It’s been an exciting few weeks for space fans and seekers of knowledge in general. In the last couple of days, we’ve seen the Rosetta space probe achieve another first in human ingenuity, conducting the first successful landing of a probe onto a comet, giving us an incredible opportunity to learn more about these fascinating heavenly bodies. The news recently that the probe appears to have found organic compounds, of the sort necessary for the building blocks of life, is yet more reason to be enthusiastic about what has been discovered.
Of course, the adventure hasn’t been smooth sailing at all. It took three attempts to even land successfully on the fast moving comet and even then the machine landed at an odd angle, meaning that several of its solar panels became concealed from the sun. Without sufficient power, the probe will now have to go into hibernation mode. The hope is that, as it nears the sun, the increasing solar radiation will generate enough electricity for the probe to resume its scientific mission.
In a nutshell, this whole episode is but a condensed version of the human experience of discovery in any field. From the construction of great buildings, to the discovery of new lands and the cure for diseases that once killed millions; the frontiers of what we know and understand have been relentlessly pushed by the actions of people bold and committed enough not to be satisfied with what they knew but to seek answers to what they did not.
It’s the same story that plays out at ADL every day, as students enrol to go on their own voyages of discovery. We may not offer courses in astro-navigation and proper spaceship parking (yet) but what each student undergoes when on our courses is nothing less than a journey into the unknown, a chance to venture into the uncharted regions of personal knowledge to learn and grow.
And yet, it is all too easy, I think, to give up. All too easy to give in to smaller, more immediate concerns and distractions. In the 1970’s, with missions to the moon frequently on the agenda, it seemed inevitable we’d be settling on it by the 21st century. In the same way, the quest for personal knowledge and self-improvement can be derailed by the concerns and worries that consume all of us. We could allow months, years or even decades of our life to pass us by before we realize with a shock just how little we’ve gained to show for it.
It’s never easy choosing to commit to a course of educational study, but it is, I think, essential. If we are to ever push beyond what we are, to see what we can truly become, we need to be more like the Rosetta probe. We must step beyond the horizons of our own knowledge on our own voyage of discovery if we ever want to find out, not just what is there, but what we are capable of achieving ourselves.
Until next time.