My space Journey
December 10, 2013
I first got interested in space by "Destination Moon", which is surely one of the ten worst movies ever made! When Sputnik was later launched, its presence "over our heads" combined with the angst we kids shared as to when (not if) the "Commies" would drop "the bomb", I realized something entirely new was happening. President Eisenhower responded magnificently. As a Catholic school kid, by the 5th grade I began disbelieving the messages that humans were unique and "made in God's image", that only humans had souls (not animals, sorry about that) and so forth. I enjoyed taking the subway to the Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium, the two places where I learned the most. I loved Star Trek when it arrived on TV because the stories were more believable than what the sincere and devout nuns had tried to teach us; "Yes, that's the way the universe probably is, Vulcans and all". I'd also discovered Ray Bradbury by then. So what now with space? Planetary exploration is great and I'm privileged to have had a miniscule bit to do with Pioneer-F and a lot more to do with LEO space systems. I think it's wonderful to plan for colonies on Mars and so forth. And hopefully 50 or 100 years from now those dreams will come true. Why so long? Because we are now deep into the process of ruining our beautiful planet. We've trashed our home! I cringe when I read that space exploration offers "hope for humanity". That's escapist talk. If we don't quickly learn how to live harmoniously with nature and each other on this fantastically abundant planet, we have no business going elsewhere. But turn-around for Earth is indeed possible and more and more people are now working toward that. We can't "stop" climate change, but we can adapt to it and in the long term prevent it from being totally ruinous for humans.Space plays a big role in our and the coming generations' efforts. Most importantly, the vision of the cosmos captured by HST, Kepler etc. and the mysterious fate of (once green?) Mars now being investigated by Curiosity provides the context for whatever good we can achieve in the next ~ 100 years for our home planet.
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.