Mars, this weekend.
Like millions of other space enthusiasts around the globe, I was holding my breath Sunday in the tense moments between when NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed on the Martian surface and when the data it was transmitting started to arrive back to Earth.
Fewer than half of our missions to Mars have included a successful landing but the Phoenix made the 422 million mile trip (!) and perfectly touched down on the planet's northern polar cap. Once landed, it unfolded its solar arrays, camera, weather station and more for three months of scientific testing. As you can imagine, looking for remnants of water and the possibility of past, present, or future life are the craft's top duties.
I bring this up to make this observation. You don't have to look to another planet to be impressed with man's ingenuity. Look around you right now and you'll likely see a television, or a skyscraper, or a refrigerator, or any of the millions of other things that make our life more livable. All things that were conceived, designed, and assembled by human beings just like you or me, only smarter.
That I can sit here in my living room on a tiny island in Washington and make words appear on a screen with my fingers blows my mind. That I can hit a button and then you can see it in Indiana, or India for that matter, is more than I can comprehend.
I wonder sometimes if there were a catastrophic disaster that eliminated most of the world's cities and their population, how many people would we need for the manpower and know-how to be able to rebuild many of the things we'd lost? I hope I am never in a situation where I am asked how to make a watch, or a phone, or even a spoon.