6 - WITNESS TO
Perhaps as an overreaction to Creationism, scientists have
considered the biblical tale of Genesis as a subject of faith, not
fact. Yet when one of the rocks brought back from the Moon by Apollo
astronauts turned out to be almost 4.1 billion years old, it was
nicknamed “the Genesis rock.”
When a tiny piece of green glass
shaped like a lima bean turned up in lunar soil samples gathered by
the Apollo 14 astronauts, the scientists dubbed it “the Genesis
bean.” It thus appears that in spite of all the objections and
reservations, even the scientific community cannot escape the
age-old faith, belief, gut feelings, or perhaps some genetic memory
of the species called Mankind, that a primordial truth underlies the
narrative of the Book of Genesis.
However the Moon became a constant companion of Earth—the various
theories will soon be examined—it, like Earth, belonged to the same
Solar System, and the histories of both go back to its creation. On
Earth, erosion caused by the forces of nature as well as by the life
that has evolved on it has obliterated much of the evidence bearing
on that creation, to say nothing of the cataclysmic event that
changed and revamped the planet. But the Moon, so it was assumed,
had remained in its pristine condition. With neither winds,
atmosphere, nor waters, there were no forces of erosion. A look at
the Moon was tantamount to a peek at Genesis.
Man has peered at the Moon for eons, first with the naked
eye, then with Earth-based instruments. The space age made
it possible to probe the Moon more closely. Between 1959 and
1969, a number of Soviet and American unmanned spacecraft
photographed and otherwise examined the Moon either by orbiting
it or by landing on it. Then Man finally set foot on the
Moon when the landing module of Apollo 11 touched down on the Moon’s
surface on July 20, 1969, and Neil Armstrong announced, for all the
world to hear: “Houston! Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has
In all, six Apollo spacecraft set down a total of twelve astronauts
on the Moon; the last manned mission was that of Apollo 17, in
December 1972. The first one was admittedly intended primarily to
“beat the Russians to the Moon”; but the missions became
increasingly scientific as the Apollo program progressed. The
equipment for the tests and experiments became more sophisticated,
the choice of landing sites was more scientifically oriented, the
areas covered increased with the aid of surface vehicles, and the
length of stay increased from hours to days.
Even the crew makeup
changed, to include in the last mission a trained geologist,
Harrison Schmitt; his expertise was invaluable in the on-the-spot
selection of rocks and soil to be taken back to Earth, in the
description and evaluation of dust and other lunar materials left
behind, and in the choice and description of
topographic features—hills, valleys, small canyons, escarpments, and
giant boulders (Plate D)—without which the true face of the Moon
would have remained inscrutable.
Instruments were left on the Moon
to measure and record its phenomena over long periods; deeper soil
samples were obtained by drilling into the face of the Moon; but
most scientifically precious and rewarding were the 838 pounds of
lunar soil and Moon rocks brought back to Earth. Their examination,
analysis, and study were still in progress as the twentieth
anniversary of the first landing was being celebrated.
The notion of “Genesis rocks” to be found on the Moon was proposed
to NASA by the Nobel laureate Harold Urey. The so-called Genesis
rock that was one of the very first to be picked up on the Moon
proved, as the Apollo program progressed, not to be the oldest one.
It was “only” some 4.1 billion years old, whereas the rocks later
found on the Moon ranged from 3.3 billion-year-old “youngsters” to
4.5 billion year “old-timers.” Barring a future discovery of somewhat
older rocks, the oldest rocks found on the Moon have thus brought
its age to within 100 million years of the estimated age of the
Solar System—of 4,6 billion years—which until then was surmised only
from the age of meteorites that struck the Earth.
The Moon, the lunar landings established, was a
Witness to Genesis.
Establishing the age of the Moon, the time of its creation,
intensified the debate concerning the question of how the Moon was
“The hope of establishing the Moon’s origin was a primary scientific
rationale for the manned landings of the Apollo project in the
1960s,” James Gleick wrote in June 1986 for The New York Times
Science Service. It was, however, “the great question that Apollo
failed to answer.”
How could modern science read an uneroded “Rosetta stone” of the
Solar System, so close by, so much studied, landed upon six
times—and not come up with an answer to the basic question? The
answer to the puzzle seems to be that the findings were applied to a
set of preconceived notions; and because none
of these notions is correct, the findings appear to leave the
One of the earliest scientific theories regarding the Moon’s origin
was published in 1879 by Sir George H. Darwin, second son of
Darwin. Whereas his father put forth the theory regarding the origin
of species on Earth, Sir George was the first to develop a theory of
origins for the Sun-Earth-Moon system based on mathematical analysis
and geophysical theory. His specialty was the study of tides; he
therefore conceived of the Moon as having been formed from matter
pulled off Earth by solar tides. The Pacific basin was later
postulated to be the scar that remained after this “pinching off” of
part of Earth’ s body to form the Moon.
