Vanguard Of Human Vision
The oldest still-orbiting man-made object is Vanguard I. The first solar-powered satellite, it was launched in the wake of Sputnik to study orbital conditions. It continued to broadcast for seven years and still remains in a shallow elliptical orbit that barely dips near the rarefied upper atmosphere. Originally projected to remain aloft for two thousand years, it has since been determined that friction from the solar wind and other environmental factors will bring it down by around 2,198 if it doesn’t collide with something before then.
This of course brings up the specter of orbital trash that now blankets our world, but it’s also a testament to our achievement as a species. Petty as we are, it’s easy to let our conquests and vices define us, and it’s unsurprising that so many seek comfort in a metaphysical eden beyond the reach of our squabbles and pollution. But if we fall short of the civilized ideals we imagine to move the heavens, we can at least take pride in this: our race, and ours alone, has aspired to the ideal.
Of all the millions of species that have inhabited the good earth, only we have sent emissaries hurtling through the universe for no other reason than to understand it. Whatever comes, our legacy now is assured. Should we perish tomorrow and send each other to a hell of our own making, machines with names like Pioneer, Voyager, and Sojourner will remain, forever proclaiming the best of what we are, and by the very evidence of their existence, the message left close by to our first steps on another world: “WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.”