Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Return to Flight

Last week, NASA slammed a probe into comet Tempel 1 ostensibly to gather data that they hoped would answer questions about the creation of the solar system. Hopefully they didn't decimate a extraterrestrial lifeform in the process (makes you wonder about the dinosaurs and those theoretical comets). Not a very polite way of starting a War of the Worlds scenario.

Back on earth, humans, with their own eccentric ways of commemorating such occasions, incorporated computer simulations of the Deep Impact probe in flight with footage of Billy Haley and His Comets in a music video:

and one promptly sued NASA for "disrupting the natural balance of forces in the universe".

Now, NASA is preparing for its first mission since the Columbia disaster in February 2003. Liftoff is set for 3:51 p.m. ET.

I've always been inordinately fascinated by any exploration of the universe. There is something terribly humbling about the vastness of space and our inability to even venture to a few specks of it in the enormous beach.

Of course, any study of the cosmos is humbling. As far as my layman's understanding of it goes, the world is not quite the neatly catalogued, efficiently filed away, certain place that physics, chemistry, biology or geology school textbooks would have us believe: here we are, sitting on a speck whose age we cannot determine with any accuracy. We have theories about how it manages to rotate around the sun without smashing into it or be thrown off into deep space, but they are only guesstimates until a better theory comes along. We have theories about the creatures that lived many years before us but even with the very few complete fossils we have, we sometimes manage to jumble up their body parts in recontruction and stick their thumbs on their noses. The theory of plate tectonics is fairly recent and wasn't accepted until the 1980s. We're not quite sure what the earth is made of and what we're sitting on and since no one has seen the interior of the earth, what is taught as geological fact is mere postulation.

Then there is the uncertainty of how life began, and even if we just concentrate on the life that is on this planet at this moment, we have barely scratched the surface of the enormous amounts of creatures and species that exist. And even if we just concentrate on one species, the homo sapiens, we hardly understand the whys and wherefores of its physiology, anatomy, genetics, race and ethnic differentiations, sexualities, intelligence, psychology, emotions, biological disease...

The pompousity of our current understanding is embarrassing given that it is only infinitely and picayunically paltry. The cosmos is so infinite and complex, yet to us who believe, it is very simple:
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap;
he puts the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!

The LORD looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.

The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:6-22)


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