Although, as the Encyclopaedia Britannica puts it so mildly, it is
“a hypothesis now considered unlikely to be true,” the idea
reappeared in the twentieth century as one of three contenders for
being proved or disproved by the lunar findings. Given a high-tech
name, the Fission Theory, it was revived with a difference. In the
reconstructed theory, the simplistic idea of the tidal pull of the
Sun was dropped; instead it was proposed that the Earth divided into
two bodies while spinning very rapidly during its formation.
spinning was so rapid that a chunk of the material of which the
Earth was forming was thrown off, coalesced at some distance from
the bulk of the Earthly matter, and eventually remained orbiting its
bigger twin brother as its permanent satellite (Fig. 39).
“thrown-off chunk” theory, whether in its earlier or renewed form,
has been conclusively rejected by scientists from various
disciplines. Studies presented at the third Conference on the
Origins of Life (held in Pacific Palisades, California, in 1970)
established that tidal forces as the cause of the fission could not
account for the origin of the Moon beyond a distance of five Earth
radii, whereas the Moon is some 60 Earth radii away from the Earth.
Also, scientists consider a study by Kurt S. Hansen in 1982 (Review
of Geophysics and Space Physics, vol. 20) as showing conclusively
that the Moon could never have been closer to Earth than 140,000
miles; this would rule out any theory that the Moon was once part of
Earth (the Moon is now an average distance of about 240,000 miles
from Earth, but this distance has not been constant).
Proponents of the Fission Theory have offered various variants
thereof in order to overcome the distance problem, which is further
constrained by a concept termed the Roche limit (the distance within
which the tidal forces overcome the gravitational force). But all
variants of the fission theory have been rejected because they
violate the laws of the preservation of energy. The theory requires
much more angular momentum than has been preserved in the energy
that exists to spin the Earth and the Moon around their axes and to
orbit around the Sun.
Writing in the book Origin of the Moon (1986),
John A. Wood of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (“
‘A Review of Hypotheses of Formation of Earth’s Moon”) summed up
this constraint thus:
“The fission model has very severe dynamic
problems: In order to fission, the Earth had to have about four
times as much angular momentum as the Earth-Moon system now has.
There is no good explanation why the Earth had such an excess of
angular momentum in the first place, or where
the surplus angular momentum went after fission occurred.”
The knowledge about the Moon acquired from the Apollo program has
added geologists and chemists to the lineup of scientists rejecting
the fission theory. The Moon’s composition is in many respects
similar to that of Earth, yet different in key respects. There is
sufficient “kinship” to indicate they are very close relatives, but
there are enough differences to show they are not twin brothers.
This is especially true of the Earth’s crust and mantle, from which
the Moon had to be formed, according to the fission theory.
for example, the Moon has too little of the elements called “siderophile,”
such as tungsten, phosphorus, cobalt, molybdenum, and nickel,
compared with the amount of these substances present in the Earth’s
mantle and crust; and too much of the “refractory” elements such as
aluminum, calcium, titanium, and uranium. In a highly technical
summary of the various findings (“The Origin of the Moon,” American
Scientist, September-October 1975), Stuart R. Taylor stated:
all these reasons, it is difficult to match the composition of the
bulk of the Moon to that of the terrestrial mantle.”
The book Origin of the Moon, apart from its introductions and
summaries (such as the above-mentioned article by J. A. Wood), is a
collection of papers presented by sixty-two scientists at the
Conference on the Origin of the Moon held at Kona, Hawaii, in
October 1984—the most comprehensive since the conference twenty
years earlier that had mapped out the scientific goals of the
unmanned and manned Moon probes. In their papers, the contributing
scientists, approaching the problem from various disciplines,
invariably reached conclusions against the fission theory.
Comparisons of the composition of the upper mantle of the Earth with
that of the Moon, Michael J. Drake of the University of Arizona
stated, “rigorously exclude” the Rotational Fission hypothesis.
laws of angular momentum plus the comparisons of the composition of
the Moon with that of Earth’s mantle also ruled out, after the
landings on the Moon, the second favored theory, that of Capture.
According to this theory, the Moon was formed not near the Earth but
among the outer planets or even beyond them. Somehow thrown off into
a vast elliptical orbit around the Sun, it
passed too closely to the Earth, was caught by the Earth’s
gravitational force, and became Earth’s satellite. This theory, it
was pointed out after numerous computer studies, required an
extremely slow approach by the Moon toward the Earth.
process not unlike that of the satellites we have sent to be
captured and remain in orbit around Mars or Venus, fails to take
into account the relative sizes of Earth and Moon. Relative to the
Earth, the Moon (about one eightieth the mass of Earth) is much too
large to have been snared from a vast elliptical orbit unless it was
moving very slowly; but then, all the calculations have shown, the
result would be not a capture but a collision. This theory was
further laid to rest by comparisons of the compositions of the two
celestial bodies: the Moon was too similar to Earth and too
dissimilar to the outer bodies to have been born so far away from
Extensive studies of the Capture Theory suggested that the Moon
would have remained intact only if it had neared Earth, not from way
out, but from the very same part of the heavens where Earth itself
was formed. This conclusion was accepted even by S. Fred Singer of
George Mason University—a proponent of the capture hypothesis—in his
paper (“Origin of the Moon by Capture”) presented at the
above-mentioned Conference on the Origin of the Moon. “Capture from
an eccentric heliocentric orbit is neither feasible nor necessary,”
he stated; the oddities in the Moon’s composition “can be explained
in terms of a Moon formed in an Earthlike orbit”: the Moon was
“captured” while forming near Earth.
