By Munirah Abanomy
Dead Monkey In Space
The other day, I had this forgettable argument with my brother that ended with the line, “there are dead monkeys in space”.
Till this day, I can’t remember what we argued about, but that line stuck in mind for some reason. Why did he say it? What was he thinking? What did he think that was going to accomplish by saying it?
Well, it did end the argument. But it did get me thinking.
I knew that the monkey he referred to was the American monkey sent in response to the Soviet Union sending a dog, all for worldwide superiority during the cold war era.
But that isn’t what got me going.
What got me going, was the image of that very same monkey, probably turned into dust by now, being trapped in a shuttle in space, not knowing why the hell it was there in the first place. Oblivious to the fact it was sacrificed for mankind’s ambition to explore the universe we live in. (we did reach mars 40 years later).
One day this monkey was probably chilling at a tree, minding its own business and enjoying a nice tasty banana, then all of a sudden, it gets taken away and shipped into training – there were probably other monkeys but this one was unfortunate to pass their exams.
Next thing before it gets the chance to realize what is going on, that very same monkey was watching a blueberry version of our planet earth, probably trying to reach it if wasn’t for those pesky windows on the shuttle, keeping them apart.
Even if that monkey had some kind of intellect and was aware of what was truly going on, one would still feel some sympathy towards it.
On an existential level, I tried to put myself in its place and try to imagine what it would be like up there all alone. Nothing but vast spaces of airless nothingness while surrounded by burnt up stars that keep on shining like a Pink Floyd song.
What was going through its brain as the shuttle was zigzagging its way around our globe? (probably thinking of that banana it enjoyed peacefully on Earth)
Was it wondering what all these buttons – that’s if it understood what buttons were in the first place – were responsible of doing?
Did the thought of coming back or going home ever cross that monkey’s mind?
Was there even the slightest shred of fear or panic while being in spatial isolation?
Did it actually feel the weight of being truly alone? (Even if NASA members did communicate with it, it is still a monkey).
Was it in awe of this massive structure of stars and galaxies or just bemused with the gadgets around it? Was it even thinking at all? .
It’s pretty hard to put oneself in a space monkey’s shoes (who ironically is more accomplished than most of us). After all I am still struck by my brothers remark ; had I been able to remember our conversation I would probably make better sense of the dead monkey metaphor. Maybe we’re all space monkeys, we are meant to explore and we’re put out there sacrificing ourselves for the greater good .