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I don’t remember the first time I looked up at the stars.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time and place where the stars were ubiquitous – clear skies and not a lot of light pollution. So they were just always there.

But I know I looked up and wanted to know more about them.

The first TV show I remember watching (When I was about 3) is Star Trek[1]Yes, the original series. The episode was “Who Mourns for Adonais?”. Of course that made me want to know more about stars. I mean, it has “star” in the name!

When I was about 10, I found this book about astronomy.[2]It had a red cover, but I don’t remember the title or anything. That was it. I was hooked. I guess it was my first passion, if you can call it that when you’re 10.

I was outside at night earlier this week. It’s not quite winter yet,[3]It’s supposed to be, but… but it was very crisp. One of those crisp, clear nights with no moon. And there, up in the sky, were all my old friends.

I may not remember the first time I looked up at the stars. But I do remember seeing Orion from the top of a mountain.[4]It was really a tall hill, but that’s less dramatic. I remember looking at Cassiopeia from the shores of The Dead Sea. I remember the Pleiades from a parking lot in upstate New York. I remember the first time I saw the moon through a telescope.

It made me think about how astronomy might be the first stepping stone for a lot of other fellow-sciency-nerds.

I saw the stars, and I wanted to know more about them. And so I read books about them. Some of them were just regular books about astronomy. But some were books about people going to other stars. Or beings from other stars coming here[5]Yes, yes, other planets. Artistic license.. And some of these books were movies and TV shows.

And those other books, movies and TV shows, those fictional ones, they introduced me to a lot more than green-skinned women and guys with pointy ears. They introduced me to electronics, to chemistry, to physics, to robotics. Now, I’m not saying all of those stuck,[6]I couldn’t do physics if you spoon-fed me the drag coefficient and I’m not even saying I’m an expert about astronomy, but just knowing about them was cool. Also, some of them did stick.[7]Ok, so my cat-deterrent robot failed miserably, but that’s besides the point And they left me with a life-long desire to learn more and understand how things work.

Most of what I — and just about every single Human being — know about the stars (and every other object out there) is never going to be something we get to experience in person. Of the people alive right now,[8]And throughout history. a precious few have been off this planet. An even smaller number have been to a different celestial body. Farther than that, we’ve sent some devices which, at best, qualify as kind of dumb robots. Within my lifetime, space tourism might take off[9]I see what I did there. and humans might get to Low Earth Orbit on a semi-regular basis. We might get humans to Mars, but barring an incredible and unforeseen technological break, we’re not getting much farther.[10]Again, this is during my lifetime. 100, 200 years from now, I’m not placing any bets.

But that doesn’t matter.[11]I mean, it would be cool, but… The stars have inspired us to do, and find, pretty cool things here on Earth. And until we do get there, our fictional space voyages will have to do. And those, those we have no shortage of, because if there’s one thing us Humans are good at, it’s using our imagination.

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