Thursday, March 5, 2009

Kepler Hope

I read on the MSN news page yesterday that Detroit, my old stomping ground, is the fourth most depressing city in the U.S. More telling than this opinionated ranking is the reminder that the Motor City has an unemployment rate of %18. As Bryan pointed out, those are "developing country" numbers, and things are looking worse and worse by the day. Of course, Detroit isn't the only city in this country to be facing such a crisis, nor is the United States the only nation. The trial that we face belongs to everyone.

Tomorrow NASA will launch the Kepler Space Telescope. Its job is to search the heavens for Earth-like planets that would be suitable for life to flourish. In a climate where misery surrounds us all, mankind is standing on the brink of what could be the greatest discovery in our collective history.

For many of us, such a discovery has been portrayed and discussed in science fiction stories to the point of near meaninglessness. Fringe thinkers have shared their theories about Roswell and government cover-ups, while others claim to have been abducted by aliens. But through all of this, the grand question still remains unanswered, and for all we know, we are alone.

Tomorrow we are taking a giant step toward answering this question. We're not merely launching another satellite into space, we are uncovering another chapter in our collective existence and clarifying our unity on a galactic scale. Through this most powerful lense we will see into our past and our future. We will find our neighbors or our solitude. The answer, of course, is either yes or no, alone or not, and both circumstances will have a profound effect on our collective understanding of who we are.

It's been a long time since humanity embarked on a journey together. These ancient stories that spring from our collective being have been dormant for too long. Perhaps this story lacks the visible hero - the astronaut clad in his burdensome suit - but it only takes a gentle leap of the imagination to see that we are all on this mission of discovery together, and that the outcome belongs to us all.

So while we fear for our friends, our loved ones, and ourselves in this time of struggle, let's also be mindful of the fact that even now we are still moving forward. Even now we are still discovering, and even now, we are still one.


  1. Absolutely brilliant. This was uplifting and unifying. I could have written this. Perhaps you should be the one working for NASA?

    The launch was spectacular. Lorenia and I got to see it from about three miles away. After dutifully burning through their lives, the nine solid rocket boosters tumbled from a great height, their exhaust nozzles glowing like giant cigarettes as they plunged into the sleeping Atlantic. I've spent the last few days since the launch trying to impress upon those who cross my path how important this mission is, and what earth-shaking insights it promises to reveal regarding humanity's age-old questions.

    Good show, Castelaz.

  2. I'm glad you read that one, George, I've been meaning to get a hold of you and talk to you about this, because, as you can see, it's something I've always been fascinated by.

  3. Oh, man. You know this stuff is my bag. You would have LOVED the course on geology, earth science, exobiology and cosmology that I took last week. It was three days of plate tectonics, magnetospheres, catastrophic planetary impacts, von Neumann probes, Dyson spheres, stellar dynamics, quantum, relativity, you name it.