The atmosphere buzzed with excitement as the space shuttle Endeavour flew over San Francisco on the shuttle’s farewell fly-by around the state of California. In a way, it was a bittersweet reminder of the inspiration and excitement NASA’s missions (and space exploration, in general) stirs in all of us (see the recent landing of the rover Curiosity on Mars). As NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden commented, when making the first recorded voice broadcast from the surface of Mars, “Since the beginning of time, humankind’s curiosity has led us to constantly seek new life … new possibilities just beyond the horizon.”
We’ve seen plenty of times in film and television the depiction of Americans glued to their television sets when Neil Armstrong stepped out of Apollo 11 and onto the moon’s surface. Was this the case when Curiosity landed on Mars? You can argue that, since the onset of the Internet and mobile technology, it’s not necessary to gather as a community to witness history in the making. (I, for one, watched portions on my computer while working on other stuff.)
However, on Friday afternoon, that argument was proven wrong as Californian streets were mobbed with people and freeways came to a complete standstill as everyone looked up to the sky to see, just for a moment, a part of history fly by. In the Atlantic, James Fallows asks, “Have we lost the capacity to be excited and inspired by such ambitions?” I wondered the same question. Are we bombarded with so much technology and innovation in our daily lives that we’re unable to stand back and marvel at the magnificence of innovation and exploration? However, for a moment on Friday, California was altogether looking at one thing: the sky of unlimited possibilities.