They Landed Where?!?

I recently discovered Ted Talks, when a really good and amusing Ted Talk video about book cover design was going around on Facebook. It has since become my new magazine of choice.

I especially like to select the videos that have been labeled “jaw-dropping”.

Now, if you haven’t been following my blog, then maybe you haven’t noticed that one of my pet peeves is that America is such a self-aggrandizing country. Too obsessed with its own supposed greatness to look anywhere else.

Yeah, I know, I’m generalizing. But in general it’s true.

I think this blinkered view on the world is the result of some very serious indoctrination. When you teach generation upon generation that their country is the greatest in the world, why would they look outward? What can you possibly learn from countries that are all per definition inferior to yours?

I have written about it before in this post. The front-loading washing machine? Not the newest thing; it’s been around in Europe for almost half a century. Same with tankless water heaters. Who knows, one of these decades Hanes might even introduce you to colored cotton socks, and claim it’s the newest thing in footwear!

But I digress. Today I want to talk about space exploration.

Whenever a big space travel event occurs, we will know about it, right? Because the president will sit behind his Big Announcements desk–the one with the American flag in the background–and announce it, immediately putting it in the context of American greatness.


Not all great space exploration milestones are American undertakings. But you wouldn’t know it, because if it’s not an American event, or solely an American event, a purely American milestone, something that Americans can beat their chests over, if the American president doesn’t announce it as an accomplishment of “this great nation,” then the American media don’t cover it and Americans don’t hear about it, thus perpetuating the myth that all great accomplishments occur here.

At the most, European breakthroughs in science are mentioned in the ticker at the bottom of the screen on CNN. But seeing that requires taking your attention away from the “big” news and reading the small print. Not that that’s so difficult, because if you’ve watched one hour of news on the 24-hour news channel, you’re done, because that one hour just gets rerun all day, so you could conceivably watch another hour, just to read the ticker.

Because how else are you going to find out that the Cassini Huygens probe (a joint venture by the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency and Nasa) landed on Saturn’s moon Titan? Filming all the way? Five years ago? Ever heard of that? Me neither.

If it was solely a NASA venture, CNN would be covering it to the exclusion of anything else for days. Dozens of experts would be interviewed, asking them to interpret the images of the surface of Titan; any astronomer CNN could get its hands on, would be dragged into the studio to say something about it.

I found out about the landing of this probe on a Ted Talk today, five years after the fact. And of the entire talk, that was the most jaw-dropping thing to me.

4 responses to “They Landed Where?!?

  1. And there must be many more things you guys over there never hear about!


  2. I know it has nothing to do with space exploration, but your remark “Too obsessed with its own supposed greatness to look anywhere else” made me think of (what we call “American”) football… I have always wondered why the Superbowl Champion is labeled “World Champion”. There are no other countries involved in the whole AFC/NFC game so where does the whole “World” part come from?
    Love your blog!


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