Mars Insight, Earth Insight

Almost 50 years ago, I was transfixed as a NASA astronaut climbed down a ladder and pressed his boot into the grainy surface of the moon.

A week ago, I sat transfixed as NASA guided a vehicle to a soft landing in Elysium Planitia, a “flat, boring equatorial plain” on a planet 300 million miles away. It was speeding along at 12,300 mph, then slowed to slightly more than walking speed as it eased down, on target. The trip took 7 months.

There’s an important reminder in these two experiences. We – as a people, as a society, as a government, as businesses – we can do some pretty amazing things when we’ve decided it’s important enough.

We can find the money. We can find the skills. We can find the solutions. We can find the time. We can do all of these things once we’ve found the willingness.

Why walk on the moon? Why land on Mars?

We do these things, as JFK said, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

We do them because we need a reminder that we are capable of doing what seems undoable.

Other problems we face – “gaps” in wages, health care, education, housing, food, safety, violence – seem unsolvable. Sometimes we exhaust ourselves trying. We lose hope.

And then we watch what happens when everyone works together to do something – to gently place a ship on a distant planet.

And we remember what we can do – if we want to do it.