Sunday, August 05, 2012
One of my most exciting memories from my college years was paying a visit to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, home of the unmanned space exploration program for the United States. There I watched a live feed of images of the Saturn system photographed during the flyby of Voyager 1 spacecraft. Exciting times! The spontaneous cheers which arose from the crowd — students and scientists alike — expressed a great joy.
The animation of the landing of the Mars rover "Curiosity,"seen above, is quite dramatic and exciting in itself, and I'm sure that most of us hope that it goes well.
There are some who think that the space program is expensive and wasteful, spending money that is better spent elsewhere, such as on social services — this despite the fact that many Ph.D.s would be homeless were it not for the space program. While the space program often has been wasteful, there have also been crowning moments of awe, like the Apollo 11 moon landing. But what the critics may not realize is that an even greater virtue than liberality is the virtue of magnificence, which exhibits great courage and great honor, found in the best achievements of the space program. I wrote more about magnificence and the space program here.