martian sunset

a lot of the time i am blown away by science. a lot of the time that happens to be space science. every once in a while i feel compelled to post something about it here. i saw this on the bad astronomy blog and was thoroughly moved. here’s phil plait’s very zen summation of what we’re seeing here:

I know, it may not look like much, but think about what you’re seeing: a sunset on another world. And those images were taken by a robotic probe that took years to design and build, months to travel the hundreds of millions of kilometers to get to Mars, a harrowing few minutes to descend on a breath of fire through the thin air to land on the surface, and then nearly seven years to travel the landscape long, long past its design specifications.

All that, plus all the amazing science, exploration, and discovery done by Opportunity and its sister rover Spirit… and yet, it’s sometimes the stark beauty of simple things like this that remind us that we have, at least by proxy, placed our feet on other worlds.

I know there are worries here on Earth. But when I see something like this, I remember that the good we do, the awe we feel, and the inspiration we can generate are mighty.

i was similary moved a few years ago when i saw the photos of the phoenix lander parachuting into the martian atmosphere and its landing on mars. we were actually able to photograph a man-made probe landing on another planet! holy shit! i know when i think of all the interconnectedness, all of the people involved, all of the mental evolution over the long years, all of the energy that’s required to achieve this – it blows my mind more than a little. it is staggering.

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