Introduction: When Chess Meets Space

In this article, I analyze how chess grandmaster, Hikaru Nakamura, one of the most successful online chess content producers and one of the strongest chess players ever, reacted live to a large audience during the latest alleged Indian moon landings. In our own live session that took place in the early hours of October 12, 2023, we watched the clip live with our supporters. Thanks to Prognostic for bringing this clip to my attention. 

As we have demonstrated in our coverage of the alleged lunar landing event, the Indian Space Agency (ISRO) made it almost impossible for anyone with any sense to believe it. The quality of the computer generated animations was far below par, shockingly amateurish. 

If people were paying attention and asking questions, such overhyped, blatantly staged productions should lead millions of people to recognize their faith in space exploration stories has no objective basis on reality. This would lead them to realize, among other things, that the mind is a malleable organ of perception, and that things are not often what they seem to be nor what they are presented as. This is specially so in the case of stories that flow from official government and corporate sources. 

Hikaru Nakamura and Chandrayaan’s Moon Landing Hype

Nakamura’s live reactions during the Chandrayaan lunar landing event shed light on the stark contrast between the spectacle’s hype and the stark reality of what unfolded. Nakamura’s candid and unfiltered responses offered a unique lens through which to examine the theater of space exploration and the mind of space exploration believers. I edited his reactions in this video:

The Absence of Live Cameras

Right at the start of the clip, Nakamura noticed that the ISRO was only showing computer animations. He immediately asked, “where’s the live cam of this? Is there no actual live cam? Are there no live cameras? I just feel like there should be some actual live cam on the thing itself.” 

Given the extreme price of such gimmicky missions, and the alleged importance of landing on the Moon for space exploration believers and mind controlled government worshippers, the landers should have been packed with high resolution cameras. 

People in the live chat responded with the suggestion that live cameras “were not in the budget.” This excuse seems far fetched in a world where billions of people walk around with cheap high resolution cameras in their pockets and space agencies syphon billions of dollars. Believers are willing to hold on to any clumsy excuse they can conjure up. it gives relief from the pressure of having to think through the information, which gives them the anxieties typical of someone suffering from cognitive dissonance.

Nakamura also noted a comment from the chat, “what a waste of marketing, next time put a good camera on that thing.” He seemed to find this amusing.

Retro Aesthetics in Space Missions

Referring to the landing animation, Nakamura remarked, “this reminds me of one of those really bad early video games from the late eighties or the early nineties… one of those Atari games or something, or SNES… it really looks old.” 

Those times are far gone now, and computer animations and games can be more realistic. Somehow the retro look of official space missions is still around; and perhaps, ironically, it may even signify authenticity. Some believers attempt to explain away the atrocious quality of the unrealistic animations with the excuse that these are renderings of actual scientific data from sensitive instruments onboard. In fact, we could say that Nakamura was being generous with his description, since both Atari and SNES systems had faster frame rates than those presented in the Indian lunar landings in 2023. 

The SpaceX Effect: Shaping Expectations in Space Animation

Nakamura remarked, reflecting on the lack of proper cameras and the low budget excuse: “They didn’t have enough budget? I mean, the budget to shoot this film was too little?” He then goes into an eleven-second-long, hearty, compulsive laughing fit. 

Indeed, Nakamura almost hit the nail on the head, “the budget to shoot this film was too little.” In fact, the budget was too high to justify such poor results, even for a fictional production. He then proceeded to compare the ISRO lunar landing with so-called SpaceX launches:

“With the SpaceX launches, for example,” he ponders, “it’s all realtime, you get the video feed and everything, so when I see that, that’s what I am expecting.”

In other words, Nakamura’s imagination has already been captivated by the equally problematic, yet more modern animations presented as SpaceX launches. Perhaps Nakamura forgot that SpaceX sent a Tesla Roadster into space, in an atrociously unrealistic computer animation. However, since the roadster animation matched more modern animated renditions of the space and the Earth, it seemed more realistic to believers than the lower production standards that the ISRO presents. Ironically, in an attempt to explain away the ridiculous animation, Elon Musk uttered the famous doublethink slogan, “you know it’s real because it looks do fake.” That is, space exploration believers expect and consume fake images as reality, since all they know about space has been fabricated. 

Paul on the Plane highlights the glitches and issues with the Tesla production here:

Government Worshipping in the Space Age

Even though Nakamura is watching the event with a live crowd of followers, he does not know what it is all about. He asked, “what is the actual purpose? I don’t understand. Is it to explore the Moon or something?” 

