NASA is Sixty! 5 Reasons Why Space Fascinates Us
If you are a space nerd like me, and if you were at the right place at the right time, then two days ago (on the 27th of July) you may have taken the time to check out the total lunar eclipse. What was so special about this eclipse, from what I can ascertain from the writers at Wikipedia, is that this total lunar eclipse:
– was the longest that has taken place in the 21st century so far, lasting over an hour and a quarter
– occurred simultaneously with their being 180° difference between the geocentric longitudes of Mars and the Sun. Meaning that Mars was the closest it can get to the Sun, and was also particularly close to our planet. Apparently this happens every 25, 000 years. So if you missed it, good luck seeing it again.
The fascination with space is age old, and has captured the imagination from culture to culture – some still around, and others now extinct. In Western culture this fascination is now bound formally to both research and execution. For instance, it may be of interest to you to know that on this day in 1958, NASA was founded. True, the original intent of the organisation was not for stargazing or examining whether extra-terrestrials existed, but rather it was motivated by the space race against the Russian, who in 1957 launched Sputnik – the first satellite – into orbit around the earth.
The way I see it, there are five main reasons that space captures the human spirit. It represents:
Opportunity – we ripen and learn from our experiences. This is overly a positive phenomenon; however, sometimes we can be burdened by knowledge and experience. We can become over-qualified, set in our ways, closed to new things. Space represents the possibility of something completely new and different. It represents an opportunity to start again. In imagining a new frontier far from our own, we can rethink everything we think that we know and begin to look at the world with fresh eyes.
Growth – Imagine the human life cycle from birth to death and everything in between. Now imagine the cycle of the solar system, with the sun in the middle and the planets spinning around. Now imagine, that all of that is not the be all and end all. Space expands well beyond what we can imagine and very few of us – certainly not this writer – can even begin to comprehend what lies beyond. Just imagine if we could – philosophically – be like space and extend our mind, thoughts, yearning and creativity beyond the confines of what we currently know. The potential for growth is quite literally infinite.
The Unknown – some of have an innate fear of the dark and that which we don't know, and some of us embrace change and the unknown as a trigger that keeps us motivated and energised. No matter what your perspective, when you look out into the night sky, it is awe-inspiring to imagine that the world we live in is just a small part of something much bigger. Whether you come from a place of fear and trepidation, or from exhilaration and motivation – the unknown is a reminder to keep us on our toes and to remember that change is constant. We can never know everything and predict everything. We need to learn to live and accept that a certain degree of things that will happen in our lives are not within our direct control.
Perspective – on a daily level, we tend to our routine and our set circles of family, friends and work, with occasional additional interactions. It is easy to fall into the trap of imagining that we are in the centre of the universe and everything orbits around us. Space is the leveller. It reminds us that we are less than specks of dust, less then drops in the ocean. It is a humbling experience, and enables us to put the daily grind into a more realistic perspective.
Creativity and Imagination – Space is a muse: whether one is talking about religious rites and rituals, the arts, literature, philosophy, the sciences, astrology, or quantum physics, etc. . . . it represents the spark that starts off small, but eventually blazes in immortality. Like any muse, it can inspire thoughts, actions and works that can change the lives of individuals and groups – and even sometimes the course of human history. We could all do with a spark of space to motivate and inspire us.