A U.S. spacecraft named New Horizons arrived at Pluto today after a 9 year, 3 billion mile journey. Some may ask why bother? What’s the point?
It’s sad that many have taken such a small view of humanity. Instead, small incremental changes are seen as breakthroughs. We allow government, societies and anyone with a lot of money to define us, tell us what to do and how far we can go.
The truth is, if New Horizons and other achievements like it were the norm, we’d live in a much different world. The wonders of the future wouldn’t always be 50 years distant. Imagine fusion reactors fed by Helium-3 from the Moon. Asteroids with uncountable mineral resources. Regular space travel not limited to a few or science fiction. These aren’t dreams, but are realities long within our grasp. Instead, we let those with no vision, who only see tomorrow and do what it takes to hang onto power until then, decide what is best.
Pluto may be a small world, with little impact on our own, but it is in our Solar System. Exploring this region of space – our region of space – is in us as much as the drive that explored every corner of our planet, above it and on our Moon. William E. Burrows explained this in his book Exploring Space that chronicled the first wave of robot explorers, envoys that preceded the people that have or will follow:
…the core motivation for human beings to venture where the can, and to send robotic proxies where they cannot, is as sublimated but as real and ultimately unerring as the one that guides snow geese, salmon and other migrators on their own immense journeys. It is a reason that transcends reason. We go because of a profound urge to leave our imprint on the universe…That is why we explore. The treasure invested in long voyages of high adventure could be arguably spent [elsewhere]…but ultimately the imperative to merely survive…is not the most admirable of goals. Greatness is achieved not by putting out fires but by creating monuments to humanity’s full capacity for enterprise, imagination and courage. Certainly these include, as they always have, setting courses that lead straight into the heart of the unknown.
In other words, setting our sights so low, following those with no vision, will lead us nowhere we want to be. We need to dare ourselves again. Awake the fires that we are born with. Science can’t do it all, it is not a religion or God. Our free will to do great things has a dark side as well. So we could just give up and let others decide our fate, or we can believe, as Dr. Franklin Storm states in the new Fantastic Four film:
It is our duty as human beings to push forward into the unknown…