Earth and Space

When The Greedy Shall Solely Inherit The World
What about you — if you are not greedy? 

An Euro-American lover-of-money — moneyphile — named Peter Thiel wants to live forever!

While his greed for money and his desire to live forever are his personal choices — what amazes me is his greed for wanting to be a philosopher as well. (Some people need everything, don’t they?) He says something like this:

I think there are probably three main modes of approach to death…You can accept it, deny it or you can fight it.

Now, Mr. Thiel is a businessman, a merchant, a capitalist. He loves money more than anything. And he is proud of it.

This makes me want to quote Ibn-Khaldun (again):

…merchant must concern himself with buying and selling, earning money and making a profit. This requires cunning, willingness to enter into disputes, cleverness, constant quarreling, and great persistence. These are things that belong to commerce. They are qualities detrimental to and destructive of virtuousness and manliness, because it is unavoidable that actions influence the soul. Good actions influence it toward goodness and virtue. Evil and deceitful actions influence it in the opposite sense…

…These influences differ according to the different types of merchants. Those who are of a very low type and associated closely with bad traders who cheat and defraud and perjure themselves, asserting and denying statements concerning transactions and prices, are much more strongly affected by these bad character qualities. Deceitfulness becomes their main characteristic. Manliness is completelyalien to them, beyond their power to acquire. At any rate, it is unavoidable that their cunning and their willingness to enter into disputes affects their manliness (adversely). The complete absence of (any adverse effect) is very rare among them.

The character qualities of merchants are inferior to those of noblemen and rulers. This is because merchants are mostly occupied with buying and selling. This necessarily requires cunning. If a merchant always practices cunning, it becomes his dominant character quality. The quality of cunning is remote from that of manliness which is the characteristic quality of rulers and noblemen. If the character of (the merchant) then adopts the bad qualities that follow from (cunning) in low-class merchants, such as quarrelsomeness, cheating, defrauding, as well as (the inclination to) commit perjury in rejecting and accepting statements concerning prices, his character can be expected to be one of the lowest sort, for well-known reasons. It is because of the character that one acquires through the practice of commerce that political leaders avoid engaging in it. There are some merchants who are not affected by those character qualities and who are able to avoid them, because they have noble souls and are magnanimous, but they are very rare in this world.

With this, I want to define Mr. Thiel as having the following characteristics:

  1. Greedy
  2. Cunning
  3. Cleverness 
  4. Quarrelsome
  5. Persistent
  6. Cheating
  7. Defrauding

(No wonder he wants to live forever!)

Greed Mr. Thiel…greed! Wish someone had taught you some virtue in your childhood

As these people have both the will and the resource to make life extension happen — once such technologies will actually happen — these people will be the ones who will live the longest or in the craziest scenario: they will be the one who will live forever. With people who are not greedy, cunning, clever, quarrelsome, etc. perishing.

It implies the world will be inherited by people with values such as the ones given above. (greed, cunningness, etc.)

So what about those who are not of those characteristics? I mean what about those of us who are not greedy, cunning, fraud, etc.?

But I have a more serious consideration:

  1. Why do I care if Mr. Thiel and the likes live forever?
  2. Why should I care?
  3. Should I care?
  4. If yes, how can I stop them? OR how can I help establish certain equity first?

Books in Brief — Edgar Allan Poe: Eureka

  • Read Duration: 2–3 days (It is short but requires attention.)


  1. ‘Now I do not quarrel with these ancients’, continues the letter-writer, ‘so much on account of the transparent frivolity of their logic — which, to be plain, was baseless, worthless, and fantastic altogether — as on account of their pompous and infatuate proscription of all other roads to Truth than the two narrow and crooked paths, the one of creeping and the other of crawling, to which, in their ignorant perversity, they have dared to confine the soul — the soul which loves nothing so well as to soar in those regions of illimitable intuition which are utterly incognisant of “path”.

My Blurb:

Poe searches for the sweetest-spot of Wisdom to look into philosophical questions and he almost does it!

Thought Experiment of an Alternative Existence

thought experiment

It’s greed, isn’t it?


The Human Paradox

But remember: It mustn’t have been easy for our ancestors to tame and manage dogs too.

The Philosophy of Cataclysm

The Philosophy of Cataclysm

Worshipping Kali is a method of non-stop realizing the fact that death is inevitable and living according to that realization (with humility and wisdom).

(Except hope you weren’t the one who ended up in rubble with your corpse looking like a smashed brown tomato with shades of grey concrete!)

Some of us have started to constantly realize the fact that catastrophe is inevitable. Philosophy of Cataclysm is real.

To make us constantly realize the fact that cataclysm is inevitable!

So the possibility of cataclysm remains and determines every breath we take, every hand we shake.

Let’s discuss more of this philosophy of cataclysm.