These admissions by proponents of the fission and the capture
theories lent support to the third main theory that was previously
current, that of Co-accretion, a common birth. This theory has its
roots in the hypothesis proposed at the end of the eighteenth
century by Pierre-Simon de Laplace, who said that the Solar System
was born of a nebular gas cloud that coalesced in time to form the
Sun and the planets—a hypothesis that has been retained by modern
science. Showing that lunar accelerations are dependent on
eccentricities in the Earth’s orbit, Laplace concluded that the two
bodies were formed side by side, first the Earth and then the Moon.
The Earth and the Moon, he suggested, were sister planets, partners
in a binary, or two-planet, system, in which
they orbit the Sun together while one “dances” around the other.
That natural satellites, or moons, coalesce from the remainder of
the same primordial matter of which their parent planet was formed
is now the generally accepted theory of how planets acquired moons
and should also apply to Earth and the Moon. As has been found by
the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft, the moons of the outer
planets—that had to be formed, by and large, out of the same
primordial material as their “parents”—are both sufficiently akin to
their parent planets and at the same time reveal individual
characteristics as “children” do; this might well be true also for
the basic similarities and sufficient dissimilarities between the
Earth and the Moon. What nevertheless makes scientists reject this
theory when it is applied to the Earth and the Moon is their
The Moon is simply too large relative to the
Earth—not only about one-eightieth of its mass but about one quarter
of its diameter. This relationship is out of all proportion to what
has been found elsewhere in the Solar System. When the mass of all
the moons of each planet (excluding Pluto) is given as a ratio of
the planet’s mass, the result is as follows:
0.0 (no moons)
0.0 (no moons)
0.00000002 (2 asteroids)
A comparison of the relative sizes of the largest moon of each of
the other planets with the size of the Moon relative to Earth (Fig.
40) also clearly shows the anomaly. One result of this disproportion
is that there is too much angular momentum in the combined
Earth-Moon system to support the Binary Planets hypothesis.
With all three basic theories unable to meet some of the required
criteria, one may end up wondering how Earth ended up with its
satellite at all. . .
Such a conclusion, in fact, does
not bother some; they point to the fact that none of the terrestrial
planets (other than Earth) have satellites: the two tiny bodies that
orbit Mars are, all are agreed, captured asteroids. If conditions in
the Solar System were such that none of the planets formed between
the Sun and Mars (inclusive) obtained satellites in any one of the
considered methods—Fission, Capture, Co-accretion—should not Earth,
too, being within this moonless zone, have been without a moon?
the fact remains that Earth as we know it and where we know it does
have a moon, and an extremely large one (in proportion) to boot. So
how to account for that?
Another finding of the Apollo program also stands in the way of
accepting the co-accretion theory. The Moon’s surface as well as its
mineral content suggest a “magma ocean” created by partial melting
of the Moon’s interior. For that, a source of heat great enough to
melt the magma is called for. Such heat can result only from
cataclysmic or catastrophic event; in the co-accretion scenario no
such heat is produced. How then explain the magma ocean and other
evidence on the Moon of a cataclysmic heating?
The need for a birth of the Moon with the right amount of angular
momentum and a cataclysmic, heat-producing event led to a
post-Apollo program hypothesis that has been dubbed the Big Whack
Theory. It developed from the suggestion by William Hartmann, a
geochemist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona,
and his colleague Donald R. Davis in 1975 that collisions and
impacts played a role in the creation of the Moon (“Satellite-sized Planetesimals and Lunar Origin,” Icarus, vol. 24).
their calculations, the rate at which planets were bombarded by
small and large asteroids during the late stages of the planets’
formation was much higher than at present; some of the asteroids
were big enough to deliver a blow that could chip off parts of the
planet they hit; in Earth’s case, the blown-off chunk became the
Moon. The idea was taken up by two astrophysicists, Alastair G. W.
Cameron of Harvard and William R. Ward of Caltech.
Their study, “The
Origin of the Moon” (Lunar Science, vol. 7, 1976) envisioned a
planet-sized body—at least as large as the planet Mars—racing toward
the Earth at 24,500 miles per hour; coming from the outer reaches of
the Solar System, its path arced toward the Sun—but the Earth, in
its formative orbit, stood in the way. The “glancing blow” that
resulted (Fig. 41) slightly tilted the Earth, giving it its ecliptic
obliquity (currently about 23.5 degrees); it also melted the outer
layers of both bodies, sending a plume of vaporized rock into orbit
around the Earth.
More than twice as much material as was needed
to form the Moon was shot up, with the force
of the expanding vapor acting to distance the debris from Earth.
