Space: Still cool after all these years

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., celebrate the landing of NASA's Curiosity rover on the Red Planet. The rover touched down on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT).

Article Highlights

  • The much-anticipated landing of Curiosity rover on Mars is a reminder of the power of space exploration to unite & inspire.

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  • At a time of deep divisions, reflexive cynicism and gotcha journalism, space exploration elicits the best in us. @DShaywitz

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  • It’s no wonder entrepreneurs are captivated by space – the goal is audacious, requiring passion, vision and boldness.

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Sunday's anticipated landing of the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars is captivating, an emphatic reminder of the transcendent power of space exploration to challenge, unite, and inspire.

"Even at a time of deep divisions and serious partisan divide, in an era of reflexive cynicism and gotcha journalism, space exploration seems to elicit the very best in us," -David Shaywitz, M.D.

As a kid, I grew up building model airplanes with my dad, and progressed to making model rockets on my own.  My favorite place in the world to visit has always been the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, and I still stop by there almost every time I'm in DC.  I've devoured books about the space program, I've toured Cape Canaveral, and I've seen "The Right Stuff" more times than I care to admit.

Even at a time of deep divisions and serious partisan divide, in an era of reflexive cynicism and gotcha journalism, space exploration seems to elicit the very best in us, bringing together the sense of wonder and awe we associate with space with the feeling of technological achievement and shared commitment to mission we connect with space flight.

Perhaps it's no wonder that so many entrepreneurs are captivated by space as well - Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Esther Dyson,  Richard Branson, and Paul Allen, among others.  The goal is audacious, requiring passion, vision, boldness - to say nothing of extremely deep pockets.

While some entrepreneurs, such as Musk, seems focused on "industrial and scientific" aspects (as described in this captivating L.A. Times piece), others, such as Branson, seem to emphasize the tourism component.   You can appreciate the appeal of each approach: space is, of course, the final frontier, and the opportunity to see the earth from space, if only for a few dazzling moments, would unquestionably represent one of the most profound and wondrous experiences you could deliberately construct.

As we watch the coverage of the rover's entry, descent, and (we hope) safe landing on Mars starting at 11pm PDT Sunday night (NASA-TV on the web here), we will experience the hope, share the excitement, and remember just how much we can achieve, with the right ambition, both individually and together.

Godspeed, Curiosity.

 

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