I have been inspired by two recent events in the world of exploration. Today, the SpaceX Dragon capsule and the International Space Station (ISS) made an historic rendezvous. This is the first time that a commercial vessel approached and connected with the ISS. As I write this I am watching the live video feed of the capture with the Canadarm robotic arm. The SpaceX crew, all on the ground in Houston, guided the unmanned capsule within 10 metres of the ISS and held it stationary, relative to the space station. Next, the crew on the space station slowly moved the arm toward the capsule and captured and installed it in a compartment on the space station where its half-tonne cargo could be retrieved. All of this occurred as the space station and the Dragon capsule sped along at 27,000 km/hr, 250 miles above Northwestern Australia. This is an amazing feat of engineering that required two very skilled teams of scientists, engineers, and support workers.
Earlier this year, on March 25, James Cameron became the first person to reach the 11 km deep undersea valley known as the Marinas Trench in a solo dive. Cameron had worked with the team that built the Deepsea Challenger submersible in which he traveled and had taken earlier test dives at other locations. James Cameron is better known as a Canadian film maker but has recently contributed much to 3D underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies.
Events like this remind me that there are few limits to what humans can accomplish when we work together in teams. I am challenged to think of ways that I might contribute to scientific discoveries as I work with others. The limits that inhibit my contributions are often in my mind. I am reminded that many scientific discoveries have been made by ordinary men and women as they worked at regular jobs. Albert Einstein is famous for developing many of his theories while working at a low paying job in a patent office. Thomas Edison put together a team of workers who helped develop many of his inventions. Nikola Tesla may have been a more intelligent scientist but his work in seclusion meant that he did not contribute to as many scientific advances as his contemporary, Edison. What might humans accomplish collectively if we each continued to work at our jobs but contributed to team projects? What prevents us from dreaming big? What could you or I tackle today?
I love the optimism of George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As he begins his relationship with his soon to be wife he says this to her, “What do you want, Mary? Do you want the moon? If you want it, I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down for you. Hey! That’s a pretty good idea! I’ll give you the moon, Mary.” SpaceX and Deep-Sea Challenger are moon sized projects like humans tackled in the 1960s. Perhaps I need a few “lasso the moon” type dreams in my life.