You may remember that in June 2012, a transit of Venus occurred: from the point of view of Earth, Venus moved across the face of the Sun. What you may not know is that on November 10, 2084, there will be a transit of Earth visible from Mars.
I have been thinking about the transit of Earth ever since I heard about it. Surviving for a century has never been a priority for me, as it is for some people. However, finding out that a transit of Earth from Mars will be taking place a few weeks before I turn 104½ has made me, for the first time, want to live to such an age. I envision myself there, on Mars, watching the Earth float past as I stare at the Sun. A human born on Earth, now seeing home as a black spot against a star.
Colonizing the red planet will be more economically feasible if we send astronauts one-way, knowing that they will never return to Earth again under any circumstances. What a frightening, powerful thought, though, to know that they will never be home again, but to choose to leave at a moment in human history when the comforts of indolence beckon. All so that they may live the rest of their lives on a planet that is barren and lonely. It is a staggering prospect, and when I consider it, I want to say that I would go without thinking twice, but I am afraid.
What would inspire someone to make such a choice to go? It is a mistake to interpret any desire to leave Earth behind as a mark of cynicism. Surely things are not going well here and the instinct to escape is understandable. However, giving up the planet of one’s birth in order to help light the way for us to venture to the stars cannot be seen as an act of despair. In fact, it is an act of great hope. Those people—now walking among us—who will be the first extra-terrestrial settlers carry within themselves the true spirit of exploration shared by those in our collective history who pushed themselves to do something truly new for the benefit of all future humans.
By striving for a more thorough understanding of our universe and ourselves, at least we will have continued to try. Even with a forceful effort, I don’t know if I can make it to see the 2084 transit, but it gives me something to dream about. And, if I don’t make it, I hope you will see it for me.