Our reach just got longer. Saturn and its many moons, at least 33 of them, are among the most mysterious and beautiful worlds in all our solar system. Finally, thanks to the Cassini-Huygens mission, we are getting a closer peek. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has an atmosphere and may even have an environment suitable for life. Huygens’ safe arrival to Titan’s surface is the most distant landing ever by an Earth probe. (In fairness, one should mention the Voyager I and II probes. They are more than seven billion miles from Earth and still flying. There will be no soft landings in their futures, however.)
Whenever there is an accomplishment in space some inevitably condemn it as a waste of money. They might reconsider, however, if there are other human priorities that should be surrendered long before space exploration is sacrificed in the name of more noble causes. For example, shouldn’t we at least let go of pornography ($10 billion per year in the US alone) before we give up on learning about the space we live in? (Cassini-Huygens mission cost: $3.3 billion for several years worth of data)
We are a strange Bunch. Some of us work very hard to understand the universe, our home, and share the knowledge with all. And some of us work very hard to remain ignorant and share delusion and misery with as many people as possible. Humankind today is split between seekers and sleepwalkers. Both sides have legions of loyal followers and theirs may be the most important contest of all.
What will future historians think of us, of our time? We are, after all, the ones who still believe in magic, murder our sisters and watch our brothers starve. But, then again, we are also the ones who are bold enough to reach for distant worlds.
World News editor Guy P. Harrison is at [email protected]