Visions of space come to life with images from ESA probe
Note: I was given a very vague "yay ESA" topic. If there was a specific opinion that the board wanted to be expressed it would've been nice to know it. It might be possible to rewrite it from the perspective that the ESA was both extremely lucky and extremely skilled at the same time, and that both of these things occurring has allowed us to gain new understanding of the universe.
Also, I have researched other editorials on this topic and haven't found anything better. In fact, ours is the longest I've found and contains as much, if not more opinion.
Our generation lives in a time of unparalleled discovery. Caked Martian soil clings to the wheels of year-old rovers, causing them to resemble off-road vehicles rather than multi-million dollar pieces of cutting edge engineering. Our most sensitive electronic eyes relentlessly search the sky for other signs of life, capturing the image of a planet more than 250 light-years away for the first time. And now, at last, we have pierced Titan?s mysterious atmosphere. For years, hints of water ice on Titan?s surface and the moon?s impenetrable atmosphere taunted scientists and piqued curiosities. We should praise the European Space Agency for this, a major contribution to mankind?s pantheon of firsts.
After seven cold, lonely years of travel, the intrepid Huygens probe plunged through Titan?s atmosphere, expending its short life to tell Earth all about the strange place it landed. Titan is a world that appears alien, a place where methane flows like water and falls like rain. The ESA has come a long way since December of 2003, when its mission to Mars failed badly, leading many to call it an embarrassment. In a little-noted comment, Robert Griffiths, a professor of physics at CMU, said, ?I think the ESA was justifiably elated by the success of the landing. Titan is the only satellite in the solar system to have an atmosphere.... They seem to have gotten incredibly lucky to have landed [on solid ground] right near a liquid region, otherwise it would have sunk right [down].?
Perhaps they got lucky with the landing, but the engineering excellence is there. The reams of data and hundreds of images transmitted from the surface attest to the ESA?s ability to work with international partners ? the first in a series of joint ventures with NASA. Where the partnership will end up is not completely laid out, but we hope it lies on a path that will lead humanity to Mars.
The images from Huygens offer us a glimpse of a world that sometimes seems to be less hostile than our own. Threats of dirty bombs, daily deaths of Americans far from home, and the horror of nature?s wrath all weigh heavily on our minds.
However, there is always hope for a brighter future. Despite the many people who spend their days planning and waging war, there are those who sustain and feed the curiosity of our species. Without these people our lives would be lessened. Without them, we would have little reprieve from various awful circumstances that affect our lives on a daily basis.
Missions like Cassini-Huygens will help us to answer the big questions: the ones that come to us when we peer into the speckled night sky. Are we special in the universe, or are we galactic flukes? Can there be others like us?
So, please, thank a scientist. Their work allows us to ponder bold new thoughts and allows us to expand our conception of the world around us, in both its workings and its meaning. In his most recent book, celebrated physicist Brian Greene summed up this ability in a few choice words: ?... the men and women of science ... have peeled back layer after layer of the cosmic onion, enigma by enigma, and revealed a universe that is at once surprising, unfamiliar, exciting, elegant, and thoroughly unlike what anyone ever expected.? We should keep them from toiling in obscurity and bring them and their work into the public consciousness, expanding the possibilities of thought.