In an age when American technological prowess and ingenuity are constantly being challenged and belittled, the United States struck back at its critics this week and planted a new flag of technical dominance 156 million miles away.
The Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity made a perfect landing on the red planet. Just getting there is impressive. Less than half of all the probes sent to Mars by various nations over the years have been successful. The failure rate is dramatically higher than any other planet in the solar system where we've sent robots to explore.
Yet, we are pulled to Mars because, of all the planets in our solar system, it has the greatest chance that at one time, when it was a vibrant, wet world, it may have harbored life.
Such a discovery would have profound impacts on mankind. It would equal that of Copernicus, when he announced we weren't the center of the universe. It would spur even greater exploration and discovery.
Sometimes, we need something like Curiosity to remind us that American was a land populated by explorers. It is in our blood to seek new frontiers. Yet, this December will mark 40 years -- two full generations -- since man last set foot on the moon.
You can blame Congress for that myopia. We beat the Russians to the moon so the race was over. Funding dried up and since then we haven't traveled more than 250 miles from the our planet's surface. It's as if once we made the big trip to the ocean we decided never to leave the back yard again.
With any luck, Curiousity will open our eyes again, cause our gaze to be lifted to the infinity of the universe, and restore our heritage of exploration.
Nice job, NASA. You've made us proud.
-- Kelly Everitt