Who are we? Why are we here? Where did we come from? And if we are here, who else is here; and who else is out there?
To what do we owe the grandeur of space? In our mere millennia of transcendent thought, we have come to grasp so much of what is out there, yet we are surprised by how little of it we truly understand. Did our religious figures creature the splendor of the universe that we see before us, or are they merely creations of the universe, come to leave their mark, and gone again?
Contained on this small spec of dust, suspended amongst the stars in the endless chasm of space, is everything and everyone that have known or will ever know.
From the time we are old enough to realize why we are here, we are filled with great questions— questions about eternity, and the soul; about life and love; about true strengths, weaknesses, and purpose. We come to reason out, in a manner often solely to keep us sane, that our lives are given to us for a purpose; and from that moment on, we live to discern what that purpose is.
For many of us, we strive for a full and complete life; whether that means a family & children, a well-paying job, personal fulfillment, adventure—whatever it may be, we spend our lives trying to obtain that one thing that will make our lives matter. (Listen to Carl Sagan’s “The Pale Blue Dot”, you won’t be disappointed.)
For some of us, however, discovering what that purpose is, is not that easy. Over the years, I have met many people whose dreams are too profound to be easily painted, whose desires and aspirations are too vast to be explained. “I want to invent time travel,” “I want to be the first human to truly fly,” “I want be the first on a new planet like Earth.” Each and every one of them has yearned for something so great, that it cannot be achieve in a day, or a week, or year. They, like the rest of us, are seeking answers; most of which cannot be found here, on this little blue planet.
Who are we? Why are we here? Where did we come from? And if we are here, who else is here? Who else is out there?
We as a people, fundamentally seek to understand. We are a forever growing multi-consciousness that needs constant development. When we stop moving, we die. It’s a fact. Never has humanity slowed in its pursuit of something greater, and not been so caught up in the moment that we have torn ourselves apart.
We began with the most basic skills of survival and communication, and we have grown to create some of the most complex ideas and hypotheses that we have ever supposed—many of which are in the process of coming to fruition as I write this.
It’s 2015. Just in the past ten years alone we’ve grown so much. We are in an age of exponential intellectual growth. With our current rate of discovery and ingenuity, who knows to what lengths we can reach in the next ten years. Perhaps we will have achieved self sustaining global energy efficiency, sustainable individual human flight, ergonomic and energy efficient electric transportation, better methods of recycling and renewing of our goods and services; perhaps among these creations we will even have discovered interstellar travel.
Contained in the rocky surfaces of our close neighbors we can see the long eroded remains of worlds that could have once been teeming with life. On Mars, there are great canyons and valleys where water could have once run, and the remains of volcanoes, showing us that it once had a very active core. Evidence of frozen water exists elsewhere as well, such as on Titan, Saturn’s sixth ellipsoidal moon.
These, and many other pieces of evidence, point to life having been present once, or possibly still, in our own solar system, never mind further beyond. The Kepler Mission, named after Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), is an ongoing project to search for exoplanets that could be earth-like in nature. That means that they are potentially water bearing, with a life sustainable atmosphere and climate. Planets that reside within the habitable zone are then studied further to see if the traits they have would allow them to sustain life.
The Kepler Mission has discerned the status of almost 2000 planets, and is in the process of uncovering thousands more. There are currently another 995 candidates that have a radius less than or equal to 1.25 that of Earth’s. This is important because with an increase in planetary size often comes an increase of planetary gravity and we can only live somewhere that our bodies can function as they do here.
With our current technology, we can only understand so much of what is out there. For instance, it’s going to take us months to download all the pictures New Horizon’s has sent us of Pluto and it’s moons because it’s only downloading, on average, at 1000 bits per second— And just to get there, to the closest we have ever been to Pluto, three billion miles away, took us nine years and five months.
We can only do so much in space. It’s still very costly and inefficient to perform most tasks that we desire to do outside of earth’s atmosphere. The cosmic radiation and deep interstellar cold currently are just some of the huge factors keeping us from a more efficient and successful space journey. Though we desire to surge through the Galaxy like Lister, or Captain Malcolm Reynolds, we are still many years away from that—perhaps though, not as far as we might think.
Make no mistake, if we can write it, we can do it. Maybe not anytime soon, but hyper drives, warp speed, a completely self-sustaining energy source—these are things that are possibilities for us. We can and we will create these technologies over the next few decades, sending us rocketing forth into the next era of the human race: the journey through space.
And space does hold the answers. Out there, amongst the stars, is an answer for every great question we have ever supposed. Why are we here? What else is out there? Soon enough, we’ll be looking back on our magnificent blue planet as it fades away into the backdrop of endless space. For ahead of us: New elements yet to be discovered. Unknown races yet to be befriended. Endless possibilities of discovery. It is up to us to reach for the stars… before the stars reach down for us.