Will it all End? — It hardly matters!

Are we Humans civilized yet?

Arthur C. Clarke’s famous short-story The Sentinel (the seed from which 2001: A Space Odyssey sprang) is about a monolith discovered ‘high on the ridge of a great promontory…’ of Moon by an individual in a team of Lunar explorers. The object is too smooth to be natural and had been leveled to support a glittering, roughly pyramidal structure set in the rock like a gigantic many-faceted jewel.

The discoverer is not able to make sense of that object. Looking at it, he is convinced there had once been a lunar-civilization. His first guess after that is that it might be a building or shrine. After that, he wonders if it might be a temple. A closer examination makes him realize that a lot of hard work has been done by the builders to place it there. He guesses Egyptians. His pride doesn’t allow him to admit that the work might have been created by a civilization more advanced than humans!

After throwing a small pebble at the object, he knows he was looking at something that could not have been matched in the antiquity of his own race. He guesses it might be a machine, protecting itself with forces that challenged Eternity. 

Later, he realizes that the object is as alien to the moon as himself. The age of the monolith is then measured and it is revealed that the object was set there before life existed on earth. But, by whom?

Long long ago there must have been very advanced races that must have scaled and passed the heights of present-humans. But they must have been lonely in a young universe. This may have eventually prompted them to search star clusters for intelligence. But all they must have found was emptiness or mindless things. The Earth must also have been the same. The wanderers, looking at the Earth, must have guessed that a the distant future, there would be intelligence there. They must have left the monolith as a beacon that signalled the presence of other civilizations. But they placed it on the moon and not on the Earth, because-

Its builders were not concerned with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive- by crossing space and so escaping from the Earth, our cradle. That is the challenge that all intelligent races must meet, sooner or later…it depends in turn upon the conquest of atomic energy and the last choice between life and death.

Clarke wrote this story in 1948. WW2 was just over and humanity was still amazed, shocked and terrified at its new-found-tool, The Atomic Bomb.

Humans were just beginning to get out of the Earth. It was only 8 years later that humans saw the first rocket to enter the Exosphere.

Clarke simply tries to send a message – Such weapons have the capacity to exterminate humanity. A massive world exists outside of us. We are nothing yet. We have seen nothing yet. So, we better behave!

73 years have passed since this story. Humans have survived the threat. Humans have reached further, deeper and seen clearer.

But what did humans do after reaching space conveniently?

We waged a cold-war where the outer space was merely a playground of strategic purposes! The same story continues today…

A monolith hasn’t yet been discovered. Nor has there been any concrete sign of other civilizations. There has been a constant though- Threats still exist.

Therefore, a question remains relevant:

Are we humans safe from ourselves?

Let us define Civilization as the stage of a creature where it can satisfy both the conditions:

a. build great things and

b. doesn’t have a threat from itself.

Similarly, let us define Savagery as:

The stage where a creature has internal conflicts of such magnitude that it has a threat from itself (irrespective of what it builds).

With these definitions, a weird thing appears:

Animals and creature which we call ‘lower’ and ‘unintelligent’ seem to be in the same stage of civilization as us! 

Yes, they do not build rockets and computers, but they do not destroy themselves and their environment either.

So, what is stopping us?

What is responsible for our savagery? For our non-civilization?

In 1950, only the US and the USSR had nuclear weapons. Today, 9 nations possess them. While no one would be stupid enough to use them, they have become a crucial strategic tool. But that doesn’t mean, the dangers have been swept aside:

The greatest nuclear dangers reside in the increase in dangerous military practices between the United States and China, Russia and the United States, India and China, and Pakistan and India.

This goes to show that Clarke’s designation of savagery yet persists. In other words, we are still savages and are not yet civilized as we still have threats from ourselves, no matter what we have built.

The present Climate Crisis and the complications it has brought also proves the same.

Yes, for Clarke back then, the parameter of non-savagery was the ability to reach the vast expanse above. And man has reached there. But man hasn’t been able to disengage from the catastrophic threats imposed on itself, by itself. Outer Space is yet another battlefield!

As to the answer to the questions of what is stopping us; what is responsible for our savagery; for our non-civilization,

This kind of threat exists today for: International-Politics.

The same organizational-structural-system that almost ended it all!

What amazes me when I hear about the past is that we haven’t been able to find an alternative political system or be harmonious with the present one- although we have managed to peek into our cells, brains and wherenot!

Nor have we been able to be brave enough to modify this obsolete system even when we have located alternatives.

What I mean by ‘obsolete system’ is that which is at constant war with itself and has the following characteristics:

  • Centralized Power
  • Identity Politics

In simple terms- National Systems.

