Editorials 13.8.2018 08:30 am

We are still capable of reaching for the stars

This NASA handout artist's rendition shows the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a NASA Explorer mission launching in 2018 to study exoplanets, or planets orbiting stars outside our solar system

This NASA handout artist's rendition shows the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a NASA Explorer mission launching in 2018 to study exoplanets, or planets orbiting stars outside our solar system

A spacecraft launched at the weekend will get closer than any human-made object in history to the centre of our solar system.

There’s a joke that has an Irishman or Van Der Merwe (depending on your brand of racism) saying that if humans can land on the moon, they can do so on the Sun.

He is told, in no uncertain terms, that the Sun is so hot the spacecraft will burn up long before it gets there.

That’s why, he says, “they should go at night”.

It was in the middle of the night yesterday (Florida time) that the Parker Solar Probe blasted into the heavens atop a rocket from Cape Canaveral.

The unmanned spacecraft will get closer than any human-made object in history to the centre of our solar system.

Closer, of course, is relative – the craft will be put into orbit 6 million kilometres from the surface of the Sun.

This scientific mission is something to be celebrated, because so little is known about the star (which is what the Sun is) that keeps all of us alive.

It is the quest to know more, to find answers, that has been the rocket which has powered the progress of humankind.

Beyond our squabbles, our hatreds, our racism, humans are still capable of reaching for the stars.

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