A few weeks ago I was giving a presentation on the future of US space flight. It was a pretty good presentation, if I do say so myself, and I had lots of fun making it and presenting it. It was a small crowd of about 30 – 40 folks, which is strange for a clear night at Kopernik Observatory, and somewhere during the presentation, one of those rare moments of inspiration arose, and I just had to share it here on the blog.
At the very end of the presentation, I presented a slide covering various technology and efforts which I hadn’t gone over in the presentation. I was only summarizing and providing a list of things to research for those interested. After all, we have to keep the presentations down to 45 minutes to allow folks to observe the heavens. However, I hit a moment where it was really just myself in the room despite all the others, and was able to block everyone else out. I absolutely long for moments like that, when everything became clarity, and time seemed to stop outside that moment. For a brief time, I had found a Zen like state to exist in, and it couldn’t have been interrupted by a better question…
A woman from the audience asked the question, “Do you think they (NASA) will really execute their plan? What do you think of the Shuttle Retiring?”
…and I snapped to, and my response was…
“They have to. Humanity demands that we explore, whether that’s apparent or not. Humanity wants us to do what has never been done before, to explore. Exploring isn’t doing what you know you can already do. It is bitter sweet to see the Shuttle program end, and it’s sad about the lives that will be affected by its end. But, we must explore…we must move beyond what we are comfortable with. We have a planet that is within striking distance of our own reach, and we are on the threshold of having technology that can take us there. The spirit of exploration demands that we go. Exoplanets are being discovered in solar systems far, far away from our own, and we haven’t the technology to get there. We haven’t even searched our own inspirations for getting to planets on distant suns. Our hearts long to step onto the planets that we are finding, our dreams conjure up fantasies of going to these places. Just as Columbus was compelled to sail into an unknown reality, we too want to drift among the stars, crossing unknown and baron space.”
“If I told each and everyone of you, that tomorrow I could have you stepping onto another planet, which of you wouldn’t want to do so? To hike in a jungle of unknown plants, trees and animals or to fish in a lake or river on a distant planet around a distant sun. If we are unable to complete these adolescent steps into space travel, what will someday be called a rudimentary phase, I fear for the heart and soul of humanity.”
I also commented on how I knew it was true that folks longed to venture out there. It’s my experience that the easiest thing in the world to do, is show a person the great globular cluster, M13 in a telescope, and predict their response. Every person who sees this heavenly wonder, has one and only one expression the first time they see it. That is the phrase, “Wow.” And if they don’t say it, you can see it on their face. It is such a splendor of beauty and perfection. We long to understand it, and to recreate it in our own lives, to become part of it, to observe it, and to touch it. Everyone shares this in common.
I literally have no idea where all of this came from. Most likely it is my own desire, and my throbbing heart that wants deep space flight to become commonplace. Regardless, I was able to silence a room, to challenge others to dream, and score great applaus. It’s not common for me to inspire, and it’s not common for me to be able to pull together such words on demand. But for a moment…I was in the zone.
For More Information on Interstellar Travel, check out: The Status Of Warp Drive (at NASA.gov)