As children we fear the dark.
The unknown troubles us.
Anything might be out there.
Ironically, it’s our fate to live in the dark.
Head out from the Earth in any direction you choose
and, after an initial flash of blue,
you’re surrounded by blackness,
punctuated only here and there by the faint and distant stars.
Even after we’re grown, the darkness retains its power to frighten us.
And so there are those who say we should not inquire too closely
into who else might be living in that darkness.
Better not to know, they say.
There are 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy,
of this immnse multitude,
could it be that our hum drum sun
is the only one with an inhabited planet?
Maybe the origin of life or intelligence is exceedingly improbable.
Or, maybe civilizations arise all the time,
but wipe themselves out as soon as they are able.
Or, here and there, peppered across space,
maybe there are worlds, something like our own,
on which other beings gaze up and wonder, as we do,
about who else lives in the dark.
Life is a comparative rarity,
you can survey dozens of worlds and find that on only one of them
does life arise and evolve and persist.
If we humans ever go to those worlds
then it will be because a nation, or a consortium of them
believes it to be to its advantage, or to the advantage of the human species.
In our time, we’ve crossed the solar system and sent four ships to the stars.
But we continue to search for inhabitants.
Life looks for life.