Ok, so I really should be studying for finals right now, but I just have a few things to say.
I just want to remind everyone that in the midst of all – be it finals, family troubles, financial troubles, ect. – to maintain perspective. It may not seem true right now, but life is so much bigger than now. I know in this day and age, we are often told that our society spends too much time planning for the future and watching as the present passes us by, but in truth, I think we may need to think a little bigger, or at least, a little differently.
Instead of studying, I started watching many of Commander Hadfield’s Youtube Videos. Commander Hadfield – for those who don’t know – is the Canadian Astronaut who – until yesterday – was the commander of the International Space Station. Despite how much we talk about space travel and the extent of our space-faring technology, it still marvels me that I am actually watching videos taken from SPACE. That image behind Commander Hadfield through the window is not some CGI image, it is actually EARTH. There are no fancy tricks, he’s really in a zero-gravity situation and he probably has the best view of Earth that anyone can ask for. Think about the perspective that man gets to see whenever he looks out the window – of Earth, and of life in general.
I’ve seen plenty of pictures of Earth from a space perspective, but something about these videos sparked a flame inside of me. Maybe it’s the surreal-ness of it, watching those objects float in space in conjunction with an actual human being made me immediately think that it was somehow CGI or photoshop-ed, but it was real. It’s odd, but the surreal-ness of it made it feel all the more real to me.
Despite how different we all are thanks to our experiences, our friends and family, our environment, we are all on the same planet hurdling through space. The troubles we go through now that seem to surround us and define us seem so small compared to the greatness of space. Don’t get me wrong, the troubles we experience are real, and are very much important, but when we take a step back and breathe, we realize that we aren’t alone on this planet. We’re all struggling to make something of ourselves, to find some sort of peace within us, and I think that is a powerful uniting force, the fact that we all share the same planet symbolizes that uniting force quite well.
I used to think that the space program was a waste of our national budget, as the money could have been used to invest in protecting the very planet we have. I thought that the space-exploration program was built on the principle of consumption, that we were just looking for other planets to colonize and extract resources in order to sustain our unsustainable lifestyles. I thought it was just a program for nations to compete for dominance over not just the land, sea and sky, but also space. And while some may argue that that is still the case, the idealist in me wants to think that there’s a greater purpose.
Seeing the video of Commander Hadfield officially handing over command of the ISS to Russian Cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov brought a smile to my face. Yes, the Cold War is over, but that does not mean our nationalist identities no longer exist. I often wonder why in a world that is so heavily globalized – where the very clothes on our back are made from some China, our fruit comes from Latin America, and precious minerals from Africa – we still cling onto national identities. Yes, I see the practical reasons, but for a “globalized” world and a United Nations, we don’t seem very united at all – between nations or even within nations. Being united doesn’t mean we all share the same ideas and beliefs – that would be boring. I don’t have a good definition for what being united means, but perhaps it means respecting other nations, or just respecting other people. All I can say is when I see such peaceful transitions of power between nations, or the gathering of international athletes for some friendly competition, I can’t help but smile. Knowing that there are so many other people out there that are sharing similar experiences, all on some ‘pale blue dot’…it’s humbling.
You can see it in the eyes of Commander Hadfield – the humility. The uniqueness of our situation unites us. There’s something bigger than just our individual selves. Space has always been a romantic ideal in our society, one untouched by human hands. It embodies the ultimate ideal that if we really work hard, we can achieve almost anything. I think more than ever, we need that romantic fervor. I commend anyone that still clings onto his or her dreams of becoming an astronaut someday – go for it. And for those whose dreams are not space travel – I encourage you to keep them, and to go for them, take that risk into the unknown. The desire for exploration into the unknown is quickly becoming rare in our society.
I now realize the importance of space exploration in our society – it is a unifying force that brings humility and perspective. Funding for space exploration has brought us so much more than just advances in space travel. The research has helped improve our lives on Earth as well. While I think that space exploration is a noble pursuit, I think I’ll stick to my feet firmly planted on this here rock. Seeing Earth out of the window of the ISS – even if it was just on my computer screen – has made me realize just how precious this planet is, and has reaffirmed my desire to make this place a better one.
Ok, hopefully that all made sense, now to get back to studying…