The NASA Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars for 5 years. Isn’t that something? I remember reading about the complicated procedure for launching and then landing it. As a Star Trek nerd, I still consider it an excellent demonstration of how thinking about space exploration can make us better people.
I wrote something about this in August 2012, soon after the shuttle landed on Mars. I had many reasons. (So many reasons.) I loved the fact that it celebrates curiosity. I still love the idea of travelling through space, exploring new worlds and someday, hopefully, civilisations. Learning as we go.
I also love how it forced people to work together and solve problems. (I can’t troubleshoot someone’s PC problems over the phone. Can you imagine remote-formatting an operating system while the machine orbits another planet?) Learning how the teams overcame all the diffiiculties involved astonishes me.
The whole endeavour is an excellent example of the benefits of science and science fiction. I sincerely believe space travel is one of the greatest things human beings can contemplate or attempt. Summarising part of what I wrote:
It is difficult to underestimate the value of space exploration as an aspirational goal. It requires a great deal of imagination and practical problem-solving. And it acknowledges humanity’s humble place within an immense and expanding universe we have only begun to explore. Space travel also raises questions about how we see our place within this universe.
I don’t want to rehash the whole article here. (You can read the whole article, Mars and the need to imagine a different South Africa, on GroundUp. Apologies for the five-storey high author photo accompanying the article.)
Instead, I’d like to encourage you to read about the process of getting that rover up there in the first place. You can follow its journey there, and its progress since arriving, at the most excellent Mars Science Laboratory site. But be warned – prepare to lose days. DAYS.
In the meantime, you can expect to read many thoughts about what Star Trek means to me. (Not to mention Star Trek roleplaying games, and television series, and computer games.) And give a thought to Curiosity, who continues to wander around up there, gathering data like Federation Wall-E. I’m right there with you, buddy.