Hope from Mars

SCIENCE delivered an epic win this week with NASA landing the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars.

A jaw-dropping feat of engineering at so many levels, captured brilliantly in this Hollywood style description that is really must watch:

I’ve been a lifelong space geek, and I remain giddy that I’ve shaken the hand of Neil Armstrong.  :)  And so I was amazed to watch and see these photos coming back from Mars, like everyone else.

But as I’ve reflected on this week’s landing, my amazement has been starting to turn into something different.  And the word I’m coming up with for this feeling is hope.

The last several years — basically the past decade — have been a raw deal for most Americans, and little seems to be changing.  More and more of our older generation of Americans are having to cut back massively on their retirement plans, as their funds have been decimated.  More and more recent college grads are graduating with huge student loans and no job prospects.  And if you look at data on how poorly we’re doing educating our youth, you can’t come away feeling good about the broad job prospects of our next generation.

In the face of these challenges, our government at the federal and state levels are both stalemated and broke.  Reasonable compromised approaches to a path forward, the Simpson-Bowles proposals for example, were dead on arrival.  And my sense, purely anecdotal, is that efforts in communities–with community organizations like charities, youth organizations or churches–are not having enough of an impact to make up the difference.   Books like Coming Apart by Charles Murray support this breakdown in community with data.

In the face of all this negativity, this week we got Curiosity, a towering achievement of what can happen when people come together, aim big, and bring their best.  It is an achievement the entire country can take pride in.  And I would hope that in some small way it might help catalyze an effort, on behalf of all of us, to come together, bring our best, and make the country a better place for all of us.

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