Monday, January 26, 2009

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu Low Earth Orbit wgah'nagl fhtagn

I'm a man who has an interest in the promise of the future, and as a result I'm accustomed to disappointment. The Apollo Applications Program? Historical footnote. Space Station Freedom? A grand idea, never realized. The Delta Clipper? Obscure enough that I didn't even know about it until recently, after which point the confident non-fiction articles in 1980s issues of Analog were tinged with regret and lost promises. That's the main reason why, every once in a while, I'm staggered by the thought that a space station actually does exist.

The International Space Station is an incredible technical achievement, and it's my hope that in the years and decades to come - if civilization doesn't collapse in the interim, of course - it will be to the state-of-the-art as dugout canoes are to cabin cruisers today. None of that is what I'm concerned about today, though. I was looking at the station's mission patch, and I noticed something odd. Eldritch, in fact, you might say.

Look at that patch. The station itself is obvious enough, but the landforms took a little work; considering that the entertainment industry is centered in California, even views-from-space that focus on Europe can be disconcerting (in the sense of "hey, that never looked like that before"). Maps focused on Antarctica just aren't all that common, but once you see it it's fairly straightforward. There's the tip of Chile and Argentina on the lower right, and on the left there's Australia and New Zealand and then--

And then, in the middle of the South Pacific, almost squarely at Point Nemo, there's another landmass that doesn't appear on any map I own. I started wondering; what is this? The lost continent of Mu? Then I realized the truth - there's only one significant thing that ever existed in that lonely corner of the South Pacific: the nightmare corpse-city of R'lyeh, where dread Cthulhu lies dreaming.

Is NASA trying to tell us something?

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