Saturday, September 26, 2015

Oh My!

As George Takei has put so eloquently, "Oh my!" The high resolution color images of Pluto are beginning to trickle back from the slow modem connect we have with New Horizons.

And they are breathtaking. Head over to NASA to feast on the full resolution versions and don't simply base your opinion on the reduced version above.

When the flyby happened, the usual crowd of conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to point their boney fingers in accusation at NASA for perpetrating yet another fraud on, not just the American public, but the entire world. Gizmodo has a "good" summary of the silliness that ensued. I say "good" in quotes because I have a hard time finding the correct adjective to describe what is a really great version of something really stupid.

The one I found most amusing is the fellow (Why these folks are always guys, eh? I weep for my gender.) Who took the early very low resolution images from New Horizon that showed that we were getting close and had the camera pointed in the right direction and compared them with photos he could take from his backyard. His conclusion: these must be fakes.

Well, he and his fellow travelers on that particular astral plane have had to change the argument (or at least shift the emphasis) to now simply claim this are a fabrication independent of the so-called quality. One fellow even claims that if we can't see it from a ground based telescope, it doesn't really exist!

All good fun except there are people in the world (you know who you are) who didn't pay enough attention in science class to realize that this is best considered entertainment and not a serious statement about science and technology.

That this mission could be conceived underlines the great capacity of human imagination. that it could be executed is a statement about our ability to overcome our differences and work for a common goal with a remote and risky pay-off. That we can find new things that, while challenging our understanding of planetary formation, are not challenging our understanding of our basic science tells us that our grasp of our corner of the universe is on the right track and can incorporate this new information.

We have extended our hand to edge of the solar system. NASA has announced that the next big step for humans in off-planet exploration is Mars. The little hairs on the back of my neck (yes, I've many fewer than before, but there are still some there...) stand on end at the thought of the many things such a mission will uncover.

The distances involved seem destined to keep us from traveling to the stars, but can anyone really doubt that we will colonize the solar system if we don't kill ourselves or the planet Earth first?

The race is on. I put my money on the human spirit of exploration although I realize that it is near run thing.