We naturally want to know what is hidden, if something is slightly out of focus, we move closer to see.
Many of the veteran space scientists of today were inspired by their childhood memory of seeing Neil Armstrong take those first steps on the Lunar surface. It could be argued that this human presence was what inspired them to take their own giant leap into the world of professional astronomy. The footage is world famous, and for most, inspiring. To know (or to think) that a man like myself, a person like you, took their feet and used them to walk on that white disk we see in the sky is an awe inspiring and an humbling notion to entertain.
Learning astronomy, engineering, and astrophysics is a specific goal for a certain type of person. We have to be good at appreciating big things and working with numbers, plus we have to be prepared to accept that there's a lot of things that we just do not know.
We naturally want to know what is hidden, if something is slightly out of focus, we move closer to see. Curiosity is something we are naturally good at expressing, and it does have its downsides as the proverb about cats may suggest, in which they meet a sticky end. Unfortunately space too has claimed its fair share of tragedies.
Many claim that sending people into space is a risk too far, and that when we have equipment that can perform the jobs of humans, then there's no need to send them further than orbit. I think this is a rational and fair judgement. Those films from the early days of astronauting of Neil and Buzz, taking their steps on that rocky desert in the sky, did indeed inspire. Having people in space will always do a good job of giving children the desire to go and learn it for themselves.
However, I think that in truth, it was the provision of media which gave that spark to so many. Seeing people of course helps with an emotional connection but with robotic laboratories capable of taking exquisite photographs and providing long distance data about far away worlds, this too is like honey for the bumble bee of the brain.
Space technology has inspired so many of today's things, from the telescopes to the computer programs that run them, everything has to be so precise and expertly tuned, the resulting wisdom from the process of creation sets procedures for science and engineering to whole new standards. The educational route of astronomy, and space sciences of all forms, is one to take when we know that we are called to drench ourselves in the wisdom occulted by the emptiness of space.
The cross pollination of discipline in science is what gives invention and innovation the fuel and fertilizer that it truly needs. Once principles are found and shown to be predictable, those laws are used to create technology for a wide number of applications. It's the creative element with the tools at hand which allows this.
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