This is the Belgian winner of ESA's XMM Essay Competition "What's new Mr. Galileo?":
Going back to the dawn of time we look up to marvel at the stars.
With a dreamy look in our eyes and an air of bewilderment we fancy ourselves strolling hand-in-hand on the moon in the earthlight, spending our holidays at the Club Mars or having a cosy chat with some little green men. We are trying to understand the fascinating spectacle ahead of us, obsessed with the desire to know the infinitely great.
Scientists quench their insatiable curiosity by attempting to unravel the mystery of the universe: from Galileo's telescope to the XXM they have invented and they have perfected instruments with more and more ingenious devices to realize what yesterday still seemed to be another impossible dream. With endless patience they question stars ans galaxies hoping to
find an answer to fundamental issues such as :
Where can man situate himself in the universe ?
Where are we coming from and where are we heading for ?
The well-established existence of organic components of extra-terrestrial origin makes it possible to tackle scientifically not only the issue of the origin of life on earth but also the fascinating problem of the possible existence of other forms of life somewhere else in the universe.
The Big Space Adventure begins with the launching of rockets, shuttles, space probes and putting satellites into orbit. Beside the joy of discovery and of improving our knowledge, this wonderful space adventure generates the development of new technologies whose practical advantages are tremendous for mankind.
It is even useful in our everyday life (Teflon or Mylar).
As far as communication is concerned, putting satellites into orbit enables us to broadcast the news instantaneously from one side of the earth to the other. It can but improve our quality of life. Communication has become indispensable.
As far as meteorology is concerned we can forecast some natural disasters or dramatic meteorological changes, which has permitted us to save more than one human life.
It also creates new jobs for hundreds of workers and it brings peoples closer to each other with one joint objective.
Even though the world is far from perfect it can only get better as man gets to know more and more about the "emptiness" which surrounds us.
Those are the reasons why our knowledge of astronomy deserves to be deepened.
It is the past, the present and the future.
It is incumbent upon our generation and the future generations to put a lot of effort into this enthralling discipline which teaches us to be modest and humble.
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