EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 8, 2012

Editorial: We share with Columbus an urge to explore

Today, we mark the 520th anniversary of the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World.

It is a day that commemorates a high point in an Age of Exploration that produced Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Central and South America then English, French and Spanish colonies in North America. It led, ultimately, to the United States of America.

It is also the first big holiday weekend of the fall, the season in which New England is at its finest.

The beauty of New England in the fall is unsurpassed as green leaves flame into vivid red, orange and gold. Few scenes are more beautiful than the contrast created by white buildings with their black shutters clustered around an old New England town common bursting with color.

As this was written, today was forecast to be a beautiful fall day with cool temperatures and bright sunshine. It’s a great time for apple picking or foliage hikes; a time to visit familiar places or, like Columbus, to set out to find something new.

That urge to explore is a universal human trait — the desire to see what is just around the corner or beyond the horizon. That curiosity drove the people of Columbus’ time; it drives us still today.

As you read this commentary, two machines made here in the United States are extending human knowledge of the universe we inhabit.

One of them, on an interplanetary scale, is right around the corner. The rover Curiosity is exploring the surface of Mars, the next planet out from the Sun after Earth. After a months-long journey following its launch from Florida, Curiosity survived a harrowingly complex landing on Mars and has just begun its exploration. Already, it has found strong evidence that a shallow river of water once flowed across its landing site. That means life could have evolved on Mars as well as on Earth. Perhaps Curiosity will find evidence of that later in its mission.

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