As promised, here comes the second part of the story “Explore. Dream. Discover” from August 10th. Once again, it makes reference to a Space.com post by Mr. Wayne Hale dating from July 19, 2009. This time around, Mr. Hale uses a magnificent metaphor, comparing Space Exploration with the carrying of the Olympic torch relay. Mankind can simply not allow itself to let the “flame of stars” dwindle, much less die out, if we are to pass those dreams of space onto next generations.
Mr. Hale’s approach is, in my opinion, a very effective and to the point reasoning path. It seems very appropriate to match up the step-by-step process of conquering the interplanetary space with the brick-over-brick way our society has marched on since the dawn of civilization some 5,000 years ago. We have built upon the remains of our ancestors, over and over again.
As of the “physical” side, one has only got to go to Rome -The Eternal City- and let himself witness the grandness of history (sorry for the emotional lapse, cannot avoid day-dreaming when recalling this place :).
Nonetheless, this little fable’s moral can yet again be amplified by extrapolating the mentioned analogy. For so doing, imagine the relay being, say, humanity’s cumulative knowledge, and the torch carrier a representative of an age or even a generation. What we know is simply what we have learned from the past spiced up by our own personal touch. If we now have the capability of sending a man to Mars (hopefully by 2030), it is because we have been standing on the shoulders of giants: Einstein, Newton, Edison, Darwin…you name it; and, of course, the every day working class hero, you and I, the anonymous citizen carrying the torch in the shadow.
What we are is nothing but what the people before us imagined it would be. We are, in a sense, the dreams of our fathers (I think Barack wrote a book on that one hehe). And, as such, our contribution to our sons and daughters’ world (including The Planet of course 😉 is just in our minds and hands at this very precise moment. That is our mission. That is the “light of knowledge” in our torches.
(That last “light of knowledge” line was from my all-time favorite movie: The Dead Poets Society)
Messieurs dames, your story.
I’ve said before that the exploration of space reminds me of the Olympic torch relay. So here is a note to all you relay runners who carry the torch every day in your work; to those who have retired from the race, and to those who dream of carrying the fire one day.
Not everybody gets to carry the torch up the stadium steps and light the cauldron in the presence of tens of thousands and the virtual presence of tens of millions. Only a very few get to carry the torch in moments of glory.
Not everyone who carries the torch is remembered, only a few names are ever announced.
Not everybody gets to carry the torch over the mountain tops, just a handful get to carry the fire through magnificent vistas.
Not everybody gets to carry the torch where it is cheered on by adoring crowds.
Somebody has to carry the torch in the rain, somebody has to carry the torch through the valley, somebody has to carry the torch through the warehouse district and the swamp. Somebody even has to carry the torch in places where the onlookers jeer.
But the torch has to be carried. If the flame is ever to reach its goal, if the cheering multitudes are ever to see the final runner holding the torch high, it must to be carried.
Space exploration is like that. Some days are glorious days, some days are awful, and most days can be tedious.
But if we stumble, and the torch falls, and the light goes out, then all the dreams and all the sweat of all of those who came before us will be for nought. And all the hopes for those who might have carried the torch after us will fade away in the night.
We don’t get to chose the section of the course we run. We just get to carry the torch.
Celebrate with those who carried the torch in glory days. Know that glory days will come again.
Don’t forget to hold it high, even in ordinary times, even in the presence of those who jeer.
Because those who carry the torch, carry the future in their hands.
Because even if you have to run through the desert and never hear the cheering throngs, you are still carrying the fire.
And how well you run your distance is the only reward that is truly worth having.
Yes, my dear friend, we got to stay the course on this one. We cannot stop pursuing our dreams, as we must not stop thinking about the “Out There”. For we would be denying our own nature. For we would be restraining our children’s dreams and freedoms.
We got to run through the desert now. Let’s do it for the kids. For theirs would be the next oasis.