Isn’t it time we moved on from nations and nationalities? Or at least establish a mechanism that will not allow us to destroy us for petty things? They were created by kings and princes with swords. For themselves! There are none left now and swords are already obsoletely obsolete things for museums.

We may have left the Earth, but we are still stuck in our own heads.

This proves that humans are still immature. Perhaps Clarke should have placed the monolith at Alpha Centauri. 

From this viewpoint, it seems we humans are not civilized as long as we have the prevalent National Systems…or at least until we modify them!

A short history of Cities- Part 1

Jericho, Uruk and Ur

A city can be defined as a geographical area which is compact, immensely interconnected and is urbanized. That is, it is modernly administered, uses and consumes advanced laws, systems, technology and infrastructure.

Our current crisis of Climate Change has some thinkers and even the United Nations proposing the idea that cities are the ideal construction that can help us overcome this crisis.

This makes it a perfect occasion to look at few of the great developments in cities in human history.

Ancient city is defined as such:

a large populated urban center of commerce and administration with a system of laws and, usually, regulated means of sanitation. 

Other characteristics to look out for in an ancient city being:

  • population of the settlement
  • height of buildings
  • density of buildings/population
  • presence of some kind of sewer system
  • level of administrative government
  • presence of walls and/or fortifications
  • geographical area of the settlement
  • or whether a `settlement’ was called a `city’ in antiquity and fits at least one of the above qualifications.

Source The Ancient City – World History Encyclopedia

The process of knowing the history of cities involves scientific processes that are ongoing in nature. Archaeology is the most vital tool available for us to understand and know things of the ancient world. Especially of the time-period which has no written work to tell.  It looks to unearth materials which are interpreted and placed in the most suitable time-period of its belonging. As new things get discovered, new light is thrown into the once unknown period and area.

With all this definition in mind. Let us see how cities have evolved.

The region of Levant is very important for archaeology. It was in Jericho of this region where the oldest known protective wall, the wall of Jericho, has been found. Along with this a stone tower has also been unearthed. 

Early Jericho – World History Encyclopedia:

Archaeological evidence reveals that by 8000 BCE, the site grew to 40,000 square meters (430,000 square feet) and was surrounded by a stone wall 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) high and 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) wide at the base. Inside the wall was a stone tower 8.5 meters (28 feet) high and 9 meters (30 feet) wide at the base. The tower had an internal staircase with 22 steps

The hypothesis behind the wall is that it may have been built to protect its settlement from flood waters. The tower may have served some kind of ceremonial purpose. Some are also of the idea that the tower served the function of motivating people into the communal lifestyle as there have been suggestions that a population of some 2,000–3,000 persons were living there. But this varies as some estimate the population to be as low as 300. But nonetheless, Jericho is a concrete evidence on the movement of the human race from a hunting way of life to a one of full settlement.

Jericho has also provided evidence of agriculture. It has to be noted that, although modern cities tend to detach from agricultural pursuits, during the time leading up to Jericho, humans were still in a nomadic state. Hence, Jericho signifies not only the most distant evidence of a city but also of an organized settled living system.

Wheat and barley is thought to have been cultivated. It is highly probable that irrigation had also been invented.

Jericho’s settlement occurred in two phases. The one mentioned above was followed by a second settlement at around 7000 BCE.  It too was a Pre-Pottery Neolithic in its nature. It expanded the range of domesticated plants and animals.  Its buildings were rectilinear in structure and were made of mudbricks. Each building had several rooms and a central courtyard. Terrazzo floors made of lime decorated the rooms while the courtyards had clay flooring. Dishes and bowls were used.  This phase of  settlement lasted until about 6000 BCE.  Towards the end of 5000 BCE, another urban settlement appeared in Jericho. It was walled yet again.

While Jericho ebbed-and-flowed, a massive city flourished in Mesopotamia where one of the earliest precursors to modern human life was found. It was where writing originated, and all kinds of technological, legal and moral basis of a collective urban life initiated. The city was Uruk.

It was located in the southern region of Sumer, northwest of Ur in Southeastern Iraq. It was known in the Aramaic language as Erech.  It was the location of the famous king Gilgamesh. Uruk was enclosed by walls of about 10 km circumference. It is considered the first true city in the world and also the first big city.

Uruk was inhabited from its inception until c. 300 CE. after which it was abandoned and buried. It was excavated in 1853 CE. It used cylinder seals for attesting personal property and documents. It had monumental mud-brick buildings. Large sculptures and metal casting was done. Pictographs on clay tablets were used to record the management of goods and workers.

5000 BP (before present), Uruk had ~50,000 people. At its peak, it may have had around 80,000 inhabitants.The Ubaid Period (c. 5000-4100 BCE) saw Ubaid people first inhabit the region. This period is followed by the Uruk Period (4100-2900 BCE) during which cities started developing in various regions of Mesopotamia. Among which, Uruk became the most important.

