We talk about going back to the Moon (as we should), but I wonder how many people realize that in some ways we’re very much already there: lroc.sese.asu.edu
In 1772, Captain James Cook set out on his second voyage of discovery aboard HMS Resolution.
In 1997, the women and men of the Cassini mission sent their spacecraft on its way to Saturn, where it explored a small, enigmatic moon. Enceladus. Simply, in my opinion, the most interesting place beyond Earth that we know of.
When I came across this photo a few weeks ago it made me sigh. It contains the planet Saturn and, unseen, the Cassini spacecraft nearby. Three months later, to the day, the Cassini mission ended when the spacecraft intentionally plunged into the planet, never to return.
Like many who worked on the mission, my heart remains broken even now in a way that still surprises me.
Consider the sky, shot through with stars, and–drifting unseen among them–the little mechanical ships we’ve set adrift like messages in a bottle.
See below for July 2015 update
When I first made this graphic, it included two unexplored worlds: Ceres and Pluto, and 2015 seemed impossibly far away.
Now here we are, and only one remains. Of course, all these places have centuries of exploration ahead, but the era of unveiling major worlds in our solar system for the first time is reaching its twilight, right before our eyes. I almost don’t want it to end.
Updated July 2015
Now this chart is complete. (But the exploration of the solar system is not.)