Perspective Views

A tweet today from a fellow NASA Social participant, Amy Shira Teitel (@astVintageSpace), alerted me to some really spectacular images on the European Space Agency (ESA) website.

For example, I just have been browsing (search for “perspective view”) and found this view of the rim of the Martian crater Hygens.

Image from ESA, Mars Express

While ogling (and oooohing and aaaaahing – and drooling over) some of these images, it occurred to me that in a thousand years or five hundred years there will be people seeing these views in real life with their real eyes in real time — and they’ll be bored and oblivious to it.

They’ll be bored and oblivious to what we consider stunning, beautiful, and fantastic because for the them it will just be a part of their daily world. It won’t be amazing, it will be routine. It won’t be fantastic, it will just be what’s outside the window while they’re doing what they do every day.

We see these images as wonderful and amazing because of their scarcity, their newness, and the fact that in our daily world they’re so far away and so hard (i.e., next best thing to impossible) to journey to. We dream about seeing these views (and a billion more just like them) because of scarcity, because they’re currently out of our reach. We currently can’t see them in person, but our ambitions want to take us over that horizon to see new things, to see what’s never been seen before.

Then the idea flipped itself.

What do we ignore out of our windows that’s just a routine part of every day life, just what’s outside when we’re doing what we do every day? What do we take for granted that would be almost beyond belief for the dreamers of a hundred, two hundred, or five hundred years ago?

In the early 1500’s, when word was spreading through Europe and Asia of strange lands, people, animals, and sights, what did dreamers then hear tales of or see paintings and drawings of that made them long to see them in person, but know that it was nearly impossible? What of those things do we see every day and take for granted?

The Grand Canyon? The Rocky Mountains? The Great Wall of China? The Amazon?

Or would it be something as simple as a Florida swamp, an Arizona desert, or the Great Plains of the American midwest, totally trivial to us, but the stuff of dreams for that ancient dreamer?

Keep on dreaming of seeing Saturn’s rings from the surface of Enceladus, Olympus Mons from Phobos, or Jupiter from Io. But don’t forget to appreciate the daily view out the window that would have been the ultimate fantasy for your dreamer great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents.

It’s all just a matter of perspective.


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