This image of the HR 8799 planets was taken with starlight optically suppressed and data processing conducted to remove residual starlight. The star is at the center of the blackened circle in the image. The four spots indicated with the letters b through e are the planets. This is a composite image using 30 wavelengths of light and was obtained over a period of 1.25 hours on June 14 and 15, 2012
I’d go so far as to liken the HR 8799 system to being the first long range sensor scan, albeit not as detailed as any given sci-fi would demand.
Somewhere, Gene Roddenberry is grinning ear to ear.
Have you heard of the Mars One mission? No? Well, in a nutshell, it’s a promising endeavor to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2023. Read that year again. 2023. That’s a mere decade from now. When my kids are in their teens in 10 years, it will be the most monumental off-world achievement we as a species have accomplished yet – – human feet, on an entirely different planet. Not a rover, not an orbiter, but us. When my kids are adults, they’ll be eligible to apply to go to the colony.
That boggles. Okay, not really. It stirs up a little jealousy. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had my eyes skyward, wondering if we’d ever be able to venture in to the void of space beyond the moon’s orbit, and I don’t mean via probes or orbiters. I grew up in the Trekkie generation, I wondered if the Star Trek idea of exploring out there would ever come to fruition. In a way, it has with the Voyager probes, but the probes aren’t organic. Neither are the Mars rovers. It’s one thing to zap a rock & analyze it, analyze the air, or to scoop the soil and analyze it via a remotely operated robot. It’s a totally different one to have feet firmly planted on that soil, walking on those rocks, and taking in the scale and environment of that alien world through human contact firsthand. My childhood had that whimsical ideal, that low-odds hope of being able to do that. I doubt I will, as I’ll be middle-age when it happens, and probably not remotely close to the physical criteria. But my kids, or your kids? They could very well be the first wave of those Terran-Martian pioneers after the initial construction phases.
Mars One is a true exploration leap of faith, to do what has never been done before. Our species is a paradox, in that we are equally insatiably curious of the unknown, and terrified of it. One invariably wins out over the other, without a doubt. Here’s to turning the page in our book of exploration, and starting a whole new chapter on it.