Friday, September 13, 2013

Wishing For Safe Journeys

As we sit on the cusp of our fall travel and conference schedule, we're faced with a difficult decision today, about what topics to cover.

We'll admit this should have been a momentous last seven days. Five years ago this week, the titans of Wall Street, at the end of the G.W. Bush era, nearly destroyed the entire world's economy with their selfishness and hubris. Five years later, most of those crooks have yet to see a courtroom, let alone a prison cell. And while the rich have effectively recovered from an economic apocalypse of their own creation, virtually everyone else is still hurting.

On Capitol Hill, things haven't changed much either. Members of Congress did finally return from five weeks of shirking their duties to nominally "work" on legislation. However, between the GOP's civil war and the Democrats finding new ways to act like cowards on the budget, nothing much really ended up getting done in our national legislative branch.

The White House didn't fare much better this week. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry - along with their counterparts from Russia - stopped the nation's rush to military action in Syria. That didn't seem to matter to critics, pundits, and members of Congress who couldn't seem to complain enough about where the President was taking our country.

Still, with multiple journeys ahead of our staff members over the next few weeks, what caught our attention most today was a story we noticed late on Thursday, about a journey of an entirely different and wonderful nature.

NASA officially announced yesterday that the Voyager 1 spacecraft officially left the heliosphere of our solar system on August 25th of last year.

The computer, tablet or phone you're reading this on right now is far more powerful than the tiny computer still running the Voyager 1 satellite. Your little machine also communicates much faster, as it takes a message from Voyager nearly seventeen-and-a-half hours to get to back to Earth from its current location aproximately 11.7 billion miles away.

For 36 years, the scientists at NASA's JPL lab in California have tracked the satellite as it recorded some of the most amazing data anyone had ever seen, including images of Jupiter and Saturn. They've been collecting data and troubleshooting a machine that only was supposed to last four years, but continue to find new ways to make old technology perform new tricks.

The journey that Voyager 1 and its sibling have already taken makes the trips our staff members have scheduled over the next few weeks look amazingly painless in comparison, and helps us put into perspective all the negativity we've had to cover this week.

If you can, this weekend, put down the computer, the tablet, and especially the cell phone. If a machine with an eight-track tape for a brain can travel without constant human assistance to the edge of solar system and last 36 years, your gadgets will certainly survive a day or two without you.

While you're taking a break from your machines? Leave your anger with humans behind, too. The people who drive you nuts? Ignore 'em for a couple days. They'll be just as stupid on Monday when you run into them again.

Instead this weekend, focus on the moments worth remembering, with the people and places you love.

We've all got a long way to go yet in life, and the universe is a huge, dark place.

Make the journey worth it.