'Dare mighty things'

A Christian Science perspective: The Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to land on Mars on Aug. 6. The author, who was involved in the mission of the Mars rover Spirit in 2004, shares her perspective.

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That phrase, “Dare mighty things,” was originally spoken by US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1910. It’s used as a banner at the end of a recent NASA video, “7 Minutes of Terror,” of the upcoming landing of the rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars.

Watching the video reminded me of being in the Multimission Image Processing Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when a previous rover, Spirit, landed on Mars in early 2004. We were waiting for the first pictures from the cameras my employees had built for the rover. The 10 to 15 minutes between the time we knew the rover was supposed to land and the time we received a healthy signal seemed like an eternity for some people.

When one “dares mighty things” in the high-tech world of space exploration, it seems that there are more things that can go wrong than right – that the margin for error is so small that one miscalculation will lose the mission, that the distances involved are so great that we humans are out of control of critical events. Let’s face it: One-third of the Mars missions launched by the United States have failed.

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Yet sitting in front of the video screens watching mission control, I felt a calm assurance that all was well. Why? The summer we were building the cameras, I chaired daily meetings to monitor my team’s progress. Before I went to work, I prayed specifically for our camera engineering team and the mission team, knowing that God, as divine Mind, was the guiding “force” and that each one of His children, specifically the hundreds of people working on the project, would be guided to wise, workable solutions to enable a successful mission. Their creativity was a reflection of God’s creative activity, going on continuously.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, wrote an exegesis on the first chapter in Genesis, the spiritual account of creation, in her primary work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” In it, she said: “The calm and exalted thought or spiritual apprehension is at peace. Thus the dawn of ideas goes on, forming each successive stage of progress” (p. 506). Our Mars missions are the embodiment of the evolution of ideas that result in great technological progress. These new ideas have their source in God and enable the mission teams to “dare mighty things” with confidence, rather than terror.

My prayers, and the prayers and best wishes of many others, are supporting the Curiosity mission team as it awaits the entry, descent, and landing phase of the mission, a recent “dawn” of new ideas.

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