Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Curiosity and the Olympics

by Rob - August 6th, 2012.
Filed under: Mars, Science.

Of course, I’m thrilled that Curiosity is now safe on the surface of Mars. And I’m by no means a sports fan. But I’ve been a bit dismayed by all the comments — almost de rigueur it seems among those who self-identify as geeks — to the effect that Curiosity‘s triumph is more important than, or better than, or our version of, the Olympics.

The Olympics are an example of the best, most-positive things that can come out of international competition. And when we had international competition in space exploration, we went in twelve years from the first satellite in orbit to the first footprints on the Moon.

Today, in the non-competitive but still nationally directed business of NASA space probes, we’re celebrating the fact that after thirty-six years — more than a third of a century — we’ve gone from landing the first probe on Mars to, well, doing that again … and we’re still likely decades from seeing footprints on the red planet.

Rather than trumpet that this human achievement is better than that human achievement, how about instead celebrating the fact that, in both individual and collective endeavors, in both competitive and cooperative undertakings, there are so many ways in which our species strives for and, in its best moments, achieves greatness?

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