The Uruk Period is divided into 8 phases but it was most influential between 4100-c.3000 BCE. It was during this time that

Uruk was the largest urban center and the hub of trade and administration.

The city was divided into Eanna District and Anu District.

The Eanna District was walled off from the rest of the city. Anu district had a single massive terrace, called the Anu Ziggurat which was dedicated to the Sumerian sky god Anu. In the Uruk III period, a white temple was built on top of the ziggurat. From the Uruk VI period, a Stone Temple has been discovered.

Uruk continued to be relevant through the Ur III Period (2047-1750 BCE),

With the fall of the city of Ur in 1750 BCE and the invasion of Sumer by Elamites, along with the incursions of the Amorites, Uruk went into decline along with the rest of Sumer.

c. 4000 BCE  saw the establishment of the city called Ur.

Ur was located in Sumer, southern Mesopotamia, the modern-day Iraq.

In 1922 CE, during an excavation of the ruins in that region, ‘The Great Death’ was discovered, which was a grave complex. Further studies revealed that in its heyday, Ur was a city enormous in size.

It used Cuneiform tablets which has allowed us to know that Ur was a highly centralized, wealthy and bureaucratic state during the third millenium BCE. The Royal Tombs, from about the 25th century BCE, contained,

luxury items made out of precious metals and semi-precious stones, which would have required importation.

Ur may have been the largest city in the world from 2030-1980 BCE, with a population of about 65,000.

Probably founded by farmer settlers from northern Mesopotamia, from the very beginning, it became a location of importance as a trade center as it was located at a point where the Tigris and Euphrates run into the Persian Gulf.

Archaeological excavations have substantiated that, early on, Ur possessed great wealth and the citizens enjoyed a level of comfort unknown in other Mesopotamian cities. 

The city began to grow from a small village ruled by a priest or priest-king. There were two major dynasties: of Mesanneppada, the first king who was followed by three others: Mes-kiagnuna, Elulu, and Balulu. The Second Dynasty is not recorded and the history of which is not known.

When the Semitic leader Sargon (2334-2279 BCE) conquered the entire Sumerian land with his people the Akkadians, the Akkadian Empire ruled over the  regions of Mesopotamia until it was inundated by Amorites who made their capital in a small town called Babylon. Which began the first Babylonian Empire.

The ziggurat of Ur, the temple, was built in the 21st century BCE. The ruins were uncovered in the 1930s which covered an area of 3,900 feet by 2,600 feet. It was a part of a complex that was an administrative center for the city.

End of Part 1

In this first part of our series of Short History of Cities, we talked about Jericho, Uruk and Ur. Although there have been evidence of multiple cities in the course of time in Jericho and other smaller ones around Uruk and Ur; these three stand tall on the basis of evidence gathered and the impact made.

Each should have inspired the city that followed and they collectively must have been very influential in not just the developments of cities as greatest technological achievements, but also in the development and progress of human species as a whole.


Is Kathmandu heating up?

I have spent my entire life in Kathmandu. I more or less know how the seasons work here. But, this October has been unlike any other. It has been very hot and mosquitos are still buzzing.

Yes, I do consume a lot of Climate Change information and that may have influenced my outlook towards this year. But still, it’s mid-October and I am sweating and slapping myself! Didn’t I wear a sweater this time around last year? Weren’t the mosquitos gone along with the monsoon?

I want to know whether it’s always been this way and I have been exaggerating or is there something else to it!

A quick search on Google has revealed the current temperature (the time of this writing) of Kathmandu to be 29 °C.

At 9 AM this morning it was 31 °C.

I checked on a historical dataset tool and it showed that the temperature at 9:35 AM in October 13, 2010 was 23 °C and the weather was foggy. It showed the temperature at the same date and time to be 22 °C and 20 °C and foggy in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Further, at 9:35 in the morning in the 13th of October it showed:

19 °C and foggy in 2013

19 °C and foggy in 2014

21 °C and foggy in 2015

~ 21 °C with broken clouds in 2016

25 °C with scattered clouds in 2017

20 °C with broken cloud in 2018

21 °C with scattered clouds in 2019

25 °C with broken clouds in 2020

25 °C with passing clouds in 2021

It has been more or less around the same temperature at around 9 in the morning as per this tool.


I clearly was stupid to be wearing a sweater this time last year.

