As I write this post, a little spaceship is sat on Mars, basking in the relative warmth of the sun but still, in a very physically hostile place.
I am (slightly) older than the “space age”, which most people would say started with the Russian Sputnik launch in 1957, so I have grown up watching astonishing feats of bravery, skill and ingenuity, so much so, that like most other people, I’ve become blase about the whole thing.
It’s only the odd explosion that attracts the attention. For most people, the world of the internet is just click and browse and chat – the physics and technology that allows instantaneous communication around the globe is just hidden away – “oh! it’s another Intelsat launch – hmm”
However, two pictures from The Phoenix program showed and reminded me just how far we as a species have come and what we are capable of… It’s not the pictures from the surface of another heavenly body that I’m thinking about – we’ve had them since the sixties. They are old hat! 😉
No, the first one is at the left.
Currently orbiting Mars is another spaceship, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It took the picture of Phoenix dropping down to the Martian surface, suspended beneath it’s parachute. That single picture summarised, for me, just how good we’ve become.
Mars is millions of miles away, and yet we can take a picture from one craft, remotely, of another craft, miles away, in so much detail that we can actually see the parachute chords!
Remember, we didn’t remote control the craft – the radio waves take too long to reach Mars for direct radio control… We programmed the craft to do it!
The next picture is the craft on the Martian surface, viewed from the orbiting spacecraft. We can even see the solar panels unfurled!
Truly, if we as a species are capable of this, then we can do anything we put our minds to! I do not see the energy crisis as an insurmountable problem. Or global hunger. Or global conflicts. Or global warfare.
The problem is purely of people’s creation and the problem lies within our minds. If we decide it’s NOT a problem but is in fact a simple task that enables us all to keep living, then we can do these little tasks. We can see parachute chords on other worlds – we can surely keep the trees growing.
If we can’t do these tasks, then because Mars is a much less tectonically active place than the Earth, in a billion years the only evidence that humans existed on Earth won’t be on Earth, it’ll be on Mars!
The proof that Mars is tectonically inactive lies in this picture. The spaceship is floating down on it’s parachute in line of sight of a huge Martian crater.
Statistically, the inner worlds of Earth, Venus and Mars have been whacked by meteorites at the same rate. The only reason the Earth isn’t covered in meteorite scars is that crustal movements and weathering erode them away – quickly, (in geological time-speak). Craters like this have been made many times on Earth. We only see small remnants left now – until the next one arrives.
This picture also shows something of the immense time-spans that I’m talking about. This crater could be a billion years old!