Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Found Love in a Hopeless Place

Whether you believe in a Creator or not, this image should strike you at your core.  What are the odds that after traveling over 3 billion miles for 9 years to a celestial body that was discovered only 85 years ago, the New Horizons would find, emblazoned on a frozen chunk of ice and rock, the symbol that is universally associated with love?  Astronomical, perhaps?

In a time of conflict and discord, it was nice Tuesday to feel some unity as the world came together to stare in awe and humility at an object at the edge of our cosmic neighborhood.  Suddenly humanity's problems didn't seem so insurmountable as we recognized an achievement in ingenuity and determination that made us feel at once insignificant and important.

I don't know about you, but I thirsted for more.

There are many reasons to continue space (and terrestrial) exploration.  Discovery inspires children to study math and science.  Tomorrow, these kids will be developing the next generation of computers and robots, inventing new technologies, and maybe even traveling to distant worlds.  Such advancements will increase productivity and improve our economy.  Not to mention that NASA itself occasionally stumbles upon a nifty invention or two that can be used by those of us who are earthbound.

Although I admire Elon Musk and Richard Branson and think their space ventures have their place alongside public projects, true space exploration on the scale of a Moon landing is too expensive for the private market.  Even Walmart or Google don't have the resources to fund a mission to Mars.  Few countries in the world can even afford it, for that matter.  But we all (including those outside America) benefit from these endeavors and so by definition, it's the realm of government.  

NASA should be something both conservatives and liberals, and everyone in between, can get behind.  We should make loftier goals to visit the Moon, Mars, and beyond in the coming years and decades.  I'm not asking to hear about it in stump speeches or at the State of the Union address.  It doesn't need to be a campaign issue.  Just go and do it.

You might argue that there are better uses for our tax dollars.  But isn't it worth it just for the moments like Tuesday when the world can stop and marvel at this fascinating universe that we live in?  Even if we don't gain any tangible benefits from venturing beyond our home planet, isn't it worthwhile to give our existence a little more meaning and perspective?

Or we can always return to our usual partisan bickering.

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