Curiosity

The rover Curiosity (part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission) successfully landed on the red planet at 10:32 p.m PDT on 5 August (1:32 a.m. EDT August 6).[1]

Curiosity Has Landed (JPLnews, 6 August 2012)[2]

[The video shows footage of the control room during the Curiosity landing and reconstructions of the landing itself. The people in the control room cheer when they realize that the landing has been successful.]

My immediate reaction to this was speechlessness. Go read Jen McCreight[3] and Greta Christina’s[4] posts. That’s basically similar to how I feel right now. Also read Adam Lee’s thoughts on the topic (written before we knew if the landing would be a success).[5]

This is so awesome. When I heard about the landing, it made me so happy. We human beings live on this tiny planet, a speck in the vast universe. We look up at the sky and wonder what’s out there. There is so much we do not know, so much we can still learn, so much to explore. The scientists in the video cheer for this landing, and I feel like cheering as well, because even though Mars is such a tiny distance away from our planet compared to the size of the universe, this mission is part of humanity’s attempt to gain more knowledge and understanding. Though our steps away from our home planet are precarious and sometimes frightening, cautious and halting, meticulously planned to overcome our human ability to err, those steps are still proof that we live and breathe and think and wonder. As long as there is still an awe of our existence and a determination to keep taking these steps, we can learn so much. As long as there is curiosity in humanity, we can explore the universe in which we live and which we so desire to understand, finding the unimaginable. In the words of Carl Sagan, “The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this if from where we came. We long to return.”[6]


References

[1] Webster, Guy and Brown, Dwayne. NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain. Posted 5 August 2012 at NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission page. Retrieved on 6 August 2012 from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/news/msl20120805c.html.

[2] Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Curiosity Has Landed. Posted on 6 August 2012 at the JPLnews YouTube Channel. Retrived on 6 August 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9hXqzkH7YA.

I found the video via Jerry Coyne’s blog Why Evolution is True. The relevant post can be found at http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/relive-the-moment-the-landing-of-curiosity/.

[3] McCreight, Jen. Tears of nerd joy. Posted on 5 August 2012 at Blag Hag. Retrieved on 6 August 2012 from http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/08/tears-of-nerd-joy/.

[4] Christina, Greta. Mars! Posted on 6 August 2012 at Greta Christina’s Blog. Retrieved on 6 August 2012 from http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/08/06/mars/.

[5] Lee, Adam. One-Half of One Cent. Posted on 6 August 2012 at Daylight Atheism. Retrieved on 6 August 2012 from http://bigthink.com/daylight-atheism/one-half-of-one-cent.

[6] Sagan, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Ballantine Books (an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group), 1980, Ch 1, p. 2.

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