The Mars Perseverance rover successfully landed on February 18, 2021. It’s a fundamental milestone in the discovery of the space surrounding us. As you may know, this is not our first contact with the Red Planet, but until now all the missions undertaken to land on Mars were quite unlucky, or not as promising in terms of their exploration potential. Therefore, we can dare to state that, after the first step taken on the Moon in 1969, the landing of Perseverance on Mars is the next important milestone.
However, every time humans reach an important goal, on the one hand there are many who celebrate, while on the other hand there are others who look at it with skepticism. Why do we spend so many funds on activities that do not produce immediate and tangible results on Earth? is the main criticism from those who struggle to appreciate the importance of this type of missions.
Still today, many years after the first step on the Moon, we see endless debates between those who prefer to focus on trying to soothe the daily struggles on Earth – poverty, hunger, etc. – and those who look forward, and are captivated by farseeing projects and ideas.
Regarding this theme, there is a document which still applies today. In 1970, when Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger was the associate director of science at NASA, he wrote a letter in response to the question posted by Sister Mary Jucunda, a nun who was operating in Zambia. The letter was published later by NASA, titled “Why Explore Space?” The nun expressed doubts on the appropriateness of the research he was directing for a piloted mission to Mars. The question she asked was substantially: How could you suggest the expenditure of billions of dollars for a voyage to Mars, at a time when many children on this Earth are starving to death?
We do appreciate the anecdote Ernst Stuhlinger used as a starting point for his reply:
I would like to relate briefly a supposedly true story, which may help support the argument. About 400 years ago, there lived a count in a small town in Germany. He was one of the benign counts, and he gave a large part of his income to the poor in his town. This was much appreciated, because poverty was abundant during medieval times, and there were epidemics of the plague which ravaged the country frequently. One day, the count met a strange man. He had a workbench and little laboratory in his house, and he labored hard during the daytime so that he could afford a few hours every evening to work in his laboratory. He ground small lenses from pieces of glass; he mounted the lenses in tubes, and he used these gadgets to look at very small objects. The count was particularly fascinated by the tiny creatures that could be observed with the strong magnification, and which he had never seen before. He invited the man to move with his laboratory to the castle, to become a member of the count’s household, and to devote henceforth all his time to the development and perfection of his optical gadgets as a special employee of the count.
The townspeople, however, became angry when they realized that the count was wasting his money, as they thought, on a stunt without purpose. “We are suffering from this plague,” they said, “while he is paying that man for a useless hobby!” But the count remained firm. “I give you as much as I can afford,” he said, “but I will also support this man and his work, because I know that someday something will come out of it!”
Indeed, something very good came out of this work, and also out of similar work done by others at other places: the microscope. It is well known that the microscope has contributed more than any other invention to the progress of medicine, and that the elimination of the plague and many other contagious diseases from most parts of the world is largely a result of studies which the microscope made possible.
The count, by retaining some of his spending money for research and discovery, contributed far more to the relief of human suffering than he could have contributed by giving all he could possibly spare to his plague-ridden community.
We fully agree with Ernst Stuhlinger. It’s important to look at things with critical thinking, and make sure we always analyze causes/effects with an objective and constructive mindset. Scientific research is critical to human development and wellbeing, and it should never be neglected. Of course, this does not mean we should forget about our daily practical struggles. We need to find the right balance.
In hindsight, if we want to express some perplexities about important missions, like sending Perseverance to Mars, in our opinion the correct questions to ask should follow a different path.
Firstly, are we sure we are investing enough in research? Why did it take more than 50 years, after taking the first step on the Moon, to successfully achieve another historic accomplishment?
Secondly, why such a crucial project is so country-specific? We believe that research should always be managed through international organizations. The International Space Station (ISS) launched in 1984 by USA, Canada, Europe, Japan with the addition of Russia a few years later, is a great example. Still we can do much more, such as having more countries join ISS. On this matter, we would like to reformulate Sister Mary Jucunda’s question as follows: Why waste time and resources through unnecessary rivalry? Constructive cooperation drives much greater outcomes than rivalry. The concept that antagonism is advantageous, as it would stimulate more ideas, is a false myth manipulated by current mainstream thinking to justify the vicious organizational mechanisms that are widely diffused all around the globe today. We are all humans, the same species, therefore we should start acting as a whole instead of separate parts. There are much more constructive ways to stimulate ideas rather than destructive and redundant competition for the same goal, which is the evolution for human kind.
In conclusion, we encourage you to be vigilant and make sure you always analyze causes/effects with unbiased and constructive mindset. If we focus on today’s needs and struggles only, we’ll embark on a myopic approach, and generate steadiness or even regression. Seeing the bigger picture is fundamental to evolve as a species. We should look closely at solving the problems today, but also imagine a better future, and strive to achieve it.
Project Humanity 7.0 is totally dedicated to having ambitious goals that may not be comprehensible to some in this moment, but is critical to improve the well-being of humanity, and exit from the perpetration of ineffective – or, more precisely, destructive – organizational solutions. We are hopeful that, one day, the human organizational model we are communicating and promoting, will be viewed as the microscope in the metaphor used by Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger.