Friday, September 15, 2017

The Sad End of a Great Space Adventure

Early this morning, about 1.2 billion kilometres away from Earth, an amazing 20-year voyage came to a sudden end.

When the Cassini spacecraft crashed into Saturn.

And I must admit that when it did, I found myself moved beyond belief.

For I watched the live feed from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, as some of the scientists who had guided it for so long now guided it to its destruction.

I knew how hard it must have been for them.

I saw how the spacecraft struggled desperately to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth.

Until it couldn't any longer.

And the end finally came.

And it became part of the planet it had studied for so long.

But what a magnificent journey it was, how awe inspiring are these pictures

You know, when you look at life on Earth, you might think that we are still hairy apes clubbing ourselves to death.

And destroying the only home we have.

So I'm sorry we couldn't bring Cassini back, and put it on a pedestal, so that we might reminded that we are capable of great things.

And how small and lonely is our planet.

My congratulations to all the scientists and technicians who made that great voyage possible.

And well done little space explorer, you will not be forgotten...


Anonymous said...

Simon, I felt exactly the same way.

Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

As sad as it was to see this mission end, it was equally uplifting to once again experience what it has achieved over the years.
Humankind never ceases to astonish me at what we can build and unfortunately, what we can destroy.
Amidst it all, you found the time to highlight the truly amazing of this world and for that I offer my heartfelt thank you to you Simon.
Live long and prosper.

Anonymous said...

Dunno if you're a Star Trek fan Simon (I know Justin is lol), but the multi-talented actor Robert Picardo from the Voyager series actually wrote and sang a Cassini opera as a tribute in serenade for its final journey. If you go on YouTube and search "Robert Picardo Cassini opera," you'll see Robert performing a spectacular ode to this concluding chapter of human space exploration:

Live long and prosper indeed. If only we could put aside our differences more often, and unite over combination celestial and manmade events like this, the eclipse and the moon landing of long ago, we truly could go where no man, woman, child, or anyone in between has gone before.

I'm inclined to think that Justin would tend to agree:


Simon said...

hi anon...well thank you. I knew I would be sad, but watching the live feed was even more moving than I had imagined. Some of those scientists have spent their whole working lives tending to that little spacecraft so it must have been even harder for them. But in the gloomy world we live in, it was a noble and inspiring story, and for that I am grateful...

Simon said...

hi JD...yes it was uplifting wasn't it? And it is a great example of what humankind can do, when we spend more time on peaceful pursuits instead of our never-ending attempts to kill each other. And thank you for your kind words JD. It was a real pleasure to write about that little spacecraft's epic voyage, instead of the grubby world we live in these days. I also must confess that I have been fascinated by robots since I was a small boy, and I have a houseful full of them. So we were all watching that celestial event... ;)

Steve said...

Titan or bust!

Simon said...

hi anon...thank you for that link. I enjoyed the song, and lines like "Bravo Cassini, have some linguini" made me laugh. But to be honest I would have preferred something a bit sadder. For although it was just a robot I would have preferred if it had just been released and allowed to fly on into the darkness of outer space. And this video made by the JPL people was more to my liking.

But you're right, if only we could raise our eyes to the stars more often we might be better inhabitants of this planet. And there is a shot in the NYT collection of photos, showing Earth as a tiny dot, which shows us how precious and fragile we are in that great darkness. If only for that we must continue the space program...