Some of the ejected material fell back to Earth, but enough remained
far enough away to eventually coalesce and become the Moon. This
Collision-Ejection theory was further perfected by its authors as
various problems raised by it were pointed out; it was also modified
as other scientific teams tested it through computer simulations
(the leading teams were those of A. C. Thompson and D. Stevenson at
Caltech, H. J. Melosh and M.
Kipp at Sandia National Laboratories, and W. Benz and W. L.
Slattery at Los Alamos National Laboratory).
Under this scenario (Fig. 42 shows a simulated sequence, lasting
about eighteen minutes in all), the impact resulted in immense heat
(perhaps 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit) that caused a melting of both
The bulk of the impactor sank to the center
of the molten Earth; portions of both bodies were vaporized and
thrust out. On cooling, the Earth re-formed with the iron-rich bulk
of the impactor at its core. Some of the ejected material fell back
to Earth; the rest, mostly from the impactor, cooled and coalesced
at a distance—resulting in the Moon that now orbits the Earth.
Another major departure from the original Big Whack hypothesis was
the realization that in order to resolve chemical composition
constraints, the impactor had to come from the same place in the
heavens as Earth itself did—not from the outer regions of the Solar
System. But if so, where and how did it acquire the immense momentum
it needed for the vaporizing impact?
There is also the question of plausibility, which Cameron himself
recognized in his presentation at the Hawaii conference.
plausible,” he asked, “that an extraplanetary body with about the
mass of Mars or more should have been wandering around in the inner
solar system at an appropriate time to have participated in our
He felt that about 100 million years after
the planets were formed, there were indeed enough planetary
instabilities in the newborn Solar System and enough “protoplanetary
remnants” to make the existence of a large impactor and the
postulated collision plausible.
Subsequent calculations showed that in order to achieve the end
results, the impactor had to be three times the size of Mars. This
heightened the problem of where and how in Earth’s vicinity such a
celestial body could accrete. In response, astronomer George Wetherill of the Carnegie Institute calculated backward and found
that the terrestrial planets could have evolved from a roaming band
of some five hundred planetesimals. Repeatedly colliding among
themselves, the small moonlets acted as the building blocks of the
planets and of the bodies that continued to bombard them. The
calculations supported the plausibility of the Big Whack theory in
its modified Collision-Ejection scenario, but it retained the
resulting immense heat. “The heat of such an impact,” Wetherill
concluded, “would have melted both bodies.”
This, it seemed, could explain a) how the Earth got its iron core
and b) how the Moon got its molten magma oceans.
Although this latest version left many other constraints unmet, many
of the participants in the 1984 Conference on the Origin of the Moon
were ready, by the time the conference ended, to treat the
collision-ejection hypothesis as the leading contender—not so much
out of conviction of its correctness as out of exasperation.
happened,” Wood wrote in his summary, “mainly because several
independent investigators showed that co-accretion, the model that
had been most widely accepted by lunar scientists (at least at a
subconscious level), could not account for the angular momentum
content of the Earth-Moon system.”
In fact, some of the participants
at the conference, including Wood himself, saw vexing problems
inherent in the new theory.
Iron, Wood pointed out, “is actually
quite volatile and would have suffered much the same fate as the
other volatiles, like sodium and water”; in other words, it would
not have sunk intact into the Earth’s core as the theory postulates.
The abundance of water on Earth, to say nothing of the abundance of
iron in the Earth’s mantle, would not have been possible if Earth
had melted down. Since each variant of the Big Whack hypothesis
involved a total meltdown of the Earth, it was necessary that other
evidence of such a meltdown be found.
But as was overwhelmingly
reported at the 1988 Origin of the Earth Conference at Berkeley,
California, no such evidence exists. If Earth had melted and resolidified, various elements in its rocks would have crystallized
differently from the way they actually are found, and they would
have reappeared in certain ratios, but this is not the case. Another
result should have been the distortion of the chondrite material—the
most primordial matter on Earth that is also found in the most
primitive meteorites—but no such distortion has been found. One
investigator, A. E. Ringwood of the Australian National University,
extended these tests to more than a dozen elements whose relative
abundance should have been altered had the first crust of Earth been
formed after an Earth meltdown; but there was no such alteration to
any significant extent.
In a review of these findings in Science
(March 17, 1989) it was pointed out that at the 1988 conference the geochemists,
“contended that a giant impact
and its inevitable melting of Earth do not jibe with what they know
of geochemistry. In particular, the composition of the upper few
hundred kilometers of the mantle implies it has not been totally
molten at any time.”
“Geochemistry,” the authors of the article in
Science concluded, “would thus seem to be a potential stumbling
block for the giant-impact origin of the moon.”
In “Science and
Technology,” (The Economist, July 22, 1989) it was likewise reported
that numerous studies have led geochemists “to be skeptical about
the impact story.”
Like the previous theories, the Big Whack also
ended up meeting some constraints but failing others. Still, one
should ask whether, while this theory of impact-meltdown ran into
problems when applied to Earth, did it not at least solve the
problem of the melting that is evident on the Moon? As it turned
out, not exactly so. Thermal studies did, indeed, indicate the Moon
had experienced a great meltdown. “The indications are that the Moon
was largely or totally molten early in lunar history,” Alan B.
