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26 March, 2008

Inspired by the Earth as seen from Mars

NASA recently released this high-resolution image of the Earth and the Moon as seen from Mars. This amazing image was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. You can read more about this image and the HiRISE camera here. Click the image to view a larger version.

Images like this convince me that anyone who believes we're alone in the Universe, is either foolish, in denial, or both. It was just a little over a century ago, on December 17th, 1903, that the Wright brothers achieved the first powered flight in human history, with their famous Wright Flyer.

Orville Wright

Wilbur Wright

The Wright Flyer

It took human beings just fifty eight years from the Wright Brothers' inaugural flight, to successfully launch the first man into space. Yuri Gagarin made that historic flight, on April 12th, 1961. Eight years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon. Less than forty years later, we have cameras in space that can send amazing images such as the one above, back home to Earth. If we've made such huge advances in such a tiny time span, what could older, far more technologically advanced civilizations have achieved by now? Is it so far-fetched to imagine that craft from other planets have flown past Earth, or maybe even landed, to take soil samples, etc, as we do on Mars?

Put the more woo-woo aspect of the UFO phenomenon aside for a minute. Forget contactee and abductee stories, forget lurid tabloid tales of reptilians ravishing busty blondes, and be honest with yourself for a minute. Scientists estimate the Universe has billions of galaxies, each with vast numbers of solar systems containing potentially inhabitable planets. Can we really be alone in the Universe? And if we can advance from the Wright Flyer of 1903, to the International Space Station, the Shuttle, the Hubble Telescope, and all the various other probes and imaging devices we have in space, in just a mere blip in time, can we honestly still cling to the belief that it's impossible for craft from more advanced planets to reach us? Surely it's conceivable that someone else, out there somewhere, is sending probes and imaging devices to scan our planet, just as we're doing to our near neighbours?

We're exploring further and further into space all the time. How far could a civilization get that is a hundred years ahead of us? How about a thousand years? A million? A billion? It may seem inconceivable to us, at our current stage of technological development, that another civilization may have discovered a way to travel across vast distances in space, in a relatively short time span. But a few thousand years ago, wheeled vehicles and aircraft would have been utterly incomprehensible to Stone Age man. Let's just face it. However technologically advanced we may consider ourselves, compared to say, a century ago, in comparison to a civilization that may be hundreds, thousands or millions of years older than us, we're pretty much in the technological Stone Age.

I refuse to accept we're alone in the Universe. I accept we may have been visited by craft from elsewhere. Whether they are manned craft or probes, I really don't know. But consider this. Just as we can view images of Mars, the rings of Saturn and distant galaxies, maybe right now, somewhere many light years away, some other civilization may have compiled its very own Google Earth. Or if they haven't got that close, their equivalent of NASA may be saying 'ooh, look, that planet has lots of water, and an oxygen rich atmosphere. We also see carbon dioxide and methane. We must get a closer look soon, because it looks like there may be life there'. Is it really that far-fetched a concept? I hope I've given you a little food for thought.


PA 27 March 2008 at 06:23  

Great post, I feel the exact same way. I could imagine an intelligent race looking through an advanced telescope directed at our planet, in turn it's looking into our past, maybe seeing dinosaurs roaming the earth, maybe wondering what is to become of this planet and what it is now.

Anonymous,  27 March 2008 at 16:39  

Arthur C. Clarke made a telling point in the final Rama novel. Civilizations there have been, and advanced sciences but in the immensity of the Universe, they rose and disappeared at vastly different times, spread across vast distances.
The chance of contemporaneity is slim.
I firmly believe life is out there but I have less belief in nuts and bolts for bridging the void.
I do believe the mind might.

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