8/9/12 | 356 views
Reaching for the Stars
The successful landing of Curiosity, the latest and most ambitious Mars rover explorer, along with the stellar performances of U.S. athletes in the Olympics, have brought a welcome jolt of positive energy to Americans who’ve been slogging through a grindingly hot summer filled with downbeat news.
From the severe storms and droughts across the country, to the still-sluggish economy, the rancorous political climate and the rash of horrible mass shootings, it’s been a trying time, to say the least.
The Olympics, of course, have been playing out on a world stage, and millions have been riveted to the show. But beyond the spectacle, who could not have been personally moved by swimmer Michael Phelps’s graceful retirement as the most decorated Olympian ever, or the decision of another gold medalist, Catholic high school senior Missy Franklin, to forgo lucrative endorsement deals for now to keep her amateur status in college swimming.
These young athletes earned their fame, and their current or future fortunes, through the years of grueling practice and tireless dedication that it takes to nurture and develop such a talent.
In much the same way, the NASA team members that developed the dramatic Mars Curiosity project—wearing distinctive blue polo shirts and brimming with esprit de corps—were tenacious in carrying out their mission over the years. But they did so largely out of the public eye, without promise of fame or fortune, but with unflagging dedication to a goal larger than themselves or their team.
Their jubilation was exhilarating to watch, however, when the car-sized vehicle flawlessly touched down on the surface of Mars and almost immediately began sending back images—affirming once again U.S. leadership in space and expanding human knowledge of the universe created by God.
Jesuit Father Jose Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, said he believes “everyone should be happy with the success.”
He said that even though there have been no signs of a living organism elsewhere, “the search for life is worthwhile” because “we can learn many things, even if we cannot find signs of life.”
The Church, he said, has nothing to fear from the possible discovery of life forms elsewhere. “We are not afraid of science,” he said. “The reason why the Catholic Church has an observatory is because we are not afraid of the truth, whatever the truth might be.”
Right now, the truth is that Curiosity is programmed to spend the next two years exploring and photographing the Red Planet as no other craft has done before. It’s for us just to savor those images, with pride in American enterprise and ingenuity, and a prayer of thanksgiving that our national spirit still soars.
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