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Born on September 29, 1901 in Rome, Italy, Enrico Fermi was one of the most influential scientists of the nuclear age, and is often credited for being the age’s architect. He earned the Nobel Prize in physics and created the world’s first nuclear power plant. So it is hard to imagine that Fermi also had time to ponder the great unknown of space. Not only did he make time to do so, he also attempted to answer one of the most fundamental questions of space - despite the fact there is a high probability that life exists beyond earth, why have we never encountered it? This question is one that has interested humans ever since we had the ability to look upwards to the stars. Are we alone? Where are the others and will they and use get along?
In the coming decades, for-profit companies shall set foot on Mars; satellites should travel beyond our solar system and send back data and images; cryogenics could safely preserve humans for deep space travel; and Earth’s inhabitants may finally discover that they are not alone.
Ironically the word “alone” may be just as relevant in the heavens as it is in our oceans’ depths. The impenetrable darkness and unwavering cold serve as a consistent reminder that there are still places on Earth where humans struggle to boldly go. But technology has shown to overcome even the most stubborn of foes. The oceans are a window into past - after all life literally emerged from its shores, and exploring them is this generation’s manifest destiny.
The true unknown is how all of these discoveries will change those that continue to remain on solid ground.