Reach Out and Touch Someone
Sometimes our day to day world is right in our collective faces. Events, while noteworthy, often occur in far away places. We can choose to pay
attention to these events, or ignore them. Even events which happen outside our back door can be selectively tuned out. In some respects, the world
right outside can be a distant place.
Conversely, the global media being what it is makes distant events seem very near indeed. Events from our entire planet can be summarized in a matter
of minutes on the evening news. While far away, the trifles of our earthly inhabitants can seem somewhat stifling day in and day out. There just
doesn’t seem to be any escape.
Over the past few days, perhaps when we weren’t paying attention, we all received a long distance call; a call from an old friend, in a very distant
place indeed. Many didn’t notice; even more still likely didn’t care. I care though; it’s why I wrote this. Hopefully you too will agree what an
interesting perspective this puts on life in general.
In 1977 (I was 14 at the time), a couple small US spacecraft were launched. Their name was Voyager (1 & 2). The other day, one of them called us, just
to say “Hello”.
You may remember it was the first object to ever take a picture of both the Moon and the Earth in one photo. Originally designed to take a few
snapshots of Jupiter and Saturn, it sent us pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and even Neptune. By 1990, well beyond its original mission
expectancy, it even sent us a Christmas card of sorts…a picture of the entire Solar System.
The other day Voyager 2 phoned home, from more than 10 billion miles away (yes, with a “b”), near an area of space where our sun no longer has any
influence (past the termination shock but not quite to the helio-pause for you astronomers); interstellar space. In its life, it has traveled nearly
20 billion miles at the snail like pace of only 88,000 mph (Mach 114 for you aviation buffs).
So exactly how far is 10 billion miles away anyway? Well, it comes to just over 107 trips to the Sun and back or 732,708 round trips between New York
and Bejing, China. It takes over eighteen (18) hours for Voyager radio signals to even reach Earth (that’s a long time on "hold").
What did it matter? Well, who knew there were volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io, or that there were rings around Uranus and that it had 10 moons? A
thousand years ago man thought our Moon was made of cheese; now we can look at close up photos of every planet in our solar system.
In 1977 our not so good buddy Jimmy Carter was in office, Fleetwood Mac released the album Rumors, the “King” and Bing Crosby died. In 1977 the
first three nodes of ARPAnet were connected; it would eventually become the Internet (contrary to Al Gore’s claims to fame). It would be two more
years before Iran would seize Americans as hostages in Iran. Life was quite a bit different then.
Each day in 1977 we had worries, trials and tribulations, just like today, 38 years later in 2015. The world didn’t begin, or end, even though some
thought it might. Many of the engineers, physicists and astronomers involved in Voyager have long since retired. Some have even passed on to the very
stars through which Voyager soars.
Forty thousand years ago mankind was still in the Stone Age; hunter gatherers living in caves and picking berries. Forty thousand years from now
Voyager will reach the next solar system in its path. It does bear a message from us…if it turns out there’s anyone interested in looking at it. I
wonder where the human race will be then. Forty thousand years from now, if mankind is still around, he’ll have something new to worry about; why
did we send a Stone Age spacecraft to another solar system (and what will they think).
I don’t know the answers, but I do know it was good to hear from an old friend.
edit on 11/13/2015 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)