Binder of NASA’s Johnson Space Center said at the 1984 Conference on
the Origin of the Moon. “Early,” but not “initial,” countered other
This crucial difference was based on studies of stresses
in the Moon’s crust (by Sean C. Solomon of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology), as well of isotope ratios (when atomic
nuclei of the same element have different masses because they have
different numbers of neutrons) studied by D. L. Turcotte and L. H. Kellog of Cornell University. These studies, the 1984 conference was
told, “support a relatively cool origin for the Moon.”
What, then, of the evidence of meltings on the Moon? There is no
doubt that they have occurred: the giant craters, some a hundred or
more miles in diameter, are silent witnesses visible to all. There
are the maria (“seas”), that, it is now known, were not bodies of
water but areas of the Moon’s surface flattened by immense impacts.
There are the magma oceans. There are glass and glassy material
embedded in the rocks and grains of the Moon’s surface that resulted
from shock melting of the surface caused by high-velocity impacts
(as distinct from heated lava as a source).
At the third Conference
on the Origins of Life, a whole day was devoted to the subject of
“Glass on the Moon,” so important was this
clue held to be. Eugene Shoemaker of NASA and Caltech reported that
such evidence of “shock vitrified” glasses and other types of melted
rock were found in abundance on the Moon; the presence of nickel in
the glassy spheres and beads suggested to him that the impactor had
a composition different from that of the Moon, since the Moon’s own
rocks lack nickel.
When did all these impacts that caused the surface melting take
place? Not, the findings showed, when the Moon was created but some
500 million years afterward. It was then. NASA scientists reported
at a 1972 press conference and subsequently, that,
“the Moon had
undergone a convulsive evolution... The most cataclysmic period
came 4 billion years ago, when celestial bodies the size of large
cities and small countries came crashing into the Moon and formed
its huge basins and towering mountains. The huge amounts of
radioactive minerals left by the collisions began heating the rock
beneath the surface, melting massive amounts of it and forcing seas
of lava through cracks in the surface... Apollo 15 found
rockslides in the crater Tsiolovsky six times greater than any
rockslide on Earth. Apollo 16 discovered that the collision that
created the Sea of Nectar deposited debris as much as 1,000 miles
away. Apollo 17 landed near a scarp eight times higher than any on
The oldest rocks on the Moon were judged to be 4.25 billion years
old; soil particles gave a date of 4.6 billion years. The age of the
Moon, all 1,500 or so scientists who have studied the rocks and soil
brought back agree, dates back to the time the Solar System first
took shape. But then something happened about 4 billion years ago.
Writing in Scientific American (January 1977), William Hartmann, in
his article “Cratering in the Solar System,” reported that,
Apollo analysts have found that the age of many samples of lunar
rocks cuts off rather sharply at four billion years; few older rocks
The rocks and soil samples that contained the
glasses formed by the intense impacts were as old as 3.9 billion
“We know that a widespread cataclysmic episode of intense
bombardment destroyed older rocks and surfaces of the planets,” Gerald J. Wasserburg of Caltech stated on the eve of the last Apollo
mission; the remaining question, then, was “what happened between the origin of the Moon about 4.6 billion
years ago and 4 billion years ago,” when the catastrophe occurred.
So the rock found by astronaut David Scott that was nicknamed “the
Genesis Rock” was not formed at the time the Moon was formed, it was
actually formed as a result of that catastrophic event some 600
million years later. Even so, it was appropriately named; for the
tale in Genesis is not that of the primordial forming of the Solar
System 4.6 billion years ago, but of the Celestial Battle of Nibiru/Marduk
with Tiamat some 4 billion years ago.
Unhappy with all the theories that have so far been offered for the
origin of the Moon, some have attempted to select the best one by
grading the theories according to certain constraints and criteria.
A “Truth Table” prepared by Michael J. Drake of the University of
Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory had the Coaccretion theory
far ahead of all others. In John A. Wood’s analysis it met all the
criteria except that of the Earth-Moon angular momentum and the
melting on the Moon; otherwise it bettered all others.
has now focused again on the Coaccretion theory, with some elements
borrowed from the Giant Impact and Fission theories. According to
the theory offered at the 1984 Conference by A. P. Boss of the
Carnegie Institute and S. J. Peale of the University of California,
the Moon is indeed seen as coaccreting with Earth from the same
primordial matter, but the gas cloud within which the coaccretion
took place was subjected to bombardments by planetesimals, which
sometimes disintegrated the forming Moon and sometimes added foreign
material to its mass (Fig. 43). The net result was an ever-larger
Moon attracting and absorbing other moonlets that were forming
within the circumterrestrial ring—a Moon both akin to and somewhat
different from the Earth.
Having swung from theory to theory, modern science now embraces as a
theory for the origin of our Moon the same process that gave the
outer planets their multimoon systems. The hurdle still to be
overcome is the need to explain why, instead of a swarm of smaller
moons, a too-small Earth has ended up with a single, too-large Moon.