He does not suspect that this mission is just another government worshipping event that reinforces the colonial cosmology and attempts to exploit the so-called “Apollo Effect.” This stems from the fact that during the Apollo Missions, the US Government realized that absorption of space exploration mythology led believers to work harder together. It also generated public support and funding options. In its current Indian rendition, the idea is to instill the people with pride for their so-called nation, that is, the government that taxes and exploits them, while selling them the promise of living in a science fiction world.  

India’s Lunar Landing or Prime Minister’s Grandstanding?

The whole staged event seemed to be more about India’s grandstanding and oddly behaving Prime Minister than the landing itself. When the computer generated animation was supposed to be touching down on the Moon, the broadcast divided the screen in two halves. On the left, a puppet-like Prime Minister waved a mini Indian flag that seemed to be made out of paper, while his face showed no excitement whatsoever. On the right, the animation of the Chandrayaan probe took three quarters of the screen while the alleged live footage of the landing appeared in an extremely low frame rate in one quarter of the half-screen. As the probe supposedly approach the ground, the ground did not seem to get closer. Moreover, we should notice that within the one quarter of half screen frame in which the alleged actual lunar ground was shown, almost half of the frame was covered with the lunar landing prop, in a blatant computer generated layer. 

Nakamura asked, “shouldn’t they have that in high definition just on, like, a gigantic screen? Shouldn’t there be one gigantic screen with that? That’s all everyone would like to see.” 

Most believers want to get a glimpse of the magnificent, wonderful and mysterious surface of the Moon, in all its natural detail and majesty. Instead, they were forced to watch the Indian Prime Minister waving a flag alongside some old school video game animation. Nakamura commented, “Okaaay…  that was very cringe… very cringe.” 

Prime Minister’s Self-Promotion Takes Center Stage

Nakamura reacted to the blatant promotion of the Prime Minister as more important himself than the landing on the Moon. He remarked, repeating the official narrator, “the honorable Prime Minister… interesting…” 

The narrator in the official ISRO broadcast proposed that the Prime Minister was “critically looking at the visuals.” This is a proper characterization, “visuals,” the kind of thing people report seeing while high on LSD and hallucinogens. The main difference is that the ISRO “visuals” were lackluster, outdated, slow moving and uninspiring, even for space exploration believers. 

The Prime Minister’s performance comes across as creepy and robotic, suggesting that he himself did not believe the animations. Nakamura later reacted again, “don’t show the Prime Minister,” he said, “show the hundred engineers who were the ones who actually made the project a success.” He continued along similar lines, “nobody cares about the Prime Minister. He is not the one who did it.” Finally, before moving back to chess content, Nakamura proclaimed, “the Moon did land, so let’s keep going. They landed on the Moon. Yes they did, you guys, they did.” 

Engineer Extras Clapping at an Animation Spectacle

Each time the crowd of extras, posing as do-nothing space engineers, started clapping on cue while staring at the animations, Nakamura woulds say in a dry and skeptical tone, “okay…” The engineer-posing extras get up and start clapping and making noises. Nothing is shown that resembles the Moon surface or any of its digital or artistic renditions. Out of the hundreds of people sitting around computer screens, none seems to be doing anything. The producers never ever show what appears in their screens. 

It is time for minutes of clapping, smiling and cheering at the animation. Still, no magical lunar surface images appeared.  Nakamura was unsure, “okay, it landed, right?” The broadcast focuses on the clapping crowds and cheering noises.

The Art of Filling-In Logical Gaps

As a believer, despite all the evidence of manipulation and deception, Nakamura must find something to hold onto, so that he can himself retain the myth of space exploration as part of his cosmological outlook. Perhaps he is referring to the computer animation technicians who put on such a show. However, Nakamura rests his mind on this vapid critical point – yeah, politicians are trying to steal the thunder from all the amazing, invisible, unquestionable, engineers working behind the scenes to make the mission a great success. 

The evidence, in fact, only disproved the event as a fiction that state agents orchestrated. The fact that Nakamura reaches such a conclusion after watching the atrocious ISRO Moon landing show speaks volumes to how believers are willing to fill in abysmal gaps of logic and evidence. 

Questioning the Unquestionable: The Fragile Foundation of Astronomy

Upon reflection, we should realize that modern astronomy and other space-related disciplines are unique in a very special way. They are able to transcend all other, traditional academic disciplines that encourage conclusions drawn from solid and verifiable evidence.  

