The Great explorers of the Universe
‘An insight to all the wonders achieved by the explorers who devoted their lives to exploring the universe.’
An extract of an English endorsement Speech written & performed by David Borrero Schulle (former KCD student) in February 2020.
I dedicate this to those who have viewed the cosmos searching for the hope of extraterrestrial life, those who have travelled further than any human before, and the fallen, who lost their lives to discover the grand vastness of the galaxy.
Space has always been the last frontier when humans look upwards to wonder what lies beyond. Stories of the planets, the moons, and the stars we see at night time were made to answer the never-ending questions that arose from the empty void above. Scientists such as Johannes Kepler, or Galileo Galilei, who wondered what is to find, worked to arrive at conclusions, through their observations, their research, and their determination to find the answers. The Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei stated that planet earth did orbit around the sun. This went against religious beliefs and had to admit that this was untrue. After being forced to deny helio centrism, he muttered the words “E pur si muove”, or “yet it moves”.
As space exploration took form in the mid-fifties, mankind began creating rockets, capable of achieving remarkable speeds, to break free of the blue sky and be transported to the pitch-black emptiness of space. The Soviets completed this with a cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. This began a period of innovation, with new technologies, alternative methods and wondrous achievements. As men overcame the first steps of spaceflight, American President John F Kennedy announced to the world, in 1962, that their goal was to reach the moon at the end of the decade. This resulted in the greatest leap taken by mankind, Neil Armstrong's small step onto the fine grain of our cosmic neighbour, the moon.
Spaceflight advanced, and it may have looked easy, but they have been proven wrong.
February 27, 1967. The crew of Apollo 1 was performing a plug-out test on the launchpad when an exposed wire underneath the seat of the mission commander Gus Grissom started a fire. All three astronauts died.
June 30, 1971. Three Russian cosmonauts prepared to leave the space station Salyut 1, but as they re-entered the atmosphere, Russian mission control tried contacting the cosmonauts, only to find out they were killed during re-entry.
January 28, 1986. The space shuttle “Challenger” left the launch pad, 73 seconds later the space shuttle exploded, killing all seven crew members on board.
February 1st, 2003. Space shuttle Columbia was re-entering the atmosphere after 16 days in space, during the launch 16 days earlier. A piece of foam from the fuel tank struck the left-wing of the shuttle leaving an open area vulnerable to the massive temperature change when re-entering the atmosphere, this caused the space shuttle to break apart on re-entry, all 7 crew members dead.
Although space flight is the way to travel through space, it is not the only means of exploring the universe. There are theorists, astronomers, and scientists who research our neighbouring planets, our sun, and the never-ending number of stars outside our solar system. Astronomers such as Stephen Hawking, Edwin Hubble, Neil Degryse Tyson, Hypatia, Maria Mitchell and that is just to name a few of the scientists who have worked to retrieve answers. The astronomers are the reason we can look up to the skies and distinguish planets from stars, know what the constellations mean, and how we no longer ponder about some things in the universe. However questions stay unanswered, one of the biggest being, ‘Are we alone’?
A very famous man named Carl Sagan wandered over this question. He wondered if we were the only life form in the universe. So Carl Sagan had an idea, to start a project known as the Golden Records project, this record contains the sounds of earth, those being, greetings in various languages, various musical pieces, animal calls such as those of whales, the record also includes instructions, not in any common language, but so that if an extraterrestrial life form where to find it, they could figure out what it says and how to decode it. They put the golden records in two crafts known as Voyager 1 and 2, both launched in 1977. The purpose of these probes was to head out into interstellar space, which they reached in the last decade, only to wander further and further from Earth. The golden discs in these probes show our existence, they show who we were and what we did. Although it is unlikely that an extraterrestrial race finds one of these probes, Carl Sagan put it, saying, “It would be impolite not to say hello”.
As a kid, well even now, space travel and astronomy amazes me, it allows me to see things differently, such as stars, the map written by the thousands of stars in the milky way galaxy, or even the way I view planet Earth, the pale blue dot. To us, we call it home but seen from Saturn's rings, it is nothing other than a speck, able to be covered by your very own thumb.
This made me realise the significance and insignificance of our existence. How so? Well, I’ll put it to you this way. If you were to look straight at earth from space, you would see oceans, continents, clouds and massive ice caps. Let's say back on earth there was peace and prosperity. Now, we’ll leave that as Image A. For Image B we are still looking at earth from the same spot in space, we can see oceans, continents and massive areas of clouds, but now there is a war going on. If you were to compare these two images right beside one another they would not change, they would be the same. But here is where the significance of our existence comes in. We were not made to be looked at from above or to be admired by the moon or planets. No, we were made to look at the beyond, to picture ourselves over the limit, to explore the different questions that are soon to be answered. Are we alone? Why are we here? What is out there? The only way we can achieve this is by wondering, and looking up at the stars, picturing ourselves beyond the last frontier, because that is the real significance of our existence.