Over the last year there have been some awesome accomplishments in space. A few examples (there are many others):
- Retrieval of subsurface asteroid samples to earth by Japan’s Hayabusa2.
- The return of lunar samples by China’s Chang’e 5.
- The transport of humans to space for the first time by a non-governmental agency, Space X.
- An unprecedented detailed image of a sunspot by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.
There are several forms of awe I experience from thinking about these achievements.
The complexity of retrieving rocks from objects in space is mind boggling. I mean this in the relatively literal sense that no one person can understand all the theoretical and engineering details necessary to accomplish this. Any one mind would be boggled to attempt it. The sense of awe here is increased by realizing how detailed our understanding of physics has to be to do this.
The transition of access to space from government to industry creates a sea of dreams that are closer to being implemented.
The expansion of knowledge is always a thrill to me. There are currently over two dozen space probes along with numerous earth based telescopes collecting data. (On the sad side, the Arecibo Observatory closed this year.)
As much as these individual accomplishments are awesome, I also find it awesome in an odd way. These accomplishments get significantly less coverage than space adventures of old. The awesomeness is the fact that going to space is becoming normal, even expected. What an accomplishment!