I’m delighted to see the first light image from the Deep Space Climate
Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft – not only using its sensors to see Earth, but also capitalizing on the advantage of a Lagrange point. Doing so is a symbolic signpost of what’s ahead, not only to help take care of our home planet, but also furthering our future exploration of the Moon and reaching out with humans to the distant dunes of Mars.
First of all, DSCOVR’s first image is being issued on a date that puts me back on the Moon – the first humans to land on a landscape 46 years ago today that I saw as “magnificent desolation.”
There were many technical challenges this country faced, as well as acknowledging the magnitude and weighty implications of Apollo 11’s historic journey.Oddly, while Neil Armstrong and I stood there in that stark, foreboding Sea of Tranquility, we also knew we were not alone. An estimated 600 million people back on Earth, at that time the largest television audience in history, watched us both walk on the Moon.
And from the Moon, Neil and I both looked upward at our glorious blue planet Earth, silently sitting there in the darkness of space. While we were farther away from Earth than two humans had ever been, we were simply the spearhead of a community of participants. Virtually the entire world took that treasured voyagewith us.
Similarly, DSCOVR offers us a vantage point view – for all of us — of our beautiful Earth, as well as becoming part of a neighborhood watch program that looks for harmful solar activity. The spacecraft orbits between Earth and the Sun at a location called the Lagrange point 1, or L1. Being there gives DSCOVR a unique vantage point to see the Earth and Sun.
But let me fast forward into the years to come.
By matching Earth-Moon Lagrangian points with astronauts operating telerobotic hardware, this will allow the assembly of infrastructure on the lunar surface, carry out scientific research, scout out and unearth important resources, as well as help other nations establish their own “one small step” onto the Moon.
This capability is an innovative advance in redefining the word “exploration” – and also is a powerful stepping stone to practice similar operations at Mars and its moons to establish a settlement on the planet Mars.
Once again, I salute DSCOVR’s “observational switch” being thrown. As one of some 7 billion of ushere on this world, I eagerly await its findings.