For the answer, we have to go back to Sumerian cosmogony. The first
help it offers modern science is its assertion that the Moon
originated not as a satellite of Earth but of the much larger Tiamat.
Then—millennia before Western civilization had discovered the swarms
of moons encircling Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—the
Sumerians ascribed to Tiamat a swarm of satellites, “eleven in all.”
They placed Tiamat beyond Mars, which would qualify her as an outer
planet; and the “celestial horde” was acquired by her no differently
than by the other outer planets.
When we compare the latest scientific theories with Sumerian
cosmogony, we find not only that modern scientists have come around
to accepting the same ideas found in the Sumerian body of knowledge
but are even using terminology that mimics the Sumerian texts. . . .
Just as the latest modern theories do, the Sumerian cosmogony also
describes the scene as that of an early, unstable Solar System where
planetesimals and emerging gravitational forces disturb the
planetary balance and, sometimes, cause moons to grow
disproportionately. In The 12th Planet, I described the celestial
“With the end of the majestic
drama of the birth of the planets, the authors of the Creation Epic
now raise the curtain on Act II, on a drama of celestial turmoil. The newly created family of planets was far from being stable. The
planets were gravitating toward each other; they were converging on Tiamat, disturbing and endangering the primordial bodies.”
poetic words of the Enuma elish,
The divine brothers banded
They disturbed Tiamat as they surged back and forth.
They were troubling the belly of Tiamat
by their antics in the dwellings of heaven.
Apsu [the Sun] could not lessen their clamor;
Tiamat was speechless at their ways.
Their doings were loathsome . . .
Troublesome were their ways; they were overbearing.
“We have here obvious references to erratic orbits,” I wrote in
12th Planet. The new planets “surged back and forth”; they got too
close to each other (“banded together”); they interfered with Tiamat’s orbit; they got too close to her “belly”; their
“ways”—orbits—“were troublesome”; their gravitational pull was
“overbearing”—excessive, disregarding the others’ orbits.
Abandoning earlier concepts of a Solar System slowly cooling and
gradually freezing into its present shape out of the hot primordial
cloud, scientific opinion has now swung in the opposite direction.
“As faster computers allow celestial mechanicians longer looks at
the behavior of the planets,” Richard A. Kerr wrote in Science
(“Research News,” April 14, 1989), “chaos is turning up everywhere.”
He quoted such studies as that by Gerald J. Sussman and
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in which they went back
by computer simulations and discovered that “many orbits that lie
between Uranus and Neptune become chaotic,” and that “the orbital
behavior of Pluto is chaotic and unpredictable.” J. Laskar of the
Bureau des Longitudes in Paris found original chaos throughout the
Solar System, “but especially among the inner planets, including
George Wetherill, updating his calculations of multicollisions by
some five hundred planetesimals (Science, May 17, 1985), described
the process in the zone of the terrestrial planets as the accretion
of “lots of brothers and sisters” that collided to form “trial
planets.” The process of accretion—crashing into one another,
breaking up, capturing the material of others, until some grew
larger and eventually became the terrestrial planets—he said, was
nothing short of a “battle royal” that lasted most of the first 100
million years of the Solar System. The eminent scientist’s words are
astoundingly similar to those of the Enutna elish.
He speaks of
“lots of brothers and sisters” moving about, colliding with each
other, affecting each other’s orbits and very existence. The ancient
text speaks of “divine brothers” who “disturbed,” “troubled,”
“surged back and forth” in the heavens in the very zone where Tiamat
was, near her “belly.” He uses the expression “battle royal” to
describe the conflict between these “brothers and sisters.” The
Sumerian narrative uses the very same word—“battle”—to describe what
happened, and recorded for all time the events of Genesis as the
We read in the ancient texts that as the celestial disturbances
increased, Tiamat brought forth her own “host” with which “to do
battle” with the celestial “brothers” who were encroaching on her:
She has set up an Assembly
and is furious with rage. . . .
With all, eleven of this kind she brought forth. . . .
They thronged and marched at the side of Tiamat;
Enraged, they plot ceaselessly day and night.
They are set for combat, fuming and raging;
They have assembled, prepared for conflict.
Just as modern
astronomers are troubled by the disproportionately large size of the
Moon, so were
the authors of the Enuma elish. Putting words in the
mouths of the other planets, they point to the expanding size and
disturbing mass of “Kingu” as their chief complaint:
From among the gods who formed
her host her first-born, Kingu, she
In their midst she made him great.
To be head of her ranks, to command her host,
to raise weapons for the encounter,
to be in the lead for combat,
in the battle to be the commander—
these to the hand of Kingu she entrusted.
As she caused him to be in her host,
“I have cast a spell for thee,” she said to him;
“I have made thee great in the assembly of the gods;
Dominion over the gods I have given unto thee.
Verily, thou art supreme!”
