November 26, 2013
The first time I saw the Venera 13 image of the surface of Venus, I was thrilled. Even though the mission's time was well before I was born, seeing the surface of the closest planet to us and realizing the difficulty involved in obtaining photographs on its surface made me appreciate this rare picture even more. The challenges that space exploration present allow us to advance our technology and thus our knowledge by forcing us to overcome such challenges. Personally, I feel that the scientific and engineering communities have given up on a planet whose atmosphere and surface conditions posed a serious challenge to our technology and capabilities, and rightfully so. However, I can't help but wonder, why do we not explore that which is still full of mystery and closer to our home than anywhere else in this solar system? Witnessing the process in which the first photographs of a never before explored planet as they happen gives me goosebumps. No matter how distant I am from being involved in any of the current planetary missions, I did feel a part of me reached out and touched the surfaces of Mars, Titan, the Moon, Venus, and many other planetary bodies. I can only imagine the feeling I will get when New Horizons finally sends back that first image of Pluto and its moons. The most thrilling element about the images we get from other planetary bodies does not only lie in the fact that no one has ever seen them before, but also in the fact that we, as a species, have over come the challenges to go where no one has gone before.
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.