I then cross-checked with this tool. It showed weather from the TIA radar. It showed:

At 9:35 in the morning in the 13th of October:

79 °F or 26.1111 °C and partly cloudy in 2010

77 °F or  25 °C and partly cloudy in 2011

73  °F or 22.7778  °C  and fair in 2012

66 °F or 18.8889 °C and cloudy in 2013

64 °F or 17.7778 °C and light rain in 2014

72 °F or 22.2222 °C and mostly cloudy in 2015

77 °F or  25 °C with mostly cloudy in 2016

79 °F or 26.1111 °C with partly cloudy in 2017

75 °F or 23.8889 °C and fair in 2018

75 ° F or 23.8889 °C and partly cloudy in 2019

79 ° F or 26.1111 °C with light rain in 2020

84 ° F or 28.8889 °C   and fair in 2021

This tool clearly shows that the temperature has been the highest in 2021 within the last 11 years.

Both tools show that 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2020 have been the warmest.

For context,

9:35 AM temperature in Kathmandu:

in 2000 was 79 ° F /  26.1111 ° C and partly cloudy

77 ° F/  25 ° C in 2002 and partly cloudy

79 ° F / 26.1111 ° C    and partly cloudy at around 8:35-10:15 AM in 2004

81 ° F / 27.2222 ° C and fair at 9:35 AM in 2005

81 ° F / 27.2222 ° C and partly cloudy in 2008 

This looks something like this:


I am unsure of the reliability of the data available. But the rise in temperature I felt subjectively seems to be justified.

We saw data of two different sources and the curve more or less looks the same.

Biodiversity and Loss

Biodiversity is a way of looking at biological varieties of any given space-time.

If I have 20 species of flowers in my garden then it means I have a biodiverse garden. On the other hand, if in the same location I have a concrete floor on which I stand alone with my cell-phone, then it means it’s not a very biodiverse situation.

Since Earth is the only known planet to have any kind of Biology let alone diversity, Biodiversity is used in Earth’s context.

Here’s a solid definition from an article in plato.stanford:

The term “biodiversity” is a contraction of “biological diversity” or “biotic diversity”. These terms all refer to the idea of living variation, from genes and traits, to species, and to ecosystems. The popular contraction “biodiversity” came about in the mid-1980s, heralded by a symposium in 1986 and an influential follow-up book, Biodiversity (Wilson 1988). These events often are interpreted as the beginning of the biodiversity story, but this mid-1980s activity actually was both a nod to important past work, and a launching of something quite new, in ways not fully anticipated.

The diversity of biology on Earth is quite amazing if we think about it.

Roughly 8.7 million species of plants and animals are thought to be existing as of now.  Now, that’s a lot of species!

What’s more, there are a lot more species to be discovered. Some are even of the opinion that we have not even properly begun sea-species exploration yet.

If we think about it, a species of any animal or plant signifies something very distinct to that particular species which is not found in any other and which makes it unnatural for it to blend with any other. 

In other words, every species has a uniqueness to it.

We humans tend to get very haughty when it comes to our self-image, respect and all that. We are all unique in our own ways and have distinct individual traits. But we’re just one specie: ONE!

There are roughly 8.7 million other species just like us with each individual component distinct from other components of the same species. Just like in us. Now that is diversity. Variation! 

To put it into a random context- there are only 1300 Android using handset manufacturing brands.  You can always argue that there are a lot more brands to be discovered yet, especially from China. But you get the picture!

Now, the problem with biodiversity is currently is that

The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970

At risk of extinction are:

  • one third of amphibians
  • one quarter of conifers
  • one quarter of mammals
  • one eighth of birds

Half a million insects are threatened with extinction too.

There’s a formal system of measuring the status of biodiversity. It is called the Living Planet Index or LPI.

It is a:

…measure of the state of the world’s biological diversity based on population trends of vertebrate species from terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats. The LPI has been adopted by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) as an indicator of progress towards its 2011-2020 target to ‘take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity’.

What they do is, they take over 14,000 of the population time-series gathered from a variety of sources such as journals, online databases and government reports. After which, a modelling framework is used to determine the trend in population time-series. Rates of change are calculated and aggregated,

…Each species trend is aggregated to produce an index for the terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems. This process uses a weighted average method which places most weight on the largest (most species-rich) groups within a biogeographic realm. This is done to counteract the uneven spatial and taxonomic distribution of data in the LPD. The three system indices are then averaged to produce the global LPI.

There is another tool released by Natural History Museum in London:

Biodiversity Intactness Index data | Natural History Museum (

It is supposed to allow everyone to track biodiversity changes from 2000 to 2050. The scenario is as follows:

If the Biodiversity Intactness Index is 90% or more, the area has enough biodiversity to be a resilient and functioning ecosystem. If the Biodiversity Intactness Index is 30% or less, the area’s biodiversity has been depleted to such an extent that it is below the most generous boundary of what is needed for a functioning ecosystem.

It takes multiple projected scenarios under consideration which are called Shared Socioeconomic Pathways.

The Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs)are five socio-economic development scenarios that include global projections of wealth, population, education, technology and reliance on fossil fuels: 

SSP1: Sustainable development

SSP2: Middle of the road development

SSP3: Regional rivalry

SSP4: Inequality

SSP5: Fossil-fuelled development

I checked Nepal’s 2020-2050 BII with SSP 1 and this is what it showed:

Nepal seems somewhat resilient and functioning in SSP1. But the curve is slightly declining. Similar is the case with other SSPs.

Leading up to the UN Biodiversity Conference COP 15, there was a warning given by Prof. Andy Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London. He said that biodiversity,

…is the foundation of our society. We’ve seen recently how disruptive it can be when supply chains break down – nature is at the base of our supply chains.

Causes of all this

HUMANS, once again Humans!

Plant and animal species around the world are currently threatened by nothing more so than by humans. Our requirements and subsequent activities such as:

  • Exploitation of natural resources
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Urbanization
  • Pollution

is responsible for this crisis.

Impact of biodiversity loss

Biodiversity is not just crucial because variations should exist for ethical, aesthetic reasons. Although those reasons are sufficient enough.

Depletion in biodiversity has a huge adverse impact in the overall ecosystem. Life on Earth is balanced by the interdependence of species on each other. Loss of any species can lead to negative effects on the whole system.

It is a very delicate balance. Predatory creatures losing their prey will also be in danger of extinction as they won’t be able to feed on any other.

All this can lead to serious collapse of the Earth’s ecosystem.

Along with this, there are obvious disadvantages to the human species.  One is that diseases will spread. Nature has balanced everything in such a way that even her housekeeping is done by her organisms. A slight deviation in this can result in serious catastrophe to humankind.

Humans will also see dramatic change in their agriculture if this balance is disturbed, resulting in social and economic disadvantages.

Towards Solution

There have been international initiatives to solve this crisis. These are the prominent ones:

World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Fauna & Flora International (FFI), United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP),  Conservation International, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), International Crane Foundation (ICF),  Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Oceana.

But these international entities cannot function without cooperation from National and Public entities.

As was the case with Climate Change:

Climate Change and Nepal – Adesh Acharya (Fr. Adesh) (

Biodiversity preservation also depends on two sets of actors:

  • National
  • Public

At the National Level, the governments have to cooperate with Scientific and International agenda. Protection of species, habitats, anti-deforestation, overhunting and pollution, etc. has to be strictly followed.

At the public level, it’s all about making people aware of the crisis at hand and making biodiversity loss a normal subject of conversation among people such that people can understand what has to be done from their side. Almost everyone is responsible for over consumption, pollution, exploitation of resources, etc. so everyone has to wake up.

Awareness programs have to be greatly initiated. Public actors have to be active for this. General people are ignorant of these things. They have to be explained as to what is really going on.

What if we don’t do anything?

I have written a ‘poetic’ piece on this:

My belief is that human beings will survive no matter what. Unless some cosmic catastrophe strikes. My sincere belief is that certain privileged human beings will survive no matter what. Man wants to survive. As Nietzsche said, human beings will do whatever it takes for the survival of its species.

Humans will move on from biodiversity loss as well. Perhaps towards techno-diversity. But, humans will survive.

The question is How? and with Whom? Alone or with other creatures?

How should humans survive?

This question is still out in the open for all of us to answer.

Climate Change and Nepal
What is the situation?

For the period of 1999-2018, Nepal was among the top 10 most vulnerable nations from Climate Change according to the Climate Risk Index (CRI).  

2019 saw Nepal’s CRI score rise more although the rank dropped:

CRI Rank  Country  CRI score Fatalities in 2019 (Rank)  Fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants (Rank)  Losses in million US$ (PPP) (Rank)  Losses per unit GDP in % (Rank
12 Nepal 20.00 10 7 42 27

The CRI score

…identifies the extent to which countries have been affected by extreme weather events. These can be meteorological events such as tropical storms or tornados, hydrological events such as storm surges or flash floods, or climatological events such as wildfires or droughts..

Today, climate change is having a serious impact on the Earth. The actions we take today will determine our fate as a species on this planet.

Although climate change on Earth is a natural phenomenon, human induced Carbon emissions have been responsible for heating of the Earth’s atmosphere to a critical point. The scientific community world-wide seems to have now agreed upon this fact. 

It was the Swedish Scientist Svante Arrhenius who gave the first warning on Climate and its impact in 1896. He talked about Greenhouse Gases creating problems for the atmosphere and Carbon Dioxide warming the surface temperature of Earth.

Earlier, in the 1820s Joseph Fourier had developed a theory that said –

the amount of energy entering Earth through Sun’s radiation should be equal to the amount of energy exiting the Earth.

John Tyndall in the 1860s had demonstrated that coal gases (containing CO2, methane and volatile hydrocarbons) absorb energy. He showed how CO2 absorbs multiple wavelengths of sunlight like a sponge.

