This beautiful big blue marble we call home is truly an amazing place. Astronomers are continually on the hunt for exoplanets in other galaxies and solar systems that may have a similar composition and atmosphere as Earth. Elon Musk is aggressively working on audacious plans to make humans an interplanetary species and set-up a colony on Mars.
The movie The Martian starring Matt Damon captured the imagination and did an excellent job of portraying the technology and science that would be used on a mission to Mars and the beginnings of colonization. Arguably, any day here in Northern California is better than the best day on Mars. While we do need to find a way to “escape” Earth to ensure the ultimate survival of our species (you know, in the event of a cataclysmic event making Earth uninhabitable for any period of time), we should still consider it our primary residence.
Over billions of years an incredible diversity of life has evolved and thrived on the third rock from the sun. Yet, in the last 1,000 years man has managed to degrade our environment and plunder the wealth of resources the planet offers. Our planet is extremely resilient, but the problem for us is that our recklessness does increase the potential that the Earth will become very inhospitable and increasingly uncomfortable for humans.
Not a scene you will find on Mars anytime soon.
No matter what we think our prospects are for life on another planet, we should first and foremost be the best possible stewards we can of our spectacular planet Earth. We must find the healthy balance of progress for the human race and preserving the biodiversity and resources of the planet. We do not want it to end up looking like Mars. Renewable energy sources, technology and sustainability practices in agriculture and other industries continue to make huge quantum leaps forward that will contribute to mankind’s ability to preserve our planet, and at the same time allow our societies to live prosperous fruitful lives.
John Muir is considered the patron saint of 20th century environmentalism. Extolling the benefits of being able to recharge one’s spirit by spending time in nature, he was instrumental in the preservation of Yosemite and the numerous other irreplaceable landscapes across the West. Can you imagine if we did not have Yosemite, Yellowstone, or such natural wonders as the Grand Canyon preserved in their natural state? It has been said that the National Parks were America’s best idea.
“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
The first half of the 20th century saw the industrial revolution kick into high gear and 2 World Wars that began a race for resources to meet the growing demands of a modern consumer. Petroleum-based plastics made product cheap and easier to transport, but also contributed to our current throw-away society. Post-WWII America saw the sprawl of suburbia and a new car in every driveway. Cheap gas and open roads represented freedom.
In the 1960’s things began to change (you can blame the hippies if you want). There were protests in the streets and civil unrest as our country struggled to right wrongs of the past and forge a better path forward. The Space Race culminated with Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and taking those first monumental steps. This era of American know-how directly contributed largely to the technology we enjoy today. It has not quite been 50 years since we first put a man on the moon, but today we have fully electric cars and artificial intelligence that is quickly blurring the lines between man and machine.
As the 1960’s came to a close, an oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, California spilled 3 million gallons of oil into the ocean, killing over 10,000 birds and sea lions. This prompted the first Earth Day by activist John McConnell and was formally organized the next year by US Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970. Now almost 50 years later, Earth Day is recognized in 193 countries.
Born from the golden age of space starting with Sputnik 1, satellites have played an ever-increasing role in helping scientists understand human’s impact on our planet. Climate change has and always will be a constant on Earth. It is just a matter of us better understanding the rules of Mother Nature and living more in sync with her than trying to force our will upon the planet and wonder why we keep losing the battle.
Cubesats released from the ISS by NASA.
Satellites are playing a vital role in the study of our home planet. Satellites used to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to design, build, and deliver to orbit. For a long time this limited their use to the government for high-level space missions and defense purposes. However, today a cubesat slightly larger than your hand costs less than $1 million to build and launch into space. Hundreds of these micro-satellites are now deployed and providing climate scientists with more detailed data with 24/7/365 coverage of the entire Earth and atmosphere.
As we make yet another successful trip around the Sun and approach Earth Day again it is a good time to take a moment and appreciate the astronomical odds that we have beat to make it to the point where we are as a species. We might just make it all the way around again next year if we don’t manage to mess things up for ourselves.
Happy Earth Day from all of us at X2nSat!