November 21st, 1962. James Webb – the man who will lead NASA to put man on the moon –– sits with JFK in the Cabinet Room of the White House and tells him to go to hell.
Ignore the race with the Russians, he urges the President.
The race is not the priority. See the opportunity.
We can crack the universe wide open if only we take the time to really look.
We can hold the laws of nature in our hands by looking backwards into the galaxies.
We can know infinity. We can know ourselves.
James Webb – a man, not of science, but of law and government – is a man of rare vision. In his tenure, he will invest in robotics that will pave the way for human space travel; he will give us the first strange glimpse of Mars, and in 1965 he will begin his fight for a NASA-funded telescope so large it will pierce the unknown with the light of human will. His inspiration will accelerate the innovation that has transformed our world. It will move generations to do great things in the name of exploration.
And what a world it is. What an age of impossible realities we inhabit. We stand daily on the shoulders of giants, rewriting the boundaries of our own potential at such a pace that we’ve become immune to wonder.
We forget that there are still new things and new ways to see, or think, or know.
But when the James Webb Telescope launches next year – travelling one million miles in thirty days, until it reaches deepest space – we’ll see the vision of its namesake made real and his story told in the fabric of infinity. We’ll witness the birth of our galaxy 13.5 billion years ago, preserved in waves of light that have faded into infra-red. We’ll see the embers of the burning fires where our atoms came into being. We may find new life. We may rewrite the rulebook of the universe. When we ask why, the cosmos might just speak back to us. And the deeper we look, the further back we’ll see; the bigger we’ll think; the more we’ll dare to seek.
That’s worthy of a little wonder.
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