After this, research on the relationship between Greenhouse Gases and Climate increased and also did the process of measuring Earth’s surface temperature. Mechanisms to monitor climate change through human activities began developing. 

British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar noted that the United States and North Atlantic region had warmed significantly on the heels of the Industrial Revolution.

Callendar’s calculations suggested that a doubling of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere could warm Earth by 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). He would continue to argue into the 1960s that a greenhouse-effect warming of the planet was underway.

It was the American scientist Charles Keeling who developed a mechanism to measure the atmospheric concentration of CO2. It became known as the Keeling Curve. It is a graph that shows the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.  

In 1963, the first conference on Climate Change was held and the subsequent developments showed that:

  • Humans have added a great amount of  CO2 to the Earth’s atmosphere. Along with it, other  Greenhouse gases have also been added: 
    • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
    • Methane (CH4)
    • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
    • Industrial gases:
      • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
      • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
      • Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)
      • Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)
    •  Water vapor (H2O)
    • Ozone (O3)
    • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)

It was then noticed that these gases were heating the Earth. These gases were stopping the Solar radiations that were supposed to reflect back into Space.  It was named the greenhouse effect and was confirmed that the absorbed heat was what was increasing the temperature.

Here are a few facts:

  • The increasing temperature impacts all activities on Earth that are dependent on Heat. And that is everything!
  • Humans have been adding around 3o billion metric tons of CO2 annually.
  • In the last 150 odd years, the Temperature of the Earth has been increasing by 0.6 degree celsius. But it is estimated to increase  by 0.4-2.6 between 2046-2065 and by 0.3-4.8 between 2081-2100
  • There is a concept called Tipping point which is a point beyond which Earth’s system will get damaged beyond repair. It is 2 degrees.
  • If nothing is done, the temperature is expected to increase by 5 degree by 2100
  • Evidences of Climate Change:
    • Measured Surface Temperature
    • Melting Ice
    • Inconsistent season patterns
    • Appearance of Plants and Animals in environments previously not favorable to them
  • The Impacts of Climate Change:
    • Sea Level Rise and its impact
    • Flood, Landslides and their impact
    • Biodiversity loss and its impact
    • Glacial melts and its impact
  • In 2000, 1,50,000 people lost their lives due to the impact of Climate Change
  • In 2009, this number raised to 3,00,000
  • The people residing near coastal areas and mountainous regions are the most vulnerable.  

Although adequate warning has been given and nations have started to take precautionary actions, poorer countries such as Nepal have a long way to go. The 2020 CRI index showed Nepal to be the 12th most vulnerable nation from Climate Change. Due to the presence of Himalayas and dependency on Summer Monsoon; Nepal, which is an agriculture dependent nation can have catastrophic consequences if proper actions are not taken immediately. 

Glacial Lake Outburst Flood and other natural disasters such as Flood, Landslide, Soil-Erosion have already increased by a considerable margin. The problem though is that enough research has not been done and that which has been done has not been contextualized and distributed among the public and the responsible agencies.  

Internationally there have been ‘landmark’ initiatives in regards to Climate Change.

In 1989 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established under the United Nations whose task was to provide scientific basis of Climate Change and impact Political, Economic decisions.

In 1992 The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat “dangerous human interference with the climate system“, in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere

The Kyoto Protocol was initiated in 1997 with an agreement to decrease the release of Greenhouse gases. 

The Paris Climate Agreement 2015 saw 197 nations reach an agreement to monitor and report their Greenhouse Gases emissions. 

There are majorly two ways to begin solving the Climate Crisis:

  1. Monitor the Change
  2. Understand the Cause-Effect

Stewart Brand of The Whole Earth Catalog talks about three types of strategies:

  • Mitigation – Decrease the greenhouse gases. Avoiding the unmanagable. 
  • Adaptation – Migration, Sustainable Agriculture. Manage the unavoidable. 
  • Amelioration – Adjusting the nature of planet through large scale Geo-Engineering solutions.

Nepal has been actively participating in International Initiatives:

In 1994 Nepal became the supporting partner in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It also adhered to the NAPA plan which is a

…type of plan submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by Least Developed Countries, to describe the country’s perception of its most “urgent and immediate needs to adapt to climate change

Nepal has also initiated Clean Development Mechanism. It has also agreed towards promoting Alternative Energy carbon neutralization. In 2011, the Local Adaptation Plans of Action – LAPA) was prepared. Nepal is also a part of the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement and Sendai Framework.

Nepal’s Issue and Crisis

Precipitation, Increasing Water stress.  Droughts, storms, floods, inundation, landslides, debris flow, soil erosion and avalanches- are the apparent issues Nepal has to deal with. 

Climate Migration resulting from the above will occur and the lack of capable/credible power-structure will only bring more crises thereon.  