According to this ancient cosmogony, one of the eleven moons of
Tiamat did grow to an unusual size because of the ongoing
perturbations and chaotic conditions in the newly formed Solar
System. How the creation of this monstrous moon affected these
conditions is regrettably not clear from the ancient text; the
enigmatic verses, with some of the original words subject to
different readings and translations, seem to say that making Kingu
“exalted” resulted in “making the fire subside” (per E. A. Speiser),
or “quieting the fire-god” (per A. Heidel) and humbling /vanquishing
the “Power-weapon which is so potent in its sweep”—a possible
reference to the disturbing pull of gravitation.
Whatever quieting effect the enlargement of “Kingu” may have had on
Tiamat and her host, it proved increasingly disruptive to the other
planets. Especially disturbing to them was the elevation of Kingu to
the status of a full-fledged planet:
She gave him a Tablet of Destinies,
fastened it on his breast. . . .
Kingu was elevated,
had received a heavenly rank.
It was this “sin” of Tiamat, her giving Kingu his own orbital
“destiny,” that enraged the other planets to the point of “calling
in” Nibiru/Marduk to put an end to Tiamat and her out of-line
consort. In the ensuing Celestial Battle, as described earlier, Tiamat was split in two:
We have here a sequence that conforms with the best points of the
various modern theories regarding the origin, evolution, and final
fate of the Moon. Though the nature of the “powerweapon . . . so
potent in its sweep” or that of “the fire-god” that caused Kingu to
grow disproportionately large remains unclear, the fact of the
disproportionate size of the Moon (even relative to the larger
Tiamat) is recorded in all its disturbing details. All is
there—except that it is not Sumerian cosmogony that corroborates
modern science, but modern science that catches up with ancient
Could the Moon have indeed been a planet-in-the making, as the
Sumerians said? As reviewed in earlier chapters, this was quite
conceivable. Did it in fact assume planetary aspects? Contrary to
long-held views that the Moon was always an inert object, it was
found, in the 1970s and 1980s, to possess virtually all the
attributes of a planet except its own independent orbit around the
Sun. Its surface has regions of rugged and tangled mountains; it has
plains and “seas” that, if not formed by water, were probably formed
by molten lava.
To the scientists’ surprise the Moon was found to be
layered, as the Earth is. In spite of the depletion of its iron by
the catastrophic event discussed earlier, it appears to have
retained an iron core. Scientists debate whether the core is still
molten, for to their astonishment the Moon was found to have once
possessed a magnetic field, which is caused by the rotation of a
molten iron core, as is true of the Earth and other planets.
Significantly, as studies by Keith Runcorn of Britain’s University
of Newcastle-upon-Tyne indicate, the magnetism “dwindled away circa
four billion years ago”—the time of the Celestial Battle.
Instruments installed on the Moon by Apollo astronauts relayed data
that revealed “unexpectedly high heat flows from beneath the lunar
surface,” indicating ongoing activity inside the “lifeless orb.”
Vapor—water vapor—was detected by Rice University scientists, who
reported (in October 1971) seeing “geysers of water vapor erupting
through cracks in the lunar surface.” Other unexpected findings
reported at the Third Lunar Science Conference in Houston in 1972
disclosed going volcanism on the Moon, which
“’would imply the simultaneous existence near the lunar surface of
significant quantities of heat and water.”
In 1973, “bright flashes” sighted on the Moon were found to be
emissions of gas from the Moon’s interior. Reporting this, Walter
Sullivan, science editor of The New York Times, observed that it
appeared that the Moon, even if not a “living celestial body. . . is
at least a breathing one,” Such puffs of gas and darkish mists have
been observed in several of the Moon’s deep craters from the very
first Apollo mission and at least through 1980.
The indications that lunar volcanism may still be going on have led
scientists to assume that the Moon once had a fullfledged atmosphere
whose volatile elements and compounds included hydrogen, helium,
argon, sulfur, carbon compounds, and water. The possibility that
there may still be water below the Moon’s surface has raised the
intriguing question of whether water once flowed on the face of the
Moon—water that, as a very volatile compound, evaporated and was
dissipated into space.
Were it not for budgetary constraints, NASA would have been willing
to adopt the recommendations of a panel of scientists to explore the
Moon with a view to begin mining its mineral resources. Thirty
geologists, chemists, and physicists who met in August 1977 at the
University of California in San Diego pointed out that research on
the Moon—both from orbit and on its surface—had been limited to its
equatorial regions; they urged the launching of a lunar polar
orbiter, not only because such an orbiter could collect data from
the entire Moon, but also with a view to discovering if there is now
water on the Moon. “One target of the orbiter’s observations,”
according to James Arnold of the University of California,
small areas near each pole where the Sun never shines. It has been
theorized by scientists that as much as 100 billion tons of water in
the form of ice are likely to be found in those places. . . . If
you’re going to have large-scale activities in space, like mining
and manufacturing, it’s going to involve a lot of water, the Moon’s
polar regions could be a good source.”
Whether the Moon still has water, after all the cataclysmic events it has undergone, is still to be ascertained.
But the increasing evidence that it may still have water in its
interior and may have had water on its surface should not be
surprising. After all, the Moon—alias Kingu—was the leading
satellite of the “watery monster” Tiamat.
