The moons have mythical names: Calisto, Europa, Io and Ganymede, whom Homer called the most beautiful of the mortals, the four largest moons orbiting around Jupiter. Last night they were joined by Juno, the solar-powered spaceship NASA launched almost five years ago, which went into orbit a few minutes before midnight. After traveling 1.7 billion miles at speeds up to 1650,000 mph, Juno arrived at the precise spot the scientists in Pasadena had programmed. Sometimes it’s easy to feel discouraged about the fate of the earth and the future of its people, who treat both the earth and each other with such carelessness. Where America is embarking on an ugly election campaign to elect a leader the majority of voters abhor. Where we build walls and fences topped with razor wire to keep out the undesirable, and where ISIS celebrates the slaughter of innocents.
But think also of the things of which we are capable when we set free our imaginations, follow our sense of wonder and expand our horizons. When we come together around a project – which will take years to complete – to explore the outer reaches of our solar system.
None of this solves the problems we face daily. It doesn’t stop the killing or feed the hungry. It doesn’t relieve the anxieties of the fearful or open the hearts of the angry or tear down the walls that keep us apart.
But today I think of Juno, out beyond the heavens, touching what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”