Sometimes you have to be alone to reflect on the beauty of life. Where winter is only a rumor in our world here in the desert, it is for us to enjoy this time of year. Let’s be grateful that so many of us have traded in snow shovels for sun screen. When we are in dawn’s light, I have a long walk to pick up my Sun News. This walk is my time to look up, reflect, and to not trip. It is like I am part of the heavens that early in the morning, some of us are more delirious than others before we fully wake up. How unique humans are in the universe. Who sends probes out beyond the years into the universe? Humans do. Friday March 6th, the dwarf planet Ceres had its first visitor from earth. The Dawn spacecraft was captured by the gravity of Ceres and is now orbiting the dwarf planet after a journey of over 3.1 billion miles, it is home.
As NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab reported, the Dawn spacecraft has become the first space mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was 38,000 miles from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity. Dawn was healthy and moving with its ion engine, indicating the spacecraft was in orbit as planned. It took Dawn 8 years to get to Ceres, one of the last unexplored dwarf planets in our solar system. The New Horizon spacecraft, now approaching the dwarf planet Pluto and its moon Charon was launched in 2006. It should be orbiting Pluto in July of 2015, having traveled over 4.67 billion miles. Mankind’s ability to design, build and successfully communicate with and operate spacecraft over these long periods of time and distances is also worthy of reflection. We are a race of explorers. This race of explorers is neither male or female, nor black or white, we are one race, we are the human race.
Astronauts talk about the lack of boundaries when they look at earth from the International Space Station. For the time they are suspended above earth, they work on making it possible for humans to survive, live and work in space. As we keep striving to lose our feet of clay here, inspiration comes in little bursts of energy like the small bursts of energy propelling the ion engines of the Dawn spacecraft. I hope the students and faculty now registered to come to the International Space Station workshop we are holding on March 30th at the Hotel Encanto will move us farther along in taking advantage of our nation’s space program. Should anyone want to register please go to this website: http://goo.gl/zUGNi4.
In the 1960’s, early in the development of deep space exploration programs, scientist had to figure out how to build spacecraft that would last until they achieved their mission objectives. Deep space exploration missions are those that go beyond earth orbit out into our solar system and beyond. Commercial space missions, often discussed in this column, are related to a developing economic zone in what is called low earth orbit. You can use the space station as a reference point for this zone in space around earth. It takes about five or six hours to reach the space station from earth. This economic zone is an emerging market place that the United States Congress has tasked all government agencies to encourage and facilitate its growth. This is the zone where humans are learning to live and work, and to learn to use as an economic development market place.
When the first colonists arrived on the shores of our country, their main job was to survive. The job of survival was their work, and as more people came, their survival became the job of everyone. And so it went for hundreds of years until communities became cities, and economic development zones. People create demand for people, and those people create demand for – well everything. The early colonists were farmers, parents, inventors, diplomats, yet all were explorers.
We have not changed, our tools for exploration have changed, but we have not changed. Failure in the early space program was part of our experimental evolution as a spacefaring people. And so we may experience some experimental failures temporarily in the early phases of space commercialization. I have reflected on these too, and I must say I am very glad to wake up tomorrow and to keep trying. Look at what we have accomplished; there is only possibility for all of us involved in this great business here in New Mexico. Remember the first vehicle to go to space flew from White Sands Proving Ground. You bet our role in this industry is worthy of reflection and respect to all those who have come before us and work to support us now. This is the beauty of life that is uniquely our part of lives here.