The Mars rover has been on its way toward a historic landing since November of 2011, and is scheduled to land this August. That’s right, every day for a total of nine months, this man-made machine will have been traveling toward its destination. Every day, a bit closer. A “bit” as measured by the journey’s distance, but 1.8 million miles each day in in our terms. With a total of 352 million miles to travel, even the almost-2-million miles in a day doesn’t make the journey as fast as we’d think.
They named this rover, appropriately enough, Curiosity.
If you’re anything like me, in firm possession of a run-of-the-mill non-science mind, you’re probably picturing this satellite-type invention rocketing straight toward our nearest planet. According to my husband, that’s not the case. Curiosity has been put into an independent orbit circling the sun that will eventually intersect with its target’s orbit for a gentle parachute landing. Evidently that’s the only way to get there—a circuitous route that will likely take longer than it would if a cartoon-like straight shot were possible.
I can’t think of a more perfect example of so many things in life. We start out with a goal and make what feels like slow progress toward our destination. The rate of that progress is all in perspective, of course, and not easily visible from the space and time of our own orbit. And it’s rarely a straight shot—we have unforeseen diversions and obstacles (some good, some not so good). Eventually, if we’re persistent and up to the challenge, we make it to our destination. We realize the journey itself has brought us far more knowledge than we started out with, but the destination is yet another new beginning. One to collect and learn all kinds of new things—some we might have hoped or suspected, and others that will be a complete surprise.
So here’s to Curiosity! Both up there in space, and the kind we all carry around with us.
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