While the achievements of our Olympics athletes have garnered most of the news, NASA just celebrated it’s own remarkable achievement. It successfully landed Mars Curiosity on Mars.
This is a truly amazing thing. We even captured a picture of it from our own orbiter:
To quote actor and science promoter Wil Wheaton (who narrated a NASA video on the Mars Rover, as did fellow Star Trek actor William Shatner) from his blog:
So let’s think about this for a moment, okay? Not only did these humans successfully land a Mini Cooper on Mars, they timed everything out so that a satellite they already put into orbit around Mars could take pictures of it.
People were lined up in Times Square, New York City, at 1am to watch this happen, live with less tape delay than NBC’s Olympic coverage. It brings people together, like the Olympics. It brings out the best in humanity, like the Olympics. And as expensive as it was ($2.5 billion), it costs less than a fraction of what we spend to send our troops into Afghanistan. If only, like the Olympics, we could realize how important exploring our universe is for the human spirit, and prioritize it higher than we do violence and war and creating divisions among ourselves.
Right now, we have two beautiful examples of what we are capable of when we come together. My wish is that we learn from it, that the Olympic spirit lasts longer than just the duration of the games, and we take Roddenbery’s challenge to “explore strange new worlds…to boldly go where no one has gone before.” For the price of a few less weeks of Afghan slaughter, think of how much we could explore…