What is ‘Mare Moscoviense’ and what made Sushant Singh Rajput interested in it?
An ardent fan of celestial transitions, the late Sushant Singh Rajput had dreams undefined but which he pursued to the best of his efforts. While the Universe which he was into almost all the time, welcomes him into whatever lies next, he has definitely paved ways for upcoming generations to mull on the existence of phenomena that most of us rarely knew, or we were aware of, but we never bothered to unearth the facts in it.
A "nerd" who dropped out of the engineering college in Delhi, to chase his passion for acting, Sushant never really opted out of space science. A believer, he always followed his interests in non-fictional works and the biggest example of it is his house in Mumbai. The 34-year-old visited NASA in 2018 to train for his film, Chanda Mama Door ke. Owing to certain issues, the film never released, however Sushant had already conceptualised his findings, to move ahead in his research.
Sushant was a member of International Lunar Land Registry (ILLR) since three years, before he bought the piece of space on the far side of moon which is called the ‘Mare Moscoviense’ or the dark side of the moon. It was around 2018-19, when he invested on Meade 14” LX600 that he would use to navigate his piece of land on the moon, from his Bandra home in Mumbai. This was one of the many curiosities Sushant had in his quest to unwind the aspects of universe/ space. He had left no stone unturned in his research to study the celestial life and the moon of all, about which he had detailed discussions with black hole astrophysicist and LIGO scientist Dr Karan Jani.
In a tweet which Jani shared on June 14, he recalled excerpts of his discussion with the space enthusiast, Sushant and wrote, “He took it as his mission to educate his fans about all the big discoveries. Our 2017 discovery of the neutron star collision was the closest to him. It was his dream to one day, visit the LIGO observatories in the US.” Referring to Sushant’s never enduing urge in celestial happenings, Jani further had written, “Sushant took his telescope (LX600) to Chambal during the shoot of Sonchiriya, so he could better observe the nebulae.”
In the two words ‘Mare’ means ‘sea’, as termed by Russian astronomers in late 1950s. Mare Moscoviense (Sea of Moscouvy), is one among the many ‘meria’ (volcanic dark basins that are minutely visible as patches from earth) on the moon. When these scientific terms are dissected, it is the dark side of the moon which is not clearly visible from the earth, and so it is also called as the ‘blind side of the moon’.
The ILLR program usually charges $20 which is around Rs 1,520 in Indian rupees. However, last year a report from PTI read that it is Rs 2,300 per acre of any meria on the moon. It is likely that Sushant bought the ‘mare’ by paying Rs 6,900 in 2018. He was a member of the ILLR, which is a crowd funded program and that aims “gather date necessary to for human exploration and development of the lunar surface, without hampering its natural beauty”.
In their conditions, ILLR clearly specifies that any individual can buy a piece of space on the far side of the moon, only when they are a member of the program for a year or more. The ILLR website further reads, “A member is eligible to own 1-acre of land on the far of moon when they have completed a year’s membership,” that means Sushant had already been a member of the program for three years, before he bought the space (mare) in 2018.
The basin that he bought was around 170 miles in size (276km) in diameter. Also, Sushant received a kit from ILLR which included the satellite image of his piece of land on the moon, an info sheet that details the geography of Mare Moscoviense and an interactive full moon atlas that he used to navigate the Moscoviense basin, from earth. The co-ordinates of his buy on the moon as registered with the ILLR are 27.3 degree N 147.9 degree E. The largest lunar meria of the moon is called ‘Imbrium’ which is 1,210km in size that is 750 miles.
The purchase deed issued to Sushant by ILLR read, “Be it known and proclaimed to all that Sushant Singh Rajput is recorded as the true and legal owner of the property located at Mare Moscoviense ("Sea of Muscovy"), 27.3 degree North Latitude, 147.9 degree East Longitude, Tract 01 - Parcels A0263, A0264 and A0265 (three acres, inclusive) as designated on Luna, Earth's Moon, and duly recorded by the International Lunar Lands Registry,” PTI had reported.
The discovery of Mare Moscoviense
Mare Moscoviense and similar such ‘meria’ were first by discovered by Soviet astronomers in 1959, when they were travelling in Luna 3 spacecraft, which captured the images of the solidified lava plains, composed of basalt. The piece of space on moon Sushant bought, was named ‘Mare Moscoviense’ in 1961, by International Astronomical Union (IAU) who recognised it as the “state of mind”, relating it to the Russian capital Moscow.
Decades after the Russian discovery, since 2009, NASA took a step forward in their lunar research and placed a system of three Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Cameras (LROC) which orbit around the lunar surface. The LROC captures super high definition images of the moon, the details of which were studied by Sushant, and this led him to ILLR, from where he purchased Mare Moscoviense. A step towards possibility to unwind the truths of another planet, that Sushant took.
The 34-year-old did all his homework on the aforementioned aspects and garnered a vast knowledge on physics and space science, given his interests. To most of us, Mare Moscoviense till date was a discovery by Russian scientists, however, how many of us interested in sky gazing bother to chase the facts. What Sushant leaves behind is a curiosity in several young minds to know the celestial objects further, and what he takes with him are his half solved equations of astrophysics that he worked on. As his bio read, “Photon is a double slit”, he too was an actor, part of physicist and a seeker.
(Note: The ILLR program is not backed by any governmental authority. Further, India is a signee of the Outer Space Treaty, as per which no country or citizen of the country can 'own' any resouces in outer space. This story talks about Sushant's 'buying' of the space on moon, as a mark of his interest in reasearch on outer space.)