On the occasion of the last Apollo mission to the Moon, The
Economist (Science and Technology, December 11,1972) summed up the
program’s discoveries thus:
“Perhaps the most important of all,
exploration of the moon has shown that it is not a simple,
uncomplicated sphere but a true planetary body.”
“A true planetary
Just as the Sumerians described millennia ago. And just as
they stated millennia ago, the planetto-be was not to become a
planet with its own orbit around the Sun because it was deprived of
that status as a result of the Celestial Battle.
Here is what Nibiru/Marduk did to “Kingu”:
And Kingu, who had become chief among them,
he made shrink, as a DUG.GA.E god he counted him.
He took from him the Tablet of Destinies
which was not rightfully his;
He sealed on it his own seal
and fastened it to his own breast.
Deprived of its orbital momentum, Kingu was reduced to the status of
a mere satellite—our Moon.
The Sumerian observation that Nibiru/Marduk made Kingu “shrink” has
been taken to refer to its reduction in rank and importance. But as
recent findings indicate, the Moon has been depleted of the bulk of
its iron by a cataclysmic event, resulting in a marked decrease in
“There are two planetary bodies within the Solar System
whose peculiar mean density implies that they are unique and
probably the products of unusual circumstances,” Alastair Cameron
wrote in Icarus (vol. 64, 1985); “these are the Moon and Mercury.
The former has a low mean density and is greatly depleted in iron.”
In other words, Kingu has indeed shrunk!
There is other evidence that the Moon became more compact
as a result of heavy impacts. On the side facing away from
Earth—its far side—the surface has highlands and a thick crust,
while the near side—the side facing Earth—shows large, flat plains,
as though the elevated features had been wiped off.
the Moon, gravitational variations reveal the existence of
compacted, heavier masses in several concentrations, especially
where the surface had been flattened out. Though outwardly the Moon
(as do all celestial bodies larger than a minimal size) has a
spherical shape, the mass in its core appears to have the shape of a
gourd, as a computer study shows (Fig. 44). It is a shape that bears
the mark of the “big whack” that compressed the Moon and thrust it
into its new place in the heavens, just as the Sumerians had
The Sumerian assertion that Kingu was turned into a DUG.GA.E is
equally intriguing. The term, I wrote in The 12th Planet, literally
means “pot of lead.” At the time I took it to be merely a figurative
description of the Moon as “a mass of lifeless clay.” But the
Apollo discoveries suggest that the Sumerian term was not just
figurative but was literally and scientifically correct. One of the
initial puzzles encountered on the Moon was so-called “parentless
lead.” The Apollo program revealed that the
top few miles of the Moon’s crust are unusually rich in radioactive
elements such as uranium. There was also evidence of the existence
of extinct radon. These elements decay and become lead at either
final or intermediary stages of the radioactive-decay process.
How the Moon became so enriched in radioactive elements remains an
unresolved puzzle, but that these elements had mostly decayed into
lead is now evident. Thus, the Sumerian assertion that Kingu was
turned into a “pot of lead” is an accurate scientific statement.
The Moon was not only a Witness to Genesis. It is also a witness to
the veracity of the biblical Genesis—to the accuracy of ancient
IN THE ASTRONAUTS’ OWN WORDS
Feeling changes of “almost a spiritual
nature” in their views of themselves, of other humans, and of the
possibility of intelligent life existing beyond Earth have been
reported by almost all the American astronauts.
Gordon Cooper, who piloted Mercury 9 in 1963 and copiloted Gemini 5
in 1965, returned with the belief that “intelligent,
extraterrestrial life has visited Earth in ages past” and became
interested in archaeology. Edward G. Gibson, a scientist aboard
Skylab 3 (1974), said that orbiting the Earth for days “makes you
speculate a little more about life existing elsewhere in the
Especially moved were the astronauts of the Apollo missions to the
“Something happens to you out there,” stated Apollo 14
astronaut Ed Mitchell. Jim Irwin Apollo 15, was “deeply moved ...
and felt the presence of God.”
His comrade on the mission, Al
Worden, speaking on the twentieth anniversary of the first landing
on the Moon on a TV program (“The Other Side of the Moon” produced
by Michael G. Lemle) compared the lunar module that was used to land
on and take off vertically from the Moon to the spaceship described
in Ezekiel’s vision.
“In my mind,” said Al Worden, “the universe has
to be cyclic; in one galaxy there is a planet becoming unlivable and
in another part or a different galaxy there is a planet that is
perfect for habitation, and I see some intelligent being, like us,
skipping around from planet to planet, as South Pacific Indians do
on islands, to continue the species.
I think that’s what the space program is all about...
we may be a combination of creatures that were living here
on Earth some time in the past, and had a visitation by
beings from somewhere else in the universe; and those two
species getting together and having progeny... In fact, a
very small group of explorers could land on a planet and create successors to themselves who would eventually take
up the pursuit of inhabiting the rest of the universe”
And Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) expressed the belief that,
“one of these days, through telescopes that may be in orbit,
like the Hubble telescope, or other technical breakthroughs,
we may learn that indeed we are not alone in this marvelous
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