I was 12 years old when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. I remember watching mesmerized as he slowly descended down the landing’s ladder pausing to speak his poetic, now infamous words, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” Ever since that day I’ve been fascinated with all things space, the working’s of our Universe and all that it contains. I still am today!
In fact, my universe curiosities have grown leaps and bounds. I eagerly consume books relating to space, the universe, stars, planets, comets and nebula. Watch faithfully documentaries about super novae, neutron stars, pulsars, and white and red dwarfs. And of Black holes of course, perhaps the most interesting of all!
I’ve followed the progress of NASA’s many probes and the landings of land-rovers on the surface of Mars. Learned about the pioneering scientists that started it all; the Astrophysicists, the Astronomers, the Cosmologists. You might say I’ve become — a Universe nerd!
BUT SEEING IS BELIEVING
Now reading about and watching animated Doc’s about our universe and all things within, is one thing! But actually getting to see photos of the real thing is another. When the Hubble Space Telescope first started revealing the wonders in our Universe in amazing detail — I was blown away! It was like being 12 again and reliving the Moon-landing all over again.
Not just that, but these photos validated my long-time and ongoing wonder, they were direct evidence of what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been watching and what I’ve been learning. There really was such things as exploding stars, huge bloated Red Giants and massive Black Holes!
Hubble not only presented photographic evidence of these wonders but has made many discoveries leading to a greater understanding of the reality of our cosmos. The Universe it turns out is a stranger place than anyone could of imagined and more beautiful as the Hubble’s cameras show.
Today, with the far-reaching camera eyes of Hubble, science has gone on to explain some of the wonders of our Universe. How Super Novae (exploding stars) make the known elements that combine to construct all matter in the universe, including us! How black Holes, centered in large Galaxies (including ours) control star formation and the size of our galaxies. That our universe is expanding, meaning, (by rolling the process backwards) that it had a point of beginning. Thus the Big Bang theory!
MANY QUESTIONS REMAIN
Still, with every question science answers, new questions to ponder arise. Like the theoretical birth of Dark Matter and Dark Energy, yet unknown and unseen energy forces that are said to make up over 90% of the known Universe. One, holding galaxies together, and one, pushing them further apart, accelerating the expansion of the very universe itself. So much yet to discover! So much yet to learn!
That’s what makes it so fascinating. The more we learn the more questions arise and the deeper the mysteries our universe holds. Curious by nature, mankind has always been intrigued by the unknown. The universe and its mysteries beckoning, since we first looked up in wonder at the night’s twinkling stars.
No-wonder, as soon as technology allowed us, we broke free from our planet and headed out into space!
In 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human ever to leave this planet and journey into outer space, completing 1 single orbit of our planet. In 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon. Today, using new and progressive technology, mankind’s ventures into space have become that of science fiction.
We’ve put 5 planetary Rovers on Mars, the latest “Perseverance” touching down recently on Feb. 18, 2021. Our search for extraterrestrial-life continues, but this is not the lone reason Mars has become the most explored alien planet in our solar-system. No, there are other, future plans afoot!
Mankind is exploring Mars in preparation, of not only sending humans to the red planet in the future, but establishing colonies so we can live there as well! Perhaps one day, a second home?
Then perhaps our greatest achievement, the International Space Station, which orbits some 250 miles above the Earth. A permanent human-residency in space, occupied since the year 2000 by an always-changing crew of international astronauts using the station for research.
Research including those of physical science, astronomy, space medicine, life sciences, plant and food growth in space and the long-term effects on the human body.
Laying the groundwork for humankind’s future space-travel endeavors.
As Captain Kirk first explained — “To boldly go where no-man has gone before!”
EARLY SPACE MISSIONS
In the early days, we sent scientific probes to explore our solar system, eventually traveling to every planet and beyond. First between 1958 and 1978 was a series of Pioneer probes conducting various missions, including some of the first lunar probes, exploration of the planet Venus, as well as the first fly bye of Jupiter and Saturn.
Then the Mariner 10-mission series of interplanetary probes, from 1962 to 1973, designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury.
In 1975 Viking 1 and 2 were launched first headed for Mars, orbiting the planet and sending back the first ever pictures of its surface. Equipped with landing probes that touched down on the Mars surface for the first time in 1976.
VOYAGER 1 AND 2
Then there was the Voyager 1 and 2 space probes launched in 1977. Between them, the two spacecraft have explored all the giant outer planets of our solar system including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as 49 moons. From there, on-route out of our solar system to explore Interstellar space. Voyager 1 passed through this estimated boundary-line into interstellar space in 2012. Voyager 2 was right behind.
