So… last week the Perseverance rover landed on Mars and transmitted the first audio recording from the surface of another planet. It’s worth listening to while just imagining the wondrous nature of our universe. Seriously, go do that now…
You see, Mars is very far away (it took about 7 months to get there) yet the sounds are as familiar as trying to talk to someone with your smartphone while they’re walking across the street downtown. That’s the amazing thing for me: how huge and how small the solar system, galaxy, and universe can feel.
The distance always boggles my mind, made more acute since I’ve been playing this game called Elite Dangerous, which has a simulation of our galaxy with 400 billion stars in it, each of them visitable. After being out for several years, by 2017 hundreds of thousands of players had only visited like 0.003% of the galaxy. I think now the number is closer to 0.01%?
The game has become something of an obsession for me, and I’ve even upgraded my monitor set up as I prep for a months-long journey to circumnavigate the Milky Way. I have a ship that’s outfitted with a sci-fi jump drive (engineered to the max) letting me hop about 75 light years with each jump. By contrast, the rocket that took the Perseverance would take about 1,900,000 years to go 75 light years (if it didn’t accelerate the whole time). But I’ve got a journey ahead of me that’s about 330,000 light-years, so jumping 75 light years at a time seems pretty damn slow. (The diameter of the Milky Way is approx 100,000 light years, but I have to get to an edge from Sol first.) I estimate I’ll contribute about 4,000 to the number of visited star systems (maaaaybe), which would add about 0.000001% to the total number that players have visited.
Yes, it kind of boggles the mind. And that’s just our galaxy. The current low estimate is that there are 100 billion galaxies in our universe.
Take heart in knowing that you’re part of something bigger… like seriously much bigger… much much bigger… than you can even begin to fathom. There’s room for everyone, but not only that… it’s kinda miraculous that we exist in the forms that we do. Each of us is unique among billions and billions and trillions of uniques. You must believe that there’s a place for you because there’s a place for everyone. There’s a place for everyone.
NASA named the last two Mars rovers Curiosity and Perseverance. These two things are mantras we can all live by. Use curiosity to propel you forward, asking questions, challenging beliefs, discovering the world and yourself. Persevere when the going gets tough. It’s not always going to be easy, but persisting is what gives you power and creates a layer of infinite meaning on top of the base layer craziness of the stuff of the universe.
P.S. If anyone wants to join me as I fly through the galaxy, I can stream the game whenever. I’m basically a hobo with a home and a very fast computer, I’m often free and always will be for you.