There is a photograph that has recently circulated by Nasa of the sun setting upon the barren horizon of the planet Mars. The calculated distance from where that camera sits is one hundred and twenty-eight million miles up to one hundred and fifty-eight million miles depending upon the time of year. If you recall your grammar school lessons the sun is about ninety-three million miles. Depending upon who you believe that means that a webcam exists in a place barren of life certainly as we know it and it will be there possibly much longer than anyone could imagine. Given the vagaries of the universe it might remain their long after we do? Consider if you will how strange that we can see something that seems so recognizably familiar and yet so completely far away that it boggles the mind to imagine ever physically walking it.
Now most of us in this age of well imagined science fiction would scoff at this as the planets and stars have long been exhausted in hundreds of Hollywood scripts released to the public over the last fifty plus years. We almost expect that in the next decade or two it will be possible to climb onboard a starship and whiz past alpha centaur by afternoon for burgers. The farthest away that any man-made object has thus far traveled away from out planet is approximately a billion miles away. Voyager 1 has just recently reached the edge of our solar system last year and is now in an area called the Helio sheath where the wind from the sun slows down due to the pressure of stellar gases. Picture a single cell with some tiny bit of humanity much like a tiny piece of DNA ready to pierce the outer membrane of that cell’s wall. And yet it continues to send information back to earth.
It makes you realize how very little we really know about everything. And how much more we will have to comprehend as the future moves forth. I can hear a very much younger voice of William Shatner playing Captain James T. Kirk’s uttering his first line of dialogue that opens each of the original episodes, “Space, the final frontier”. I suspect that someday very soon the word ‘final’ may be replaced by the word, ‘endless’.