James Lileks on Pluto and American Foresight & Ingenuity
On the 7/15/2015 Ricochet Podcast, Presidential Speechwriter Peter Robinson was nonplussed by Pluto’s demotion from Planet to…whatever. “I don’t get the big deal.”
James Lileks would have nothing of that! His animated, emotional reply was both uplifting and scolding, and was a joy to listen to. But alas, all I can find is the transcript I took at the time:
Almost a decade ago, America decided to do something that might - might! - yield results a decade hence. And so with foresight, instead of just looking at the bottom line of this quarter, they built a ship, and using the extraordinary calculations of the machines at the time they calculated a route that would take it from a very small point on this little blue planet, through the inky black, and perfectly lance through the orbits of the moon of a planet so far distant that it was only beheld as a small dot in our best telescopes…and we did that.
As a technical achievement it is miraculous.
As a piece of civilizational accomplishment it is extraordinary because we are the only nation to have gone to every planet in the solar system.
As a message on behalf of humanity it says that we will not be confined to this place...we will look elsewhere for things, for new mysteries, for new answers, for new places to gaze upon. It is a stirring expression of mankind’s yearning desire to go beyond his front door and seek the world."
Image Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute [Public domain]