Out beyond the water's edge...
November 19, 2012
Missions to Mars, Titan, and various other planetary bodies in our solar system have and will continue to aid us in our understanding of how this system formed and how it might evolve in the future. However, if we want to draw a clearer picture of where we truly fit in our galaxy and in this universe, then we must not only venture beyond the edges we've already reached, but we must go there equipped with the proper tools.
I believe that nothing is more astounding than to venture into uncharted space and look back at our home. The Pioneers and the Voyagers have done that and soon New Horizons will join them after it reaches Pluto and beyond. Given the long time required to reach the edges of our solar system and beyond, we must create and launch such a mission as soon as we can. We may not benefit from the short term duration of such a mission, but if we devised it carefully with the proper tools in mind, many generations 30, 40, or even 100 years from now will greatly benefit from it.
As a species we have evolved to interpret what we observe in our surroundings quite well. We have managed to draw a picture of how our Earth looks like long before we took to the skies and into space. I was born "already knowing" what our planet looks like thanks to images from satellites, but what was it like to see our home the way it really is for the first time ever?
We already know how our solar system and galaxy look like from the inside out, but I dream of the day when we will get to see how they look like from the outside in. We've already gotten a hint of that thanks to Voyager, but we could be getting so much more if it was equipped with tools serving this greater purpose. We need to plan it, build it, and send it on its way while continuing to explore the planetary bodies within our vicinity. By the time it reaches beyond the water’s edge, we would have gathered a lot of information from the inside, and it will only complete our drawing by giving us information from the outside. I think that the future generations will thank us for it, it's the least we can do for them, it’s the least we can do for ourselves.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.