Practitioners of modern astronomy and space related disciplines have managed for centuries to get away with the monumental leaps of logic and contradictions between evidence and boastful, exaggerated claims of universal cosmic significance. 

In other words, they proclaim measuring extremely long distances, and describe events and processes that supposedly happened billions of years ago, without ever having to present any solid evidence whatsoever. As such, they play with mathematical equations to make computer models and present animations as ultimate, invisible realities of no practical value. They pose as sages who can understand the fabric of the universe, but when you question them, you realize they are just people telling stories that they have absorbed as unquestionable without any critical reflection. Moreover, as they are not very good at that, their conceptual systems are bland, simplistic, and dogmatic. For anthropologists with cross-cultural experience, the ethnocentrism, homogeneity and blandness that characterizes the lackluster theoretical fantasies of modern astronomers stand out. 

Their ideas are so fragile and unconvincing that astrophysicists are generally urged to stay away from any critics. The foundation of their knowledge is so weak that they would be easily humiliated in public debate situations. However, one critic, Mark Knight, slipped through the cracks and recorded a conversation with an astrophysicist at the University of Freiburg. 

The resulting conversation provides an epistemological demolition of the modern astrophysical lore, the house of cards that sustains the colonial cosmology. And Mark Knight achieved this by simply asking questions. You may refer to my live presentations on this event, called How to Tame Your Astrophysicist, available in two parts: 

The Absurdity of the Indian Lunar Landing: A Theatrical Spectacle

The live Indian Lunar landing event was perhaps one of most ridiculously fake looking performances in the whole history of space exploration tales. Yet, we should also notice that there has not been a single space exploration performance that is actually challenging to critically deconstruct. To demonstrate the theatrical essence of such events is, in fact, not very challenging. Yet, the recent Indian event was absolutely atrocious, a torture for anyone to watch, even space exploration believers under deep colonial cosmological control. 

The live Indian Lunar landing event, marked by its artificial and unconvincing nature, highlights the inherent theatrics embedded within the narratives of space exploration. It underscores the broader issue that such events, despite their low production standards and glaring inconsistencies, continue to captivate and maintain the belief of space exploration enthusiasts, as well as those entrenched in the colonial cosmology paradigm. This case study has revealed several key insights:

  • Lack of Live Cameras: The absence of live cameras during the lunar landing event raises questions about transparency and authenticity within space exploration narratives.
  • Outdated Animation: Nakamura’s comparison to early video games serves as a reminder of the persistent retro aesthetics present in official space missions, inviting speculations about their veracity.
  • Budget Excuses: Believers’ readiness to accept “budget constraints” as an excuse for low-quality presentation demonstrates their unwavering commitment to these narratives.
  • Contrasting Modern Animation: The reference to SpaceX’s more modern animations highlights the impact of evolving production standards on the perception of authenticity among believers.
  • Political Grandstanding: The event’s focus on the Indian Prime Minister over the lunar landing itself reflects the instrumental role of space narratives in fostering national pride and government support.
  • Minimal Lunar Footage: The limited frame dedicated to actual lunar footage, obscured by computer-generated layers, further challenges the credibility of the event.
  • Believers’ Optimism: Nakamura’s hopeful interpretation of the event’s success emphasizes the desire of believers to preserve their cosmological outlook, even in the face of evidence pointing to fiction.
  • Political Influence: The event exposes the role of politicians in shaping space narratives and the perpetuation of state-controlled cosmic propaganda.
  • Evidence of Deception: The evidence presented during the event’s broadcast contradicts its portrayal as a genuine lunar landing, emphasizing the manipulative nature of these narratives.
  • Belief Resilience: Nakamura’s conclusion exemplifies the believers’ resilience in the face of logical gaps and deceptive narratives, further underlining the extent to which the colonial cosmology shapes their perceptions.

By looking at the Indian lunar landing event and Nakamura’s live reactions, this analysis underscores the enduring power of space exploration narratives and their profound influence within the colonial cosmological framework. Despite their artificial and deceptive qualities, these narratives continue to command belief and devotion, illustrating the intricate relationship between propaganda, belief, and the shaping of cosmological perceptions among space exploration believers. 

Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes

Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes, Ph.D, is a social and cultural anthropologist, independent consultant, music producer, composer, multi-instrumentalist, artist, public intellectual and communicator.

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