Everyone knows we have been on Mars already. But not all of us stop for a moment thinking about what it means. We are starting to put our fingerprint onto other planets. And in a few days a new Mars rover will attempt to land on Mars. Some people dare to ask, ‘why would anyone want to do this’.
First, because we can!
Second, because of human nature. Humanity has always been a very curious toolmaking race. It’s this combination of tool making and being very curious that made us what we are today. This combination has even made us (more or less) independent of evolution (parts of it).
Hmm I’m hungry…. that animal looks tasty. Lets try and kill it with a stick. Oh wait, I don’t want to make me so tired, let’s invent something new: a pointy stick!
Brrrr. This Ice Age makes me feel cold… Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to wait until I evolve to get a thicker fur coat.
Screw evolution! That animal has fur, I think I’ll just take it from him.
Our tool making ability has again and again proven itself superior to evolution when it comes to adapting to environmental changes. The only evolution that still had to take place was an increase of our brain.
So no, we weren’t created by some almighty overlord to be intelligent. It was an evolutionary necessity to make more and more advanced tools in order to survive.
Curiosity as well, is a key factor in surviving. But for being curious you need imagination, and for imagination you need developed brains. Which again motivates why we evolved into what we call ourself “intelligent” beings. And in our definition we are, because until now, we haven’t found any other “intelligent” alien race yet (but nevertheless are eagerly curious about whether there is other life out there).
Think about the advantages (and dangers) that curiosity has to offer. “I wonder what happens when I do this or that”.
There three scenarios here (fairly exaggerated):
- Nothing happens: you wonder why or you just leave it alone
- You get a treat: you will do it again
- You die: you won’t do it again
Context: No known land overseas
“We need more resources, I wonder whether we can find some more overseas” (If you know the story of America, you’ll know what I mean)
Sometimes it ends well, sometimes it doesn’t.
The story so far
We looked forward: we killed an animal, with a really really pointy stick
We looked down: And wow! We found some really useful stuff in there
We looked behind us with proud.
We looked left & right, because some guy invented the zebra crossing
So what’s next? Yeah you guessed it, up is missing.
We need to get up there
Humanity looked up into the sky and thought… I wonder what those lights are. (Oh and lets not forget about the moon, how could I have forgotten the moon?) And hence, we made tool to observe. After we found that not every light is a star, but in fact something like our own world, we started wondering what would be on those worlds.
So we made even better tools to observe what is on those ‘planets’. But this time the tool didn’t have to stay on the ground. Some smart ass must have thought, why not just send it out there? So we practised first on our own moon. And because that worked out quite neat, we decided that we could do the same with for example Mars
Landing on Mars
It’s not that easy…
I would like to ask you to watch the following video. It will show you the landing scenario that the Mars rover named – they couldn’t have found a better name – ‘Curiosity’ will have to through.
It was one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen and it made me quiet for quite some time. Thinking about how proud I am of humanity that we can achieve this.
The landing procedure of Curiosity is called “Seven Minutes Of Terror”. Why? Because it is frickin’ scary, but at the same time ingenious.
If you watched it, watch it again. And think of how amazing it is.
All the information you need about date and time: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/
I really am very nervous about whether it will all work out. I wish curiosity and the (amazing) NASA team the best of luck. I’m certainly going to stand up early (if I can sleep at all) to follow this amazing event live!
Good luck fellas’!
Update: They did it! This morning I followed the event live on NASA TV. Well done!
Proud to be human.