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Did we go to the moon? Is the moon farther from Earth than the sun?

Question: 
When I read that Srila Prabhupada did not believe astronauts ever landed on the moon I was taken aback. I have come to admire him and his teachings but this I cannot follow. I have looked into all sides of the moon landing "controversy" and it is very clear which side has the facts. My other concern is Prabhupada stating that the sun is closer then the moon in Vedic cosmology. No scientist would agree that the sun is closer than the moon.

Did we go to the moon? Is the moon farther from Earth than the sun?

Our Answer:

About whether the astronauts went to the moon:

We accept the statements in the Vedas as divine, infallible, and perfect knowledge because they come from the omniscient Supreme Lord.

The scientists' theories are always changing, and thus are imperfect at every step, changing every few years.

Srila Prabhupada appeared to take the Vedic statements and apply logic and reason and form an opinion in each case.

The Vedas describe the moon as a heavenly planet whereas the place the astronauts visited was like a desert. That is one reason Prabhupada doubted they went there.

Being a heavenly planet, it can only be attained by one in the mode of goodness. The astronauts, being in the modes of ignorance, or perhaps passion at best, thus were not qualified to attain the moon planet. That is another reason that Prabhupada doubted they went there.

One devotee-scientist, Sadaputa Prabhu (Richard L. Thompson, Ph.D. 1974 Cornell), suggested perhaps the astronauts went to a place with the same three-dimensional coordinates as the moon, but which differed in the fourth dimension. Both modern science and Vedic knowledge support the idea of more than three dimensions. An analogy can be made to searching for a plush penthouse apartment in three dimensions. If you get only two dimensions right, you can end up in a trashed out basement instead of the plush apartment on the top floor.

Another point from the Vedic perspective that could be made is the more conscious and more powerful lunar beings could have diverted the scientists to another place without their being aware.

Regarding the statement the moon is further than the sun:

The statement is the moon is higher above the earth disk (Bhu-mandala) than the sun.

Sadaputa Prabhu found the distance from the earth to the sun accepted by modern astronomers is the same as the lateral distance from the center of Bhu-mandala (Mount Meru) to the orbit of the sun around the earth described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. It is not the sun's height above Bhu-mandala that is the same as the earth-sun distance. What "height above Bhu-mandala" corresponds to in terms of modern physics is not clear. Sadaputa Prabhu noticed there is a direct relationship between the tilt of the orbit from the ecliptic plane and the height above Bhu-mandala.

During Krishna's time, 5000 years ago, they predicted the solar eclipses properly so that both the Vrindavan residents and Dvaraka residents were able to travel to Kurukshetra in time for it. Thus their knowledge of the sun-moon motion could not be grossly inaccurate.

Although the description of the cosmology in the Puranas seems far different than our modern understanding, the Jyotish sastras, i.e. Surya-siddhanta and Siddhanta-siromani, in the Vedic tradition have values close to the scientist's values.

I would not be too disturbed about these points. Ultimately human life is meant for understanding we are eternal spiritual beings and awakening our love for the Supreme Spirit who is our origin.

The cosmology of Bhagavatam is meant to glorify the Lord as the creator, not to present the universe as humans see it on this insignificant planet, just one of many, many in the universe.