Onboard, both Voyagers have interstellar directions to our planet and flat disc records (old style music albums) cover-sprayed in gold (for protection) containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. These communications intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial lifeforms who may find them. More than a space time-capsule it’s a message in a bottle, hurtling through space at 37,000 m.p.h.
It’s been almost 42 years since NASA sent its two Voyager spacecrafts into space. Amazingly both are still functioning today. Voyager 1 is at this very moment (time of post) 14.2 billion miles away from Earth and Voyager 2 is 11.8 billion miles away. Both breaking records as the furthest man-made objects in space.
Launched in 1977 it is amazing that they are still functioning today, sending ever-faint signals back to earth as they continue their voyage into the great beyond.
GET LIVE VOYAGER UPDATING STATUS FROM NASA MISSION CONTROL
See where they are today! Watch the Mission time and miles from Earth tick off in real time! Distance from the sun, current velocities and more! Kudos to NASA for providing this amazing and timeless link.
SHOE BOX REALITY
Now I realize not everyone shares my fascination, my wonder, my interests in the workings of the universe. Nor the history of our space explorations and what is yet still to come. But maybe they should?
Humankind’s sole existence, your sole existence, has been spent on this one isolated small ellipsoid-shaped hunk of spinning rock. One of billions of planets orbiting some trillion other stars just in our own galaxy the Milky Way. Every Human that has ever lived has lived out their life in this one existence of reality.
Our reality confined to the planet we live on. Living out our lives, generation after generation since our very beginnings, scurrying about the planets surface like ants unaware of the bigger picture. Unaware or uncaring of the grand scheme of nature and its enormous vastness just beyond our sight.
Our lives lived in accordance to others, emotionally, cognitively and socially confined by man-made religions, theologies, political ideologies and the influence of mass media. By leaders, tyrannical, oppressive, egotistical, indifferent and self-serving. By social-cultural conformities and structural political-systems long run amok.
The quality of our lives dictated by man’s invention of printed-paper, mold-struck coins and values assigned to elements, minerals, emeralds and liquefied fossils. Those with more money are entitled to more than those with less and those few with the most — reign in power over the rest.
And in-between, we war against those not like us, not of our belief’s, our color or religion. This is the reality we live in, one we made ourselves as masters of this planet. This is the only reality we know!
Yet just above us, some 100 miles above us, 99.9% of the rest of reality awaits us? By comparison we live out our lives, are born and then die in the confines of a small shoe box. Tucked away on a forgotten shelf so big, so vast in its construction, that it never ends! Just goes on forever!
Science and space-exploration may well-be our only ticket out of this reality. Our search for Earth-like planets, the possible colonization of Mars bringing hope that one day mankind can start over and anew. That we will learn from our mistakes here on earth and build a better and new reality for ourselves on another planet. A 2nd chance, a 2nd home, one perhaps of many to come in the far-far-future.
It may sound like science fiction now, but I believe mankind is capable of such things and more. Perhaps not in our lifetime (depending on age) and reliant of course on if we first don’t destroy ourselves or our environment. If, our political leaders or private enterprises support exploration endeavors in the future and the big if — can we avoid making the same mistakes all over again on another planet?
Because if we can’t, the other if’s don’t really matter do they?
If we bring our hatred, our violence and our racism towards others with us — what’s the point? Our tendencies towards greed, selfishness and indifference, our political leadership systems of the few over the many, our religious fervors, our class divisions, the corruption of power with wealth — all these we must leave behind.
If we want to start anew, build a new and better human civilization from the ground up we must be ready to abandon the old unworkable, the corrupt and self-serving political way of government and truly start from scratch. Unite as one people, accepting each other as the same. A tall order indeed!
Yet, one day, if we can survive ourselves, our technologies will allow us to colonize other planets!
Look how fast and how far humankind has progressed already. How quickly our technologies grow. Why would we not one day become deep explorers of the universe? Climb out of, evolve out of our isolated little shoe box and explore the vastness of the rest of reality. Are we not destined to do so?
Think of Humankind’s progression? Where is our end-game as a species? Now that Earth has been conquered and bent to our will, what next? We have always been explorers at heart, curiosity of the unknown has always been our nature. Isn’t the vast and continued exploration of our universe the next logical progression?
Perhaps even one day, to expand out from our home planet and go on to seed human life throughout the universe. After all, Is this not what we do? What we’re good at? Multiplying and spreading out our species far and wide and now that we have accomplished this here on Earth? Where next?
The answer seems clear!
To evolve as a species of space explorers! Perhaps even colonizing the universe as we go.
This I believe, is our species end-game.
This I Believe — is our destiny!
That is of course, if we can avoid — the IF’S?