Cassini’s demise perfectly illustrates the Prime Directive from Star Trek
“A Star Captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive.” – Captain James T. Kirk, U.S.S. Enterprise.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft just sent it’s final transmission then performed a “death dive” by deliberately plummeting into the upper atmosphere of Saturn.
The spacecraft’s demise was confirmed at 7:55 a.m. ET.
Cassini was the first craft to come as close to Saturn as it did – and in this final moment, literally impacting into it.
Cassini spent 13 years exploring Saturn and it’s moons after launching in 1997 and traveling close to a million miles, reaching the Saturn system in 2004.
It’s mission was performed flawlessly, it’s discoveries, numerous.
As I was reading about the final moments of Cassini, a question occurred to me:
Why intentionally crash into Saturn itself? Why destroy the probe? Why not just keep it in orbit until it meets it’s fate naturally?
Indeed, scientists contemplated alternative retirement scenarios, ultimately choosing to destroy it in Saturn’s dangerous atmosphere.
They didn’t want to risk Cassini colliding with any of Saturn’s moons.
NASA believes the moons, Enceladus and Titan, may be habitable to some form of life. If Cassini were to crash into one of them, there would be a chance it could contaminate them with particles and microbes from Earth.
So NASA did the appropriate, moral thing, and caused the demise of it’s spacecraft that performed until the very end.
This concept is totally the Prime Directive in Star Trek: Non-interference with the developement of alien cultures under any circumstances.
Trek invented the notion on television in the 1960’s, and it’s a good philosophy to live by for us humans as we venture further out beyond the confines of our planet and our solar system.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the lead scientist on “Project Genesis,” Dr. Carol Marcus, emphasized that if even a tiny microbe was discovered on an alien world, they couldn’t utilize it for their experimental planet.
She correctly understood that influencing the life of even something as miniscule as a microbe could unfairly alter the destiny of a far-off planet and its inhabitants.
It’s superb that NASA’s actions embody the philosophies of the Prime Directive, which speaks very highly about how we ourselves continue to evolve as human beings.
Images via NASA
by Jeremy Howard – “JERHOW”
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