Unlimited Potential

Apollo 11 — July 1969

Provide ship or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will not fear even that void [of space]… So, for those who will come shortly to attempt this journey, let us establish the astronomy: Galileo, you of Jupiter, I of the Moon.

Johannes Kepler in a letter to Galileo Galilei,
April 1610 with reference to their respective
studies of the moon and Jupiter.

Only a century after Christopher Columbus sailed into the mysterious unknown across the sea on his bold adventure that discovered America for western civilization, Johannes Kepler, pioneering astronomer and physicist, envisioned a time that ships would be built to “sail the void between the stars” and hailed the men who would step forth to sail them.

A bare three centuries later, and only a few decades after the age of feeble wooden sailing ships gave way to ships of iron and steel, men took to the skies in winged craft. And then again, less than seventy years after the first propeller-driven airplane made of sticks, wire, and cloth lofted a man above the ground, the United States of America launched men in rockets on their first explorations across the void of space to the moon.

What is it within mankind that drives us to explore? And, perhaps even more bewildering and more importantly, what is it within a man like Johannes Kepler — who lived at a time when mankind’s feet had never in the history of the world left the solid surface of the earth, and who was taking mankind’s first glimpses of far-off worlds through a simple telescope — what is it that made him able to even imagine that one day ordinary mortal human beings would be able to launch themselves into the void of space to touch those unimaginably distant worlds?

Kepler was under no delusion of such a journey being easy. It’s true that he was merely beginning to peer at the heavens through a primitive telescope of his own invention (an improvement on the original by Galileo) but, as an astronomer, he was both mathematician and physicist. He himself had calculated the almost unimaginably vast distances to even the closest objects in interplanetary and even interstellar space. And yet he was still able to make a statement so bold as to say with assurance that men would eventually set sail in ships to the worlds he could just barely see.


Can make a sun

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