Space: we’ve still such a long way to go

Hubble Space Telescope imagery of newly-discovered planet around Fomalhaut b

This morning I watched the Space Shuttle Endeavor [sic] rocket into orbit on NASA TV. Exciting. But now I see this new photograph (above) of a planet found orbiting Fomalhaut, and realise we’re still only taking the tiniest of baby-steps into the universe.

I’m a child of the Space Age. When I was born, no-one had been outside the earth’s atmosphere. I was too young to be aware of the flights of Yuri Gararin or Alan Shepherd. But when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong walked upon the Moon we got the day off school to watch the grainy video imagery — our rural school didn’t have enough TVs for everyone to see.

Today I watched quietly as Endeavor became a tiny blue dot in the empty black sky — oh so quickly! And yet… And yet in the full-sized Hubble Space Telescope imagery the newly-photographed planet Fomalhaut b is also just a faint dot.

25 light-years away.

Endeavour would take more than 900,000 years to get there at its low Earth orbit speed of 8 kilometres a second.

Tiny. Baby. Steps.