by Muammar Qaddafi
After man had travelled in outer space so much that he had become
overcome by dizziness, after government budgets could no longer support
expensive space programmes, after man landed on the moon and found
nothing, after the two astronauts exposed the wild speculations of
scientists concerning the existence of seas and oceans on the moon’s
surface and the arrogant ‘Great Powers’ competed over owning and naming
them, almost coming into conflict over dividing the moon’s wealth –
especially marine resources – and after approaching the members of the
solar system, taking their pictures and despairing of ever finding or
being able to sustain life, man returned to earth, dizzy, nauseous, and
In fact, it was simply the case that the earth is
the only known land, unique, a source of life. Life means water and
food; earth is the only place that provides us with these. The only true
needs are bread, dates, milk, meat, and water. The only air necessary
for life is that which surrounds the earth. And so, man returned to the
earth from his adventure in outer space.
The astronaut removed his
space suit and donned an ordinary one, so that he could resume his life
upon the ground, having ended his mission in space. He began to look
for earth-based work. He entered a carpenter’s shop, but could not
handle such simple tasks, since they were outside his area of
The same went for his efforts at turnery, iron
working, construction and plumbing. He tried painting and white-washing
as well, but had not studied drawing, or music, or knitting, since these
were quite unconnected to his field of specialization.
He left the industrial city scorned, a banished one
, and went to the countryside. He began to look for agricultural
work, so that he could support himself and his family. A peasant asked
him, ‘Do you know anything about tilling the good earth, son?’ By asking
this question, he was in fact asking if the astronaut liked farming.
astronaut replied, ‘The earth’s attraction decreases the higher we go,
and our weight becomes gradually less until we reach the point of
weightlessness. Then, we have freed ourselves of the earth’s gravity,
and eventually reach the gravitation of another planet, and our weight
increases… and so forth and so on… I hope that I have answered your
The peasant looked as though he did not understand, as
if he required further explanation. The astronaut went on, providing
additional information, in the hope that he would gain employment on the
land from the simple peasant.
‘The Earth’s size is about 1,320
times less of that of Jupiter, while 12 Earth years equal one year on
Jupiter. The red spot of Jupiter is big enough to contain the earth at
its centre, while Saturn is 744 times bigger than Earth. Even so,
Earth’s mass is only 95 times less than that of Saturn. The Earth’s
diameter is about 50 times greater than the moon’s, while its size is
about 80 times greater.
The Earth’s gravity is six times greater
than the moon’s. The Earth is about 150 million kilometres distant from
the sun, whose light takes eight minutes to reach us, travelling at a
speed of 300,000 kilometres a second. The Earth’s size is about
1,303,800 times less than the sun, while its mass is about 332,958 times
less. Its density is approximately 30 times less than the sun’s while
the Earth is the third most distant body from the sun.
the closest planet, followed by Venus, and then the Earth. Venus is
about 42 million kilometres from the Earth, while the Earth is about
400,000 kilometres from the moon. If you went by car, travelling 100
kilometres per hour, you would reach the moon in 146 days. If you did
not have a car, and went by foot, you would arrive in eight years and
I think that answers your question. As you can see, I have complete knowledge about the Earth.’
he said ‘Earth’, the peasant awoke and closed his mouth, which has been
open throughout the astronaut’s journey from planet to planet, which
began upon the earth and finally returned there. The peasant had
understood nothing. In fact, he had become dizzy; he felt as if he had
returned from a trip into space, throughout the entire solar system, but
without any result for his farm.
The distance that concerned him
was that between one tree and another, and not between the Earth and
Jupiter. The weight that concerned him was the produce from his farm,
and not of Mercury. Perhaps he felt sorry for the poor astronaut, and
The astronaut then committed suicide, after he gave up on being able to find work on the ground that could sustain him.
 Or, 'rejected', a reference to the Holy Quran, Sura 7, verse 18.
Essay from “Escape to Hell and Other Stories” by Muammar Qaddafi with foreword by Pierre Salinger.
© Text copyright 1998 Stanké, New York.