Humankind is by nature curious, and that curiosity has led us far from home to explore new worlds. Making new discoveries means taking risks, but as Martin Buber says: “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Nothing will be truer than our journey to go to Mars. Our exploration to our neighboring planet will lead us to discover not just a new world, but a better understanding of ourselves as well.
Humanity’s long history of exploring began about 70,000 years ago with crossing Earth’s blistering deserts on foot which would be followed later by sailing wooden ships across uncharted seas which would be known as the Age of Exploration. Names like Columbus and Magellan, Vespucci and de Sota, are engrained in our collective consciousness as the pioneers of discovery. But the most remarkable pace of exploration has actually taken place in just the past 114 years. In 1903, near wind-swept cliffs, the Wright Brothers invention of powered flight lifted us skyward for the first time and opened new possibilities of exploration. And a short 56 years ago we escaped from Earth’s firm grip of gravity to take our first human steps into space. Who could imagine that 66 years from the Wright Flyer’s historic flight that a man would be walking on the Moon? This span of time seems so small to have accomplished so much. And now, our next exploration will take us even further, to our neighboring planet, Mars.
Historians tell us that our exploring is inspired by one or more of the three “G’s”: gold, glory, or god.
Gold is in the stars. Exploring space has certainly provided gold in the form of the many benefits it offers to help people on Earth live healthier, more productive lives with new therapeutics and materials developed only in zero-gravity.
The glory of space is best illustrated by the pictures of the international endeavors conducted on the International Space Station. From the ISS orbit over 220 miles about the earth the astronauts aboard send us pictures of the delicate beauty of our small blue planet from the Cupola window of the Space Station showing both what world wide cooperation can accomplish while putting our place in this Universe into perspective.
Finally, there is the ‘god’ inspiration, where we want to know how it all began. The genesis for it all is the Big Bang that created the “star stuff” of which we are made, including nitrogen, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, some of the most common elements found in the cosmos. For some, we are inspired by how we all got started and, as Einstein said, to keep understanding the ‘thoughts of God’) which could be the key to all future discoveries.
As product of our universe and one with conscious thinking, our destiny to be explorers of our world is more than understandable it is built into our DNA. It is no wonder that we want to discover more about how our universe began, if we can live on other worlds, and where we could go from there. The three G’s have inspired us for a long time and there seems to be no end to our interest to explore.
Now that reaching Mars is possible, it seems that our nation is also ready for this next big adventure. A recent Boeing-sponsored opinion poll found that 71% of Americans believe we will land humans on Mars by the year 2033. When we look back at the landmarks of space exploration, from the Sputnik satellite launch in 1957 to that historic moonwalk 12 years later, it makes you wonder how much can be accomplished in those 16 years till 2033.
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