Anybody home?

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Did you feel it? The suspense?

That’s the emotion which has been building over the past few weeks — months, even — leading up to New Horizons’ up-close and personal approach to Pluto on Tuesday. Granted, the only people who have been really excited and nervous are the ones who sent the spacecraft up 9-1/2 years ago on its 3.5 billion mile odyssey.

This is one of the first images of Pluto taken by the New Horizon space craft on Tuesday. -- COURTESY

This is one of the first images of Pluto taken by the New Horizon space craft on Tuesday. — COURTESY

I remember when satellite images of Neptune were beamed across my little television in 1989. Seated by my desk at home, I was transfixed in watching something that no human had ever seen but for telescopes. True, the planet didn’t really have the spectacular bluish-green colors one normally sees in NASA-prepped pictures, but still… .

Then there was that historic date of July 20, 1969.

Like many of you, I’m just old enough to remember when a man first stepped foot on the moon. When the event occurred, my younger brother and I were home while our parents were just down the street at a party to watch the same thing. I had just enough awareness to alert my brother that we needed to watch that moment on our TV. We were interested for awhile, but then the excitement gave way to sleep. The landing was the culmination not only of a space race, but also the achievement of people’s dreams made real.

Oh, and let me take a moment now to say that any conspiracy theories about a staged landing have less substance than air in outer space. The paranoia and insanity of such people is nauseating to me.

There were other missions to our satellite, and those became a new launchpad to set our sights on Mars, but with the exception of the mid-70s spacecraft landing, the country’s interest evaporated. Other problems, other diversions on earth captured our attention. Now we’re all too entranced by the glow of our mobile phone to care about the orbiting planets, the Milky Way and beyond.

My hope is that findings of New Horizons will rekindle this country’s interest to look up again into the night and wonder. That’s a start to a new future.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. He would like to stand on Titan. Meanwhile, contact him on earth at 562-3187 or