NPR has done a fantastic little page on the New Horizons probe’s mind-blowing Pluto pass. I encourage anyone who reads this to stop for a moment and consider the monumental achievement of strapping a little machine onto a rocket and hurling it out to the edge of the solar system with an accuracy that give us this:
In a society that is thigh-deep in fiction, fantasy, and computer-generated effects itt is easy to become spoiled and take our technical and scientific accomplishments for granted–but this isn’t Star Trek. This is real life. Real men and real women engineered this momentous feat, and that requires celebration.
Among my very oldest memories, right there with the Christmas morning my mom caught the house on fire, and my father’s return from Viet Nam, is the recollection of sitting on my grandmother’s living room floor, watching the various feeds from the Apollo Missions to the moon. Every TV channel (there were at least 5, maybe 6) showed every event, from launch to splashdown and recovery–that tiny capsule, bobbing in the sea–mesmerized my tiny brain, and the giant imagination within it. By the time I was a young man, space shuttles were routinely soaring into orbit and returning and, except in those two tragic exceptions, we mostly went about our business, unaware.
We forget. We forget pain, or we might not strive for excellence. We forget evil, although it often takes a lifetime, but mostly we forget greatness–perhaps because it does not bear a sting to wound us–to the point where we, by second nature, expect it and, more sadly, don’t notice it at all.