To 21st-century humanity, space exploration feels like a forgone conclusion. We have always looked heavenward, organizing stars into constellations and constellations into elaborate mythologies to explain the natural world and our human condition. Once we slipped the surly bonds of Earth’s gravity, the race was on—to go higher, travel farther, explore ever more distant worlds.
We began with the moon, an obvious first destination that looms large over our psyches and our backyards. It illuminates our nights with its reflected light, pinning our shadows to the ground like specimens on a vast terrestrial display.