Category: Life in the Universe

Today marks the fortieth year of the famous “blue marble” photograph of Earth taken by the crew of Apollo 17.

Earth seen from space on December 7, 1972.

Earth seen from space on December 7, 1972.

This iconic photograph has inspired millions of people over the years. By seeing the Earth hanging in space, we suddenly became aware if just how fragile our existence is. While environmental concerns were not new in the ’70’s, this picture put them under a magnifying glass, as have numerous images of our planet taken since this iconic photo was first released.

It is interesting to see that programs designed to look beyond our planet can sometimes give us an even better view of our own challenges and opportunities. Apollo 17, after all, was headed to the Moon. It was great they thought to look back.

Happy birthday, Blue Marble – and may we have many, many, more.


Today marks the start of a new era – the development of commercial space flight going as far as the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX Dragon approaches ISS

While this video clip shows the SpaceX Dragon from about a mile out, the docking went smoothly and history was made.  As we continue to think about the skills that young people need to develop, the world of space exploration is as alive as ever, even as NASA has slowed down its own construction of spacecraft.

It is worth thinking about what it took to make this all happen.  In terms of educational domains, creativity, engineering, science, math and technology all rank highly.  We can count ourselves lucky that the talent needed to do this incredible task was available.  What is of concern is what the future holds.  Nothing involved with the design, launch, and success of this complex mission fits within the domain of our test-driven mind-set still dominant in US education.

We’ve entered a new era.  Will education for all change as well?

Some of you know that our first Educational Holodeck mission ( involves the exploration of Mars in search of life.  A recent discovery by NASA lends increasing support to the idea that possible microbial life existed in Mars in the past (and may still exist today.)

The Opportunity Rover recently discovered a band of gypsum (the stuff of dry-wall fame) that indicates that there was once running water on the surface of Mars – and that the water was likely to be sweet, not acidic, meaning it could support life as we know it (

Found with the Opportunity Rover

With discoveries like this, can proof of extraterrestrial life be nearby?