were quite progressive in those days.

  • kishG

    err.. who cares?

  • KaluSudda,

    That Ceylonese scientist who was Dr Cyril Ponnamperuma (1923 – 1994). He worked with NASA Ames Research Center from 1962 to 1971. In 1963 he joined NASA’s Exobiology Division (the science of studying life outside the Earth) and later headed the Chemical Evolution Division. He was selected as the principal investigator for analysis of lunar soil during Project Apollo. Thereafter, he was closely involved with NASA in the Viking and Voyager programme.

    More information about him in the Wikipedia entry at:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyril_Ponnamperuma

    See also the New York Times obituary at:
    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/24/obituaries/cyril-ponnamperuma-scholar-of-life-s-origins-is-dead-at-71.html

    I had the privilege of associating Dr Ponnamperuma in the late 1980s when he was Science Advisor to the President. Recalling his Apollo days, he told me that one of his proudest moments was travelling to his home town Galle shortly after the Apollo Moon landing, and overhearing some local youth sing a home-grown baila: “Pas partiye lokka ape kollek” (meaning: ‘the lead of lunar soil investigation team is one of our boys’)

    As for those murky TV images from the Moon, I’ve just written a blog post on the story of how that was done – what went right and what went wrong. See: http://movingimages.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/live-from-the-moon-and-then-lost-on-earth-story-of-apollo-broadcasts/

    I’ll respond to the Moon Hoax conspiracy theory later, but as you rightly say, it’s not plausible at the scale that Apollo was done.

  • Saliya Wickramasuriya

    I don’t think Buddhist Poya day had anything to do with this, even though KaluSudda suggests. Buddhists don’t worship the moon but another religion. I am offended by KaluSudda.

  • Atheist

    To Laughing Sudda and Kalu Sudda,

    Laughing Sudda, you mention that my comments are off topic. If you bothered to read my comment you will see that I started off by mentioning just that: “I am digressing from the moon topic”. I have nothing against moon walking; my commenting on Kalu Sudda’s repetitive juvenile outbursts about Sri-Lankans seems to have hit a nerve with you.

    Laughing Sudda, if you are not a supporter of the orange brigade or the barracudas, why on earth are you getting so wound up? These two groups are running amok, accusing each other of violating all kinds of rights. However, there is a difference we must recognize: the orange brigade only goes around haranguing the locals, while the barracudas are creating problems all over the world. From your comment, oh Laughing Sudda, I can tell that you have never lived in an international setting. I don’t know where you are stationed – it cannot be in a human world where there are no “labels and divisions”. Perhaps, you are in the Garden of Eden? I like my little island…if you have something against this little island, kindly park you butt some place else.

    Hello Kalu Sudda,

    I thought from your previous comments that you were a minor, but I now see that you have lived over half a century. Oh, my! Kadavule, Bhagavan!!! It is a big letdown.

    Wow, you even remember Yuri Gagarin’s arrival in Sri-Lanka. But… (and it’s a BIG BUT), how come you are asking Nalaka about the Ceylonese scientist who was one of the scientists entrusted to analyze the moon rock?

    Hey Kalu & Laughing, are you guys so ignorant? Dudley did the moon walk before Michael Jackson.

  • KaluSudda

    Dear Saliya,

    No offence intended. But in 1966 Ceylon actually did change its calendar to the Poya Day (Lunar) calendar. I don’t think it was for commercial reasons, or for reasons of another religion. Our weekend was Poya and Pre-Poya day. These were the 4 phases of the Moon we were honouring, not just the monthly Full Moon. We called them ‘Poya’ and ‘Pre-Poya’ just as we call it Sunday and Saturday now. In some weeks we had 6 working days. At school on the 6th day we took the other day’s timetable in rotation. We got used to it very quickly though, particularly because we had no everyday contact with the outside world as we now have – as we had no television news (for example). Commercially it was a disaster, because when the rest of the world was working we had our weekend, except when a Poya day fell on a Sunday. Ceylon reverted back to the normal week calendar in July 1971. This change back was very sudden.

    So, Sri Lanka’s association with the Moon includes (1) the missing inscription (2) Dr Cyril Ponnamperuma (3) the Poya calendar in the 60s, and (4) the present monthly Poya holiday.

    Does that make us ‘Moonies’? Some of the less reverent Ceylonese in the 60s were saying the calendar makes us Lunatics!

  • Monkey Moon and his ilk of doubting thomases everywhere:

    I have just written a blog post that surveys the origins of the pervasive myth that holds the Moon landings were an elaborate hoax where NASA has somehow, cleverly, managed to fool most people on the planet for 40 years.

    Lights, Camera, Apollo: Did NASA and Hollywood co-produce Moon Landings?
    http://movingimages.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/lights-camera-apollo-did-nasa-and-hollywood-co-produce-moon-landings/

    I end up suggesting: “Perhaps what the Moon Hoax debate really needs is what Sir Arthur Clarke once proposed as a response to the obsession with UFOs and alien abductions: a decade or so of benign neglect. Conspiracy theorists and myth-makers thrive on counter-arguments and debate. When they don’t get it for long enough, they’ll probably run out of steam.”

  • Nouzab Fareed

    Its important to find the root cause before making a judgement. I strongly believe that then PM did not make the decision on his own. He was advised. Some from that era could shed some light on this.

  • Laughing Sudda

    While this article and comments have looked at an interesting bit of historical trivia, that’s all it really is: trivia. Trust Siri Lankans to keep harping back to their past, whether it is the ‘glorious civilization’ centuries ago or a little mis-step 40 years ago.

    When will you guys (and gals) finally start living in the present and work on your common future?

  • KaluSudda

    Laughing Sudda has a point. But there’s a difference between nostalgia (the Moon Landing thing) and our preoccupation with myths of ancient times. The former we indulge in to bring a smile to ourselves and others who might also remember. The latter we mis-use to destroy ourselves and our society.

    We should learn from the past, and endevour to build a better future.

  • Atheist

    Hark !! Hark !!

    Laughing Sudda , probably calling from Paradiso, says: “When will you guys (and gals) finally start living in the present and work on your common future”?

    To that, I, a creature of this wretched earth says to the honchos up above the skies: Amen !!!

  • Moon Watcher

    After everything has been said and done, the original question remains unanswered: why did the Ceylon government decline to send a message to the Moon? As the writer says we may never find out now.

    But there are other, more pertinent questions in international relations that we must ask and demand answers from the current government. I am sure scholars of international relations will add more, but here for a start is one that bothers me.

    Despite having suffered enormously from the scourge of landmines, why hasn’t Sri Lanka joined the Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction? Sri Lanka is among 30 states that have not joined this treaty, now ratified by 156 states. Among those absent are all our new-found buddies: Burma, China, Iran, Libya, North Korea and Russia!

  • Vinoshka

    The most interesting comment was the one in which Sri Lanka was referred to as a ‘potty little country’. This is indicative of the kind of gigantomania which has led to the depletion of the resources of the world.

    As for the reason why Dudley declined the US offer, it is not hard to find: the USA was involved in a murderous war against the people of Vietnam; its closest ally, Israel had ethnically cleansed Palestine of its indigenous population and had just finished annexing even more Palestinian, Syrian and Egyptian territory.

    Sri Lanka obviously did not want to be associated with this act of hypocrisy, this talk of world peace by a state which was involved in constant war.