Astronomers and space buffs, artists and writers, explorers and geologists, ministers and teachers all likely were gratified to hear that NASA has reversed its initial decision and will send a refurbishing crew to the Hubble Space Telescope in 2008, rather than letting humankind’s most inspiring Earth-orbiting science experiment plunge into a forsaken tract of South Pacific seas.
Hubble has provided us with invaluable and often unexpected insights into the history of our universe, the way stars and planets are formed and the origins of life. Perhaps equally important, it has transmitted images with a beauty simply unattainable anywhere on our little Earth. Massive intergalactic clouds rearing up like horseheads, galaxies colliding in silent disaster, black holes gobbling stars by the millions, new stars flickering to life like distant sparks on a limitless horizon. Suddenly, other solar systems have become not only imaginable, but image-able. Acceptance of the possibility of life elsewhere now seems far more likely than during our pre-Hubble geocentric era.
What would happen, I wonder, if we could train an imaginary Hubble-like telescope on Earth’s most tumultuous locations? How would we respond if we could suddenly understand the true history and makeup of other populations and cultures? Would we be more open to the possibility of other lives being as deserving as our own? Would we see the beauty of those lives amid the fiery collisions that ignite so many lands?
I’d like to think that we, as communicators, could be the lens for that Earth-watching scope. We can and should focus public opinion on the real origins of people, places, issues and innovations. We can spark brilliant solutions by shedding light on our differences, build dazzling futures by painting images of where we have been and where we are headed. We can encourage people to accept the possibility of a better life by stimulating exceptional interchange of ideas about the challenges to future improvement.
In a largely unintended manner, Hubble has become the Great Communicator. Its photos have showered us with a universe of possibility and potential. Here on Earth, we should do all we can to reflect that mission, even if on a mere global scale. We can do much to reshape our world by being great communicators—and, like Hubble, perhaps we can help bring some beauty out of chaos on a less cosmic but no less crucial plane.