Monday, February 6, 2006

It was the fastest spacecraft ever launched to date, zooming past the moon in nine hours and reaching Jupiter in just over a year at a speed nearly 100 times that of a jetliner. Its target is Pluto — the solar system's last unexplored planet, 3 billion miles from Earth.

On January 19, while the majority of Earth's inhabitants went about their business, NASA successfully launched New Horizons, a spacecraft that will study Pluto and its large moon, Charon, as well as two other moons just discovered last year. The $700 million (euro580 million) mission should provide scientists with a better understanding of the Kuiper Belt, a mysterious region that lies beyond Neptune at the outer limits of the planetary system.

Besides being home to Pluto, the Kuiper Belt is believed to hold thousands of comets and icy planetary objects that make up a third zone of the solar system, the rocky and gaseous planets making up the other two.


Scientists believe they can learn about the evolution of the solar system by studying the Kuiper Belt since it possesses debris left over from the formation of the outer solar system. NASA officials also believe New Horizons work will provide humanity a window 4.5 billion years back in time to observe the formation conditions of giant planets.

When New Horizons reaches Jupiter in 13 months, it will use that giant planet's gravity as a slingshot, shaving five years off the trip to Pluto. During the trip between Jupiter and Pluto, the probe will go into hibernation, closing down most systems to conserve power. It will send weekly "beeps" back to Earth, providing updates on the vehicle's condition...

AMAZING. I stated it two weeks with the safe return of Stardust to Earth, after its seven-year mission of collecting star and comet dust. If you think about the potential and ramifications of these missions, these human efforts to better understand our surrounding cosmos, it is staggering. It is AMAZING.

Of all the efforts and actions we, as a humanity, are capable of (many which can be horrific), it is comforting to know that we are capable of such good and noble and inquisitive acts. And the question remains: Is it a special power that it reserved for the privileged few or is it simply a normal aspect of our very nature? Many would most likely discount it as a gift given to the chosen few. I, on the other hand, truly believe that the capability of noble, inquisitive, and generous acts is nestled within each of us and is naturally released as we simply live out the purpose to which we are each individually called.

Looking to Nature, a mighty grove of Redwoods forms over thousands of years - grouping and emerging from the smallest of seeds to become the most majestic representatives of Nature... naturally living out its calling. When we begin to better understand our individual impact on the natural system and we allow the natural process to heal itself, we find so many potentialy extinct species to reemerge in our ecosystem. Without any effort on our part, the sun and earthly atmosphere and its vibrant particles all form together at one very special point in the day to produce a grand and glorious sunset... by simply living out its natural calling. And we are no different, my friend. We share the common bond of wanting to affect our collective life in grand and glorious ways; for some of us, unfortunately, this "wanting to affect" is stifled by various experiences in our childhood. But even still, within each of us remains a glimmer of this wanting... buried deep, but intricately wedded to that singular purpose to which we are individually called.

I humbly experienced this very normal and natural process as I chaired a committee of diverse adults toward the final goal of sponsoring a carnival celebration for our children's elementary school. It was, in the opinion of these committee members, as well as the children and parents of the school, a wonderful success. Amazing? Yes. Surprising? No. For in the eyes and actions of these committee members, I saw from the start their common bond: their wanting to affect and improve and enhance the education of their children. And gathered around this wanting, they worked together and gave the unique gifts they solely possessed. And the results were... well... amazing.

From simple carnivals to grand space explorations, we are capable of so many wonderful efforts - all of which are winged into flight by our very basic nature to want to affect our collective life in grand and glorious ways. Please don't allow yourself for even one second today to discount your own individually noble efforts, my friend. That wanting and desire to affect was designed and planted within each of us with the sole purpose of allowing it to bloom in its own way and time. Nuture it. Seek out others who have discovered (and are discovering) this same wanting and desire - and band together into a collective noble effort. It is your calling. It is our calling.

Is the cost too high to send satellites beyond our solar system and is the time too great to commit to noble community projects such as school carnivals? The cost and time will forever remain too great only when we actively choose to discount and ignore the exploratory, caring and inquisitive nature of our very being. Listen for that wanting and desire in your own nature to impact your own world in grand and glorious ways... and get involved.