Nepal’s major crisis will stem from the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood. It occurs when water dammed by a glacier is flooded which results in flash floods of water and other debris destroying the infrastructures of lower regions. This impacts agriculture, settlements, industries and tourism.   

Prakash Mani Sharma writes in Climate Change and its Impact in Nepal:

In Nepal’s Himalaya, total estimated ice reserves between 1977 and 2010 decreased by 29% (129 km3). The number of glacier lakes increased by 11% and glaciers receded on an average by 38 km2 per year during the same period. The substantial impacts on snows and glaciers that are likely to increase the possibilities of Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs).

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued a report in 2007 that claimed Himalayan glaciers could completely melt away by 2035. • The other scientists believe that by the time global temperatures increase by just 2 degrees Celsius, more than half of the Himalayan glaciers will have vanished  

even under the present climate at least 44 glacial lakes have been identified with serious potential of GLOFs.

Of these, 20 glacial lakes are identified as potentially dangerous for GLOF events. Among the potentially dangerous lakes, only few mitigation measures are taken.

Several GLOF events have occurred over the past few decades incurring extensive damage to roads, bridges, trekking trials, villages as well as incurring loss of human life and other property and infrastructure. At least 12 GLOF events have been reported to date. These have caused extensive damage and with continued regional warming GLOFs are likely become more common.

Monsoon is another area that will get disturbed due to Climate Change. Since Nepal is heavily dependent on the Summer Monsoon, there is a huge risk for agriculture and other industries.

There is an even bigger risk for areas directly heavily dependent on Summer Monsoon.   

Snow, glacier melt precipitation will also bring risk to agriculture and industries. Furthermore, it will increase the chances of floods, landslides and soil erosion.  With this too, there is a huge risk for areas heavily dependent on Summer Monsoon.   

Here are some facts related to Nepal and Climate Change:

  • Out of the 75 districts, 29 districts are highly vulnerable to landslides, 22 districts to drought, 12 districts to GLOFs, and 9 districts to flooding.
  • 95% Greenhouse gases generated from Nepal are from agriculture and forests. 77 % of this is from forests. 
  • By 2030 the surface temperature can reach up to 2 degree Celsius. 
  • By 2060 the surface temperature can reach up to 3.8 degree Celsius. 
  • By 2090 the surface temperature can reach up to 5.8 degree Celsius. 
  • 70 % of the people in Nepal are dependent on agriculture. 
  • There are 6000 rivers in Nepal with an annual mean runoff – 224 billion cubic meter
  • Per capita water availability – 9000 cubic meters 
  • ~96% water is used in agriculture but only 24 % is used in agriculture
  • Nepal is dependent on Monsoon. Now there is a risk of greater rainfall. 
  • Monsoon will get even more unpredictable
  • All this can result in food crisis
  • Weakened Agriculture sector will be impacted more by Climate Change. There is a risk of Food Insecurity and Food deficiency 
  • There hasn’t been much research on Climate Change in Nepal. Because:
    • GCM model is difficult to implement
    • Lack of Climate Change Records
    • Natural Variations in Water Resources
    • Poor resource Management
  • Impacts which can help understand Climate Change scenario in Nepal:
    • Glacier Melt
    • Changes in Precipitation Pattern
    • Increasing Water Stress

Towards Solution

We earlier mentioned Stewart Brand and his three strategies. In Nepal’s case, Amelioration seems implausible which leaves us with Mitigation and Adaptation. 

  • Mitigation – Avoiding the unmanagable. 
  • Adaptation – Managing the unavoidable. 

The challenges of Nepal can be summarized as follows:

  • Too much dependency on Agriculture makes Nepal very vulnerable.
  • The same dependency results in difficulty in implementing strong policies. 
  • Poor Governance.
  • Poor Infrastructure.
  • Geographical constraints.
  • Lack of dependable financial sector.
  • Lack of Research

With this, there are basically two approaches towards solving the climate crisis in Nepal:

  1. From the National Level
  2. From the Local to Individual Level

From the National level, the best that has been done so far is the theoretical राष्ट्रिय जलवायू परिवर्तन निति

It’s goal is to contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of Nepal by developing a sustainable system. It aims to assist people, families, groups and communities, vulnerable from Climate Change. Not only that but it also wants to develop a sustainable system, promote green-economy and mobilize grants from various sources towards reducing climate change catastrophe.  

The policy has identified the following areas:

  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Forest, Biodiversity and Watershed preservation
  • Water Resource and Energy
  • Rural and Urban Settlements
  • Industry, Transportation and Physical Infrastructure
  • Tourism and Natural/Cultural Heritages
  • Public Awareness and Capacity Building
  • Research and Technical development
  • Climate Change Finance Management

But since these policies are