Thursday, May 25, 2006
Proud of my species
This is the New Horizons launch. This is humanity's first mission to Pluto. I'm sorry the photos aren't great, but this is the fastest spacecraft ever launched; I've seen a lot of launches, and lemme tell ya, this thing really did zip up into the sky at an astonishing rate. If all goes right, New Horizons will be nearing Pluto, oh, about nine years from right now. If I'm still alive then, I hope that I can summon up a memory of standing in the backyard and watching it as its journey to the edge of the solar system began.
I confess: there are very few things that make me feel like a kid again, but space shots are among them. I get a chill just thinking that something that left the Earth a few miles from where I'm sitting right now will eventually be sending back information from a mysterious world millions of miles away in the icy depths of space. I only wish I could remember the Voyager launches back in 1977; I know I was living on the "Space Coast" at the time, but I guess other things have crowded out those memories. Voyager 1 and 2 have to be the coolest things ever built. Having already sent back reams of information about Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, they are now heading off into interstellar space, carrying those amazing Golden Records that testify to the existence of an intelligent, creative species on the third stone from the Sun. (I still remember Father Guido Sarducci imagining a message one day coming in from outer space: "Send more Chuck Berry.") Voyager 1 is now the most distant man-made object in existence.
There are things that make you proud to be (insert state or national affiliation here). There are things that make you proud to be (insert ethnic or gender affiliation here). Then there are things that make you proud to be human. There are things that make you proud of your species. The fact that we send stuff out into space to learn about the universe we live in—that makes me proud of my species. In many ways we may be, as Bill Hicks once said, "a virus with shoes," but dammit, we also do science. Forgive me for taking a certain amount of pride in that.
I take considerably less pride in having nearly fallen for Jason Leopold's Rove indictment claim on truthout.org, which has since become an object of scorn in the right-wing trogosphere. I'm glad that I had the presence of mind to include a Google News link in my original post, and to remark twice later on the continuing silence from official quarters—it makes me feel like slightly less of an idiot. Alas that truthout's "partial apology" leaves something to be desired. I still hope that truthout is right and that Leopold's story will prove to have been merely "too far out in front of the news-cycle" as opposed to, say, completely wrong. Meanwhile, thank you, TBogg, for reminding us that the Right also knows the embarrassment of premature speculation.
I may wind up being offline much of tomorrow, too, so just in case:
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