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A Journey through the Universe

An authentic view of science must embrace not only what we know, but also how we’ve come to know it. Science is a wondrously human journey requiring an artistic fusion of process and content. Journey through the Universe programs are designed to reveal the true nature of science to diverse audiences. The story below tries to capture the essence of this philosophy, and the Journey through the Universe program delivery teams are masters at translating stories like this to audiences of all ages, and immersing these audiences in their own inquiry-based explorations of their community, their world, and their Universe.

The Story: For countless generations we have explored our Earth, revealing its majesty, and the unique interdependence of its systems that gave rise to life, and sustained life for billions of years. We have also come to realize the fragility of our world, and the stresses human activity can produce on a planet-wide scale.

We have long known that Earth is a member of a planetary family bound to the Sun, our star, and have long wondered about the greater heavens and our place in space and time. Since the advent of the space age, we have even traveled to other worlds—with humans to the Moon, and with robots to planets, moons, comets, and asteroids of the Solar System.

Dr. SeussFor 400 years our telescopes on the ground—and now in space—have peered beyond our Solar System, to planetary systems around other stars, to stars in birth, and to the remains of stars that died long ago. We have seen the structure of our city of stars, the Milky Way galaxy, and revealed its stature in the greater universe. And we are looking for others like ourselves—others who also long to know of worlds beyond their own.

We have done amazing things. Yet to Earth, we are a species of microbes. And Earth itself is a tiny world orbiting the Sun—just one small star in a galaxy of 100,000,000,000 stars. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is itself just one of 100,000,000,000 galaxies in the miniscule portion of the Universe we are able to see. These are precious few words that frame the nature of our existence—and our capabilities. We have the ability to know all this.

William BlakeDriven by innate human curiosity, and hard work embraced as a labor of love, generations past endeavored to reveal the nature of home. Now, standing on the shoulders of those past generations, we see the majesty of the Universe. And while we may seem small in its shadow, beauty has nothing to do with size. We are integrally connected to the Universe, and it to us.

It is also true that what we see of the Universe is seen through a fog of still missing understanding. Surely most of its secrets remain to be revealed by future generations. So to ensure the remarkable legacy of human exploration, every generation must be inspired to learn what we know of our world and the Universe, and how we have come to know it

T.S. EliotThis is the story of our existence—a race of explorers, 6 billion tiny souls strong. It is a story that ignites wonder about the Universe, and a sense of pride in our ability to reveal its nature through both human imagination and ingenuity. It is a story that humbles us, and brings a sense of humility to our lives. It is a journey that forever changes one’s perspective of home.

Dr. Jeff Goldstein
Program Director, Journey through the Universe
Center Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, USRA

©2008, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education