So, we – as a species, obviously; I had nothing to do with it personally – landed a thing the size of a small car on Mars.
It’s amazing, I think. On a clear night, you can sometimes see a particular point of light in the sky, and we sent a robot car there. It’s up there, trundling about on that tiny point of light in the sky right now. A trivial miracle in the world of science fiction space operas, but in the more modest reality we’re required to live in it’s a wonderful thing.
I get all the reasons why the various exploratory space programs have been so curtailed over recent decades; I understand why the miracle of putting men on the Moon forty plus years ago hasn’t led to the still greater miracles it could (and in a perfect world, perhaps would) have led to.
It’s a shame, though, that our astounding capacities – which the Curiosity rover demonstrates in a relatively modest way – haven’t had the chance to bloom unchecked. If they had, we’d probably be drilling down through Europa’s ice by now, and enjoying the visions of planetary dystopia provided by multiple probe landings on the Earth’s psychotic twin.
But for now I guess it’s enough to look at an apparently mundane image like this, taken within the last 24 hours:
and reflect on the fact that it is, and always will be, amazing to get photos from another world. Especially when, as this rather over-excited video explains, the method of getting a camera into place to take those photos is so wonderfully, spectacularly like something out of a science fiction movie it seems wildly improbable:
I mean, they landed this car-sized thing, on a planet millions upon millions of miles away, with a rocket-powered Skycrane. Seriously? To me, that looks like the kind of wildly over-optimistic concept put about by technologists or futurists now and again; looks fantastic, but somehow never quite works out, because of all the technical and practical complications they never mention in the full flow of their optimisim. But this time, they really did it. Cool.