Chronicles in Ordinary Time 77: Imagination and Inspiration

Martian landscapeImages: http://mars.nasa.gov/mro/multimedia/images/?s=326

 These are aerial photographs of the landscape of Mars.

This statement blows my mind. It ought to blow yours.

Not Hollywood. Not CGI. Photographs made with a camera that sits aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite that’s been orbiting Mars for about 10 years; shooting photos of strangely colored sand dunes, enormous ‘dust devils’ that extend thousands of feet into the air, and create strangely beautiful shadows; avalanches near the snow-covered Poles of Mars.

However, we live in the 21st Century; and the world of the Internet. All sorts of wonders happen all of the time, and we yawn and scroll down to the next item on Facebook…

When I was a kid, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, I read the John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read of Barsoom and its canals and an adventurer from Earth who found himself a stranger in a strange land. The books are better than the movie was.

I was 10 years old when JFK spoke these words at Rice University:

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man…”

Full speech below

 We went to the Moon by the end of that decade; and we have gone far beyond that goal. Astronauts have inspired children the world over to “seek out new adventures and to go where no man has gone before…”

I read the works Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov as well as dozens of other science fiction authors. Tom Swift Jr. was one of my literary heroes, and the subject of many of my internal adventures—a young inventor traveling the world and outer space, seeking to make life better. And now I can view photos of Mars, I can watch videos of Mars and its moons…as easily as I can watch Facebook.

Should we be trying to go to Mars? I’d rather see us fix up the planet we have, than to encourage us to continue wrecking this one while we find a new planet to wreck…

The problem isn’t money.

cost of war

The bottom number starts with One Trillion. A number, when applied to money, that none of us can accurately imagine. You can probably find a graphic somewhere on the Internet. These numbers of course are significantly smaller than the numbers are at this moment, as you are reading these words. You can find current numbers here.

There is no lack of money in the US and in the world for solving most of the problems of mankind; what is lacking is the willingness to sacrifice our comfort for the sake of people we don’t know. We can take pictures of Mars!—surely we can provide clean water and electricity to the planet. Can we reverse global warming? Probably not. Maybe we can slow it down.

You can inspire a child to dream; you can inspire a child to do something for good that no one in their history has ever done. You can inspire a child to become a better person than you are. By training your mind you can become a better person than you are now.

 JFK_Rice_University

 

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

President John F. Kennedy in front of a large crowd gathered at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962.

 

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