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Bill NyeJuly 21, 2011

What a Day! From Earth to the Moon and Mars

Mission accomplished! It's been thirty great years for the Space Shuttle program. With this venerable space vehicle retired, it's on to the next adventure.

The Shuttle has taken more than 10,400 1,600 tons into orbit, a fantastic legacy, as most of that equipment is still up there helping astronauts do their jobs. But now it's time to move up and on -- outward. We can make new discoveries peering beyond new horizons.

Along with the Shuttle's final landing tonight, or early tomorrow morning, it's good to take a moment and reflect on the first humans to walk on the Earth's Moon. It was 42 years ago today. It changed the world. The Cold War wound down a few turns as a result. It changed all of our expectations about what is possible, what humans can do, and especially what we can do in space exploration. Perhaps we'll go back to the Moon in the next few years. Perhaps we'll go beyond the Moon out into deep space.

Today is also the anniversary of the Viking 1 spacecraft landing on Mars. It sent back striking pictures from the surface of our neighboring world, a place we find so compelling that we return at each orbital opportunity looking for signs of water and life.

If nothing else today, take a moment and think about how far we've come. Humans built flying machines, aircraft, and spacecraft. We steadily developed means to bring images to everyone on Earth that help us all know and appreciate our place in space. One day in the next couple of decades we may discover evidence of living things on Mars. If that turns out to be possible, it will change this world forever. We will know that we were once and certainly still are not alone in the universe. That's quite an accomplishment for a species with such humble planetary beginnings. There is a lot of space in space, and we're part of it all.

Read more: explaining science, Space Shuttle program, Bill Nye

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Bill Nye

Chief Executive Officer for The Planetary Society
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