Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The lunar eclipse has just finished and over here in Korea I was able to catch the tail end of it. In the US and Canada where it was supposed to be most visible unfortunately there was heavy cloud cover pretty much everywhere. Keep in mind though that there really is nothing particularly special about this eclipse compared to others except that it happened to fall on the winter solstice. What actually does make a difference is the distance of the Moon from the Earth at any one time, as this can vary from 363,000 to 405,000 km.
So what's the reminder? Well, consider your average dystopian movie. Mankind is living in some kind of medieval / technological age where some technology is still around to use while other tools have long since faded away, and the accomplishments of the past are no longer part of that day's society. In a similar vein though much less dramatic, we are currently at a point in time where we simply aren't able to send people to the Moon. Even though we went there before and technology has improved drastically since then, in terms of the ability to send people there and back we no longer have that ability. We're no longer a species capable of traveling past LEO than Portugal is an empire anymore. In fact, Portugal has ceased being an empire for longer than we've ceased being able to go to the Moon.
Fortunately though we're doing a pretty phenomenal job (compared to the funds allocated) in unmanned exploration. Tweaking the orbits of two unused satellites in order to send them into orbit around the Moon with only a minimal fuel usage might be the most impressive feat I've seen this year, and the longevity of the Mars rovers goes without saying.
This blog has been following the Opportunity rover on its way to Endeavor crater on Mars since 2008, and now that the rover has arrived it's time to celebrate.