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Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor 04.23.2020

Our place in space.


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Photo: Isabel Liang

Today is my birthday, and I am twenty­–one years old. But this is a letter from the editor, not about the editor (questionable statement given some of my prior ones), but I thought I’d let you all know anyway.

I’m not going to opine about what aging is like or how it feels to suddenly be of legal drinking age in quarantine. There’s a lot of literature on that. I instead want to point out that yesterday was Earth Day. A lot of you posted very nice landscape­-y pictures on social media. 

I liked looking at them; Earth is quite beautiful. We’ve known this for millennia, and as of recent decades, we’ve known that Earth is as beautiful from space as well as from its surface.

A little less than 50 years after humans first walked on the moon, I talked to an ex–NASA chief scientist to write a piece on astrobiology, and he said this:

"We are the manifestation of biology as we’ve come to understand it here on Earth. But we have one data point for it. We have never seen it anywhere else. It’s a perfect record of one." 

Possible microbes on Mars notwithstanding, we’ve only found life on this planet. Spaceship Earth, right? We need to be careful, but we know that already. We’re just there, blue, in space, finite, gorgeous, and fragile.

A lot of things are going on right now, and it’s easy not to think about anything less pressing than day–to–day. I understand, I feel the same way. It’s my birthday. I don’t really want to think about how many species go extinct each day, but sometimes I feel guilty about that.

While Bill Anders was piloting the Apollo 8 mission around the moon, he took the famous ‘Earthrise’ photo—which, it can be suggested, catalyzed the environmental movement. He’s also credited with saying this:

"We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."

Happy belated Earth Day. I’m glad that I saw so many pictures of sunsets on Instagram. I love that self–awareness is a discovery we’ve already made, and, despite the circumstances, that we’re still celebrating this perfect record of one.


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