Source: Sherman Publications

Wild Ideas A column by Mary Keck
Pity the moon

September 19, 2012

NASA landed a six-wheeled rover named Curiosity on Mars last month. Touchdown tested the limits of human innovation, and required a supersonic parachute, radar mapping, rocket motors, and a crane that lowered the rover on a 20-foot long tether.

I wonder if our drive for space exploration is fueled by a desire for permanence.

We seem to think the universe wonít forget us if we make a big enough bang.

Curiosityís tracks in the red sand may seem rare and wonderful to me but only because I canít grasp the great depths of space and time since the cosmosí birth.

Instead, I mark time based on our planetís revolutions around the sun and canít imagine tracking the 100,000 light-year diameter of a Milky Way full of stars in various stages of implosion.

Yet in spite of Earthís relatively insubstantial place, humans seem determined to leave a lasting impression.

But when I consider the history of soaring comets, exploding supernova, and solar flares, our interactions with the solar system remind me of just how brief and inconsequential are the cataclysms of human life.

Still, I find comfort in the fact that my role in the cosmos is tiny.

If I were able to comprehend all the time thatís passed and all the events that have occurred in my galaxy alone, the corner Iíve experienced might not seem as exceptional.

Recognizing my own insignificance is a little bittersweet, however. It is nice to know heart-wrenching experiences donít have the same resounding impact of two stars colliding.

But sometimes it feels like a black hole has swallowed me, and I want to shake my fist at the universe for its callous indifference.

While moon phases and kittens may seem cosmically insignificant, Iím able to appreciate those little things.

My limited human perception offers me a sensitivity thatís lost on the universe. So, Iíll raise a glass to the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22 and pity the moon thatís too big to notice the flag stuck in its backside.