On September 15, 2017 the world saw the end of the Earth vessel Cassini as it sent its last image before plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere where it met its fiery fate. For the people involved in the exploratory project as well as others, it was a sad moment of saying good-bye to an old friend who knew what rare vintage to bring to your supper table.
With the unexpected discoveries about the Moon Enceladus, it was decided that Cassini posed a threat of contamination if it crashed on Enceladus. What is special about this Moon? It was discovered by William Herschel in 1789 and later named for the son of Gaea and Uranus of Greek mythology—who was a principle player in the Olympian Gods’ Cosmic War known as Gigantomachy.
“Enceladus is Saturn’s sixth largest moon, only 157 miles (252 km) in mean radius, but it’s one of the most scientifically compelling bodies in our solar system. Hydrothermal vents spew water vapor and ice particles from an underground ocean beneath the icy crust of Enceladus. This plume of material includes organic compounds, volatile gases, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, salts and silica.
“With its global ocean, unique chemistry and internal heat, Enceladus has become a promising lead in our search for worlds where life could exist.”
The concern was that microbes from Earth would contaminate whatever life was brewing on Enceladus. Microbes can survive space travel.
Cassini is now part of space history and an example of humans’ insatiable curiosity and untethered quest for that elusive cosmic connection which vibrates within our molecules. As has been stated, we are “star stuff”.
For deep within the genome there is a faint memory of connection to the cosmos, and the memory awakens a longing to touch the face of creation once again. The cosmic ocean may be a metaphor for what happens after humans return to dust, but the dust of the cosmos is everywhere.
Perhaps the fate of the Earth vessel Cassini is a reminder of our own mortality. If we had the privilege to soar like a rocket to distant worlds, then we know our end was planned when the cosmos was formed.
From dust we came, hurled from the cosmic ocean to this planet traversing the cosmos. From this “pale blue dot” we will depart on our return journey to the sea of stars to sing again the song of the morning stars at the birth of creation. For what is the cosmic ocean but a collection of songs from myriad worlds and life forms both familiar and alien, with harmonious layers of complexity and simplicity?
In her haunting poem the Circles of Life from her book Rise Up and Salute the Sun, Suzy Kassem wrote
And the final thought from Carl Sagan:
“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us – there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.
“The size and age of the Cosmos are beyond ordinary human understanding. Lost somewhere between immensity and eternity is our tiny planetary home. In a cosmic perspective, most human concerns seem insignificant, even petty. And yet our species is young and curious and brave and shows much promise. In the last few millennia we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends on how well we know this Cosmos in which we float like a mote of dust in the morning sky. “
G. D. Williams © 2017
Cassini Final Image
Suzy Kassem, born in Toledo, Ohio (December 1, 1975), is an American author, filmmaker, philosopher, cultural critic, essayist, and poet of Egyptian descent.
Vangelis – Cosmos (Theme from TV Series)