I’ve often wondered what it would be like for one of the astronomers of the past to come alive today. What would it be like for them to see what we’ve been doing in physics, space and planetary exploration, biology, chemistry, and so on? It’s a great storytelling hook: bring somebody like Galileo, for example, to a modern time and let them marvel at what we’ve done.
In Galileo’s case, he’d likely understand planetary exploration pretty well. People have been looking at the planets for several thousand years and he took advantage of that. Yet, I think you could say that the true exploration of the solar system began with him. He pointed his homemade telescope at Jupiter in early 1610 and found the four largest moons, which astronomers later gratefully named “the Galileans” in his honor. That set off a mad dash of Earth-based observations that continues to this day. And, I bet he’d be enthused that a Jupiter exploration spacecraft was named for him: Galileo.
Our understanding of the solar system has grown greatly in the days since Galileo’s first observations.Courtesy NASA.
Planetary Exploration: What’s First?
So, what would Galileo think of the most recent planetary ...