The last few weeks have been flying by and I am a little behind on blogging and observations about life. One of the most incredible things of these past times has been Curiosity and the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) landing on Mars. Think about it – what an incredible feat!
My friend Bob, wrote about the landing Wednesday in his blog. He reported it was a 352-million mile journey. The mission was launched on November 26, 2011 and touchdown was on August 6, 2012 at 0517 UTC (or 1:17 EDT). The intent was not only to go to the Red Planet, but also to land a full-fledged laboratory on the surface. Bob reflected on the lunar landing of 43 years ago. At the time, he might have been 10; I was 16. It was, as they say, a memorable event. One that has stuck in our minds since the moment it happened.
This event, Curiosity landing on Mars, while an amazing accomplishment, will not be remembered as well as Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the moon. Why? Because we have allowed the excitement of exploration and the romance of space travel to escape us. Today, many of us are too wrapped up in living our daily lives and we are so bombarded by other news that flying into space seems to have taken a backseat in importance.
However, there are a few of us who remain dedicated to the idea of traveling “out there,” to places we have never before gone. They still work diligently to make things such as space travel happen. Today, they are the kids you find in class that some term as “nerds” and others may refer to as loners. They are the ones who attend class for the reason of learning and typically do very well academically. These are the students who eventually go on to do fantastic things.
They are the ones with true imagination. These are the kids who grow up to be, well… actual rocket scientists.
While watching replays of the Mars landing, I could not help but think this was the most important moment in the history of mankind. We went to another planet in our solar system. Think about that … we went… to another planet! It was a wonderful thing watching everyone in the Jet Propulsion Lab explode into celebrations of laughter, tears, and backslapping when they learned the landing was successful.
Curiosity and the MSL was down on another planet and though she carried no human crew, we, all of us on this blue-green planet, were there with her on the red one. For the first time in our existence, rather than speculation about the content of our nearest celestial neighbor, we are on the verge of gaining concrete evidence of what makes up Mars.
The growth of humankind is dependent on exploration. Without it, I believe we will stagnate and wither. I cannot imagine what Europe would be like today if Christopher Columbus did not possess the temerity to sail beyond the edge of the earth to the New World.
©2012 J. Clark
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