The spectacular descent of Curiosity into Gale Crater on Mars is one of those rarest of all stories ... all good, no downside. We are reminded of what we can achieve when we work together towards a common goal, no matter how difficult it might be. Meanwhile, some 11 million miles away, Voyager 1 continues on its journey that began in 1977, an investment that continues to pay dividends. Recent indications--still to be confirmed by NASA--are that Voyager 1 is poised to exit the solar system and enter interstellar space. It will truly go where no man-made object has gone before.
Space exploration is a long-term business that requires an equally long-term commitment. Given the hard times that many are going through right now, one could fairly wonder if we shouldn't be using that money to solve some of our more earthly problems. There will always be those who agree with that premise, but you could also ask if it made a lot of sense to build cathedrals in the middle of the Black Plague.
Cathedrals and space ships are both expressions of mankind's quest to find something greater than ourselves. This desire to touch the sky ... be it with a cathedral's spires or a rocket arrowing into space ... defines our humanity. When we get it right, when we build something that satisfies those aspirations at the profoundest levels, we gain much more than a building or a space ship. We take yet another giant leap towards understanding who we are and why we are here.
Images of Curiosity's Landing on Mars
Voyager 1 Approaches Deep Space