A few nights ago, most of America was focused on watching Olympic events that happened 12 hours earlier on tape delay. However, I found myself enthralled with the information coming in from 154 million miles away (which was only delayed 13 minutes and 48 seconds) about a robot the size of an SUV named Curiosity, being craned in from a spaceship. Maybe it’s the fact that NASA’s robot looks a lot like Pixar’s Wall-E, but I could not get enough of Curiosity! It blows my mind that through human imagination and team work we can land a robot on another planet over 154 million miles away.
The highlight of the night for me was watching a room full of MacBook clinging nerds at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory burst into elation and tears as flight dynamic engineer Allen Chen said, “Touchdown confirmed!” Then time stopped to hear him say,“We’re safe on Mars!” I don’t think a room full of nerds has been that excited since George Lucas announced that he was making a prequel trilogy to Star Wars. It was like Steve Jobs had come back from the dead to announce the iPocketProtector with a touch screen that plays music and holds your pens. There is just something pretty awesome when geeks start high-fiving each other.
I believe it was British playwright Ben Jonson that coined the saying “curiosity killed the cat”. I don’t know a lot about cats, Ben may have been right. I don’t really like cats anyway, but I know that curiosity is what keeps the dreamer alive. Walt Disney said, “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one of the things it takes to accomplish something is courage.”
Imagine what would have happened if Columbus was not curious about the earth being round, if John F. Kennedy was not bold enough to stand before the nation and declare we are going to the moon, if Thomas Edison had not figured out a way to make the lightbulb a reality, if Rosa Parks just gave up her seat on the bus, if the men and woman who sailed on the Mayflower did not believe in the idea of America, what if….. What is your “what if”? While you and I may never discover a planet, or land on one, all of us on this planet are blessed with the gift of curiosity. Don’t let your curiosity die!
Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” One of the most brilliant minds to ever live did not believe he was talented. Chances are, you don’t feel like you have any useful talents. You do, I promise. I hope you believe with Einstein that you were born curious. Unfortunately, like many of us, somewhere along the way you let it die. There is good news; it’s not to late to get it back. Go and discover something new with the wonder of a five year old. Silence the voices that tell you it’s not possible. Let your curiosity take you to places you could never dream possible.
Curiosity is not just a robot on Mars, but it represents the wonder that lives in us all. I am not sure what we are going to discover on Mars, but I hope that we all rediscover curiosity.