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Mission to Mars

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for,” wrote Robert Browning in a 19th century poem.

We on Earth seem to be defying the famous bard’s advice, and the evidence is all around us.

Too often we settle for the mundane, the easy way out, the simple over the more complicated.

The reasons are many, but I can think of two of them right off the bat, too little time to do too many things, and an abundance of technology that simplifies everyday tasks to the point we don’t remember when they weren’t.

The space race in particular has simplified our lives in direct and more importantly indirect ways, in particular the American response to President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon.

Where were you when man landed on the moon?  I recall watching the initial lunar landing at my uncle and aunt’s house with my family, then watching the first steps on the moon two days later at home.

I recall the first space shuttle mission and its subsequent safe return to Earth, and tragically enough I remember the two space shuttle disasters. 

The technological innovations arising from space exploration, including the race to the moon, the shuttle missions and the international space station have both enriched and simplified our lives.

Who knows what everyday conveniences we have become accustomed to resulted from some experiment performed during space flight.

NASA recently retired its space shuttle program, but the international space station still hums along, and it recently accepted the very first commercial cargo delivery by a private company, SpaceX.

The next step is naturally colonization of the moon and beyond that, Mars.

Mars has always fascinated me, and naturally being an avid reader of science fiction I’ve read a number of books with the red planet as a primary setting.

Plans do exist for man’s return to the moon and a voyage to Mars, but for a variety of reasons, some political and others economical, they for now are only plans.

Many recall the remarks President Reagan made during the public memorial service for the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed by an explosion shortly after takeoff on Jan. 28, 1986 with all seven crewmembers lost.

“We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun.  We’re still pioneers.  They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.”

In closing, Reagan perhaps took inspiration from a poem written by a 19-year-old Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot who lost his life shortly thereafter.

“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God,’” said Reagan.

That is our ultimate mission as human beings, to explore, reach out and find our own little niche in God’s universe.

Never forget where we’re from, but always remember how far we have yet to travel.