Between the light diffusing from Wilmington and Baltimore I’m a little too boxed in by sprawl to have ideal nighttime sky viewing conditions. Sometimes, though, when it’s cold and the air is clear you get a glimpse of what it must have been like standing on these shores a few hundred years ago – when these lands were the outpost of civilization.
On nights like tonight, if you’re lucky and your timing is just right, you take the dogs out, happen to look up at just the right angle to marvel again at the constellations you learned as a kid, and are rewarded with a shooting star passing across Orion for your troubles. It’s awfully hard not to appreciate the moments like that.
Orion. It’s really that simple. I like Orion and the fact that for the first time since the early 1970s, the United States of America hurtled a man made object out beyond low earth orbit.
I like Orion because it represents the next in an unbroken series of exploratory and evolutionary steps that have carried humanity out of the Great Rift Valley, across and under oceans, and to the moon. It’s the only thing that makes sense after we’ve hunted and gathered our way across the surface of the entire planet – learning how to live in every inhospitable environment this world can throw at us. It’s what must be next because leaving this fragile blue planet is the last, best hope that human civilization will endure should we ever be dumb enough to destroy ourselves here on earth.
Of course leaving the planet is also the best chance that we’ll run into an aggressive space traveling civilization, microbes against which humanity has not natural defense, or give us the capability to militarize deep space and kill off civilization in entirely new and interesting ways… so it’s kind of a double edged sword.
Still, it’s worth every penny and every risk.
Note: This is the 3rd entry in a six-part series appearing on jeffreytharp.com by request.