“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.” -Plato
I downloaded the movie Passengers with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence a couple weeks ago and it made me cry. So to all you people out there who wonder if grown men cry the answer is yes; although no one likes to see it. At least that’s what they say.
Passengers is a science fiction film about interstellar travel, the limits and imperfections of human innovation, and most of all, the power of love. I’m not the kind of person who ever worries about spoiling anything for anyone so I’ll warn you now that I may spoil some parts of the movie for some of those out there. Sorry. I, myself, never care if anyone gives away some aspect of a movie, book, or video game that the person enjoying the content would eventually find out because who cares? In fact, I love it when people tell me things about a movie that I would eventually find out anyway. To a degree, I suppose. Because sometimes you can give away a huge plot twist and then that would completely ruin the experience for someone, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I’m came here to talk about space, astronomy, and humankind’s final frontier.
Movies like the one I just mentioned along with Interstellar, the Star Wars series, and television shows like Star Trek and Cosmos are all sources of inspiration for our species here on this pale blue dot we call earth. Thanks to Netflix we now have these sources of inspiration right at our fingertips so that we can watch them and feel infinitely inspired. Inspired to quit our humdrum jobs and work on building a rocket ship of our own so that later generations will be able to make such trips into the cosmos if they so pleased. OK, maybe people aren’t out there building rocket ships to carry their families into interstellar space (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were, after all, people can be pretty fascinating), but at least I will try and create a blueprint for later generations of my family to cherish and build on. That will almost certainly be my family tradition. And maybe people aren’t throwing away their careers to focus on building a ship that will take them to Mars and beyond, but at least people are entertaining the idea of this journey.
I would love to have the opportunity to create a blueprint, or even just part of one, to pass on to my children to enhance throughout the course of their lives. Then my children’s children will eventually follow suit and eventually sometime in the distant future the ship will be built and we would all travel into interstellar space on a legendary journey that took centuries to manifest. This journey would be so epic because it has been a part of our family history for so long and finally happened; after so many years of working and dreaming. These are real thoughts that inspire me daily.
Legacy of Aviation
About two months ago I went to the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC on a random field trip. I even got to go on a tour of the museum with a NASA employee/higher-up who told the tale of the Wright Brothers and how they beat a well funded government scientist to building the first flyable machine. Orville and Wilbur Wright were eventually able to carry a sustained flight of more than 40 feet while their competitor was not (his aircraft would crash to the ground). They also did this without the large backing of capital from sponsors such as the United States government. They were the underdogs and they eventually came out on top through grit and determination.
My tour guide eventually progressed over to the more advanced aircrafts in other parts of the museum, which I would eventually miss because I went to the bathroom and lost my group, and he detailed legacies of flight from Amelia Earhart to Charles Lindbergh and many more. What an inspiration it was to watch him talk about these legendary figures and how they beat the odds of the times to eventually pioneer greater challenges of aviation. He also talked about design evolution of different aircrafts from the past, detailing their flaws. Eventually he would go on to tackle some of the latest design innovations in contemporary spacecrafts.
Basically, it all started with an idea in the 18th century (I’m referring to the scientist who established the foundational equations for aviation), that is, aside from Leonardo Da Vinci’s ornithopter. At least that’s how the history was presented to us at the museum. A man toiled away on mathematical equations for flight until eventually someone would bring his dreams to fruition at a future time. As the centuries have gone by humans are now able to send satellites to Mars and are actively entertaining the idea of interstellar travel.
The Real Prize
I’m not saying that these issues are not important, no, what I’m saying is that there is an entire universe out there waiting to be explored.
Men like Stephen Hawking have publicly proposed plans for interstellar travel, but one of the largest obstacles is funding. Such an endeavor would be enormously expensive. Not to mention, noticing NASA’s small budget, it does not appear to be much of a real goal for the general public. Instead we are more concerned with social issues like sex trafficking, berating the new President, women’s rights, terrorism and white supremacy, and the prevalent issues surrounding the African diaspora community. I’m not saying that these issues are not important, no, what I’m saying is that there is an entire universe out there waiting to be explored. A universe filled with mostly dark matter that just begs for human exploration. A universe of possibilities.
If we gave full reign to these innovative urges we would eventually find ourselves in places that were once considered out of reach; just like those who criticized the Wright Brothers for dreaming of flight. So, ladies and gentlemen, I know it must be hard to fixate your attention onto something outside of this small planet we inhabit, but please try. As we may someday find ourselves creating a future that was once barely dreamed of and living in a reality of boundlessness.