Naming a Lunar Crater after Shah Rukh Khan: How far is it justified?

Posted on January 28, 2010

Quite recently the International Lunar Geographic Society (ILUGS), a New York-based organization devoted to the study of the moon, has named a lunar crater after the Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan. This crater is supposedly located on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility and is the largest of the four Arago craters, positioned directly south of the main crater. It is noteworthy that ILUGS was working on the christening of this part of crater since November 2nd last year when the present day godfather of Bollywood turned 44th. Shockingly, even the International Astronomical Union, headquartered in Paris has approved it. Few questions which this naming has given rise to and are concerned with the mankind involving billions of people in general are — Should this kind of move be supported in future and whether the involvement of Bollywood in astronomy should be promoted? With the mighty presence and recognition of these superstars already in the entire world is this kind of naming of ethereal bodies justified and required?

I personally feel that it is quite ridiculous on the part of such astronomical bodies which are having huge universal importance to narrow down their celestial naming to such a low. What makes them forget about the great astronomers and scientists who have worked throughout their lives to discover the mysteries in the outer space? Or is it so that they have already named regions after all eminent astronomers and are now falling short of names and have been kind enough to turn to Bollywood for getting the names which are most often typed on Google? I really don’t think that the latter is true. To name a few, the scientists like Aryabhatta, Bhaskaracharya, Sir Chandrashekhar, Dr. Meghnad Saha and Dr. J. C. Bose would be far better options for such a naming. Only Sir C V Raman, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai, and Dr. Homi Bhabha are the ones who have been considered till date for naming the craters.

We never know to what extent a celebrity can go to retain his/her international presence for as long as possible amidst the global fans and supporters. Who knows if SRK has paid a whopping amount to ILUGS for “Cater S R Khan” which can be looked at as a “generous contribution” for this organization and can be very well put forward as a Birthday Gift for our still-a-kid Khan. An American entrepreneur from Nevada, Dennis Hope is already claimed to found a loophole in UN Outer Space Treaty which forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the moon or a planet, since they are the common heritage of mankind. He has sold crater names to millions of people around the globe. His company, the Lunar Geographical Society, was started in 1980 and he is the self-proclaimed head of the Lunar Embassy. In the last twenty years Hope is expected to have made around nine million dollars. Hope’s company has sold more than 2,500,000* 1-acre plots of lunar land and named countless craters. Mostly by offering a very believable looking certificate, craters go for $39.95 (Rs 1,840) and land goes for about $19 (Rs 855). SRK could be one of those customers of ILUGS directly with an extended help of charity in return even though the organization claims that it is just an honorary designation of the crater. Well now you know why Mr. Khan is planning to even name his next movie as My Name is Chand so that in case My Name is Khan fails to deliver, Mr. Khan has a new lollipop to draw attention of cine-goers. While the race amongst the Khans’ continues till date, with Salman Khan lagging a bit and SRK getting a tough competition from Aamir after his blockbuster 3 Idiots, SRK has been under an immense pressure to work on different genres instead of fantasizing his fans just romantically.

The bottom line of the whole story is evidently a requirement for a better check on naming convention of celestial bodies. There are thousands of astronomers and scientists who work day in and day out to discover something new in the outer space which can be of some help for the mankind. We tend to neglect their contribution by naming our heavenly objects after the people who are in first place not even related to their discovery and who are already so famous that there are people who might even forget the name of their parents, the country they are living in but know about these celebrities for sure.


The writer is a Goa based correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz, pursuing Computer Science Engineering at BITS, Pilani — Goa Campus

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