Thousands watch the Curiosity rover land on Mars. Photo via Reuters slideshow.
So I've been as ecstatic as one might imagine at the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars (yes. Mars), especially because good space travel news is hard to find these days.
But while lowering a robot onto Mars by skycrane is an f'ing amazing feat in its own right, what's even more interesting is the fact that this is the first time in awhile I can remember a space travel achievement hitting a cultural chord like this. Thousands gathered in Times Square, the NASA websites overloaded, and Mohawk Guy was born.
What struck me most about the crowd in Times Square is that it's young. This is largely my generation, the oft-yelled-at, put-upon, and scolded Millenials, who are coming out to cheer the achievement of a program their forebears have been gutting for years.
In addition to tugging at my heartstrings, I think it's interesting that this kind of optimism endures. Despite the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Baby Boomers came of age during a massive economic boom after their parents had won the largest conflict in human history. It's easier to be optimistic then than when you're facing starkly uncertain times and accumulated crap the people before you put off far too long.
But there they are, cheering on the space program in the thousands.
It's that kind of spirit — an optimism borne out of facing steep odds rather than the expectation of miracles — that gives me hope. We might just pull this off yet.