Monday, May 20th

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Weekend thoughts

11741077_10153395520906772_1981952736707138472_oThis week my head was spinning with the news from NASA about the space probe New Horizons making its closest approach to Pluto. After a voyage of three billion miles and nine and a half years, the Pluto fly-by occurred and succeeded beyond our highest hopes. Now it’s headed for the outer edges of the solar system, a region of tiny icy bodies known as the Kuiper Belt.

The lightweight spacecraft is zipping through the solar system at more than 30,000 miles per hour. On its voyage, it carries the most sophisticated suite of instruments ever loaded on any such craft. This is truly one of the greatest human adventures of all time. We are so lucky to have such a moment unfurl before our eyes. On Tuesday this week, we saw the best photo ever taken of Pluto and it was surprisingly detailed, even lovely. This is one of many NASA missions unlocking the mysteries of space, or at least our local neighbourhood of space.

As a young person, I was lucky enough to see live TV streamed from the moon, Apollo astronauts inspired many in my generation. But as cynicism took hold, many questioned the value of this exploration and the costs were seen as to expensive. It became clear that if space exploration was to continue, it would have to be kept on a tight budget. Bless NASA’s heart, they have done just that. So while we may have stepped away from our streak of successful manned missions to the moon, we are still out there via our tools, our technology, our inventions.

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, who was 24 years old at the time. Tombaugh died at the age of 90 in 1997, about five years before the New Horizons mission was conceived and designs began.  A small amount of his ashes are on board the spacecraft. This is humanity at its best, a thirst for knowledge with teamwork and technology reaching an impossible goal, respecting those who pointed the way.

            Until next weekend,
                ~ Lisa