Nearing the Outer Reaches of any Semblance of the Known World

Nearing the very edge of space, the outer reaches of our galaxy, is NASA’s Voyager 1 – coming close to the Magnetic Highway, the point at which the direction of the push of the wind from the strength of our sun finally fades, and the wind from the stars pushes back.

In a radio interview, Ed Stone, the chief scientist of the Voyager mission described what scientists are discovering at the very outer edge of the solar system.

It was almost painful to listen to him, because of the level of restraint he showed in speaking about something that must be unreal with excitement for the entire scientific community involved in space exploration.

Imagine the patience it would take to embark on something that involves putting a spaceship going in one direction, away from us, for 35 years, to reach unfathomable distances, and probably never live to see a final result. Think of the vastness and grandeur of space, and how most of us hardly give it a second thought. To have your life’s work come so close to something remarkable, extraordinary, breathtaking, mind-blowing, and devastatingly beautiful – and then to have it relegated to the very smallest section of news because it is so out of most of our ability to comprehend. It’s enough to drive an ordinary person crazy.

I thought about the nature of people investing so much of their adult lives into experiments, possibilities, unknowns with complex equations, and failed attempts which cause them to go back to the drawing board to try another option.

I thought about Albert Einstein, and how much I love the way his mind worked. I thought about any scientist I could think of – the life stories I have heard. The constant devotion to get to an answer, to solve a problem, to answer a riddle.

And I thought about parents.

In no way do I want to take away from the enormity of how close Voyager 1 is to greatness. But I wondered, why do we not exhibit the same control and steady patience that these scientists do, who know that it’s of no use whatsoever to get all worked up wanting a faster outcome. Theirs is a measured approach, full of the wonder of the vast cosmos, but also realizing that we can’t get to the outer edges of it any faster than simply the speed of light or sound or however fast the damn things are sailing for 35 years. In one direction. Away from us.

That too is familiar to a parent. We wind them up, we watch them go. There is the excitement of takeoff, the plunging out into the grand experiment. Sometimes it’s a barrage of fast-moving rocks and meteors. Sometimes it will be years of slow and steady with nothing but a few pieces of space garbage hurtling at us to break the monotony. And then it’s all those years of steady, steady, with the most amazing view of our lives in every direction.


photo from the NASA website

5 thoughts on “Nearing the Outer Reaches of any Semblance of the Known World

  1. ugh, ‘control and steady patience’? you’re killing me, liesl. neither of these are my strong suits as a parent but i think this elegant piece speaks to why most of us would never make the connection between the scientific parents of the voyager 1 project and our own work with our children. it’s so hard to give yourself the space in day-to-day parenting to look up and see the long-view. it would benefit us so much if only we would.

  2. It is amazing to think of all they are discovering and experiencing. I wish the media would say more about it. They do have tremendous patience, and I have found that is the hardest virtue to learn and master. I have found that it gets easier to be patient with age. Parenting is a never ending learning experience.


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