Sunday, 29 July 2018

NASA 60th Birthday

In a relatively short space of time, humans have gone from tentatively sending the first artificial satellite around the Earth in 1960 to landing exploration probes on other planets and today is the 60th Birthday of NASA and the progress we have made is astounding.
Driven by the Cold war, the Soviet Union and the USA competed to go bigger and better and although the USSR achieved many firsts, it
was NASA who landed a human on the Moon to take the ultimate space race prize. 
The Apollo 11 Mission will forever stay the highpoint for NASA, or at least until a successful manned Mars mission, and the Earthrise photograph taken by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders is amazing but there is a more poignant, thought provoking and beautiful photograph snapped in 1990 by Voyager 1 as it made it's way out of the Solar System.
At a distance of 40 Astronomical units or 3,757,059,000 miles, the space probe turned its camera back towards Earth and took a picture which became known as the Pale Blue Dot.
Astronomer Carl Sagan made one of the greatest speeches ever which puts it into perspective brilliantly:

'That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. Every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.'

Elegant and powerful words but yet we still we go on vandalising the only place that we have to live on.
 What the image and Sagan's bewitching words drive home as we look at that tiny pinprick of light in the vast blackness of space is how our place, for all our arrogance, is just a tiny, infinitesimal part of a colossal universe.

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