Homer's Travels: Old Feelings And A New World To Explore

Friday, March 06, 2015

Old Feelings And A New World To Explore

Photo Credit:  NASA/JPL
Today, assuming everything goes well, NASA's Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit of the asteroid dwarf planet Ceres.  For most of my life I knew Ceres as the largest asteroid in the asteroid belt.  When Pluto was downgraded from planet to dwarf planet, Ceres was upgraded from asteroid to dwarf planet.  Today, Ceres will be the first dwarf planet ever visited by an Earth probe.

For a long time I was very interested in our spare exploration activities.  Since I was in elementary school I would follow the exploration missions closely.  I watched as we walked on the Moon for the first time on my birthday.  I watched Viking 1 land on Mars ... also on my birthday.  On August 25, 1989 I took a sick day so I could watch Voyager 2 have the first close encounter with Neptune ... live on PBS.

In the 90s my interest waned.  Humanity's push out into space was soooo slow.  Space exploration became more routine and less interesting.  The Mars rovers sparked my interest briefly but never at the level I'd had when I was younger.  A part of my youth had faded.

I'm not sure what it was but something changed last year.  Maybe the landing of Rosetta probe on a comet.  My interest in space was sparked again.  I felt a resurgence of interest that I haven't felt for close to twenty-five years.  Turns out this would be a good time for my renewed interest.  There are two missions happening this year.  By coincidence they are both to dwarf planets.  The first, which I mentioned above, is the Dawn mission to Ceres.  The second, which will take place in July 14th, is the Pluto flyby mission, New Horizons.

I hope my renewed interest continues.  I like how it makes me feel - full of hope, wonder, and young again.


  1. I hope it continues too! That feeling is really wonderful, especially when the weather is so gloomy. :-) I can't wait to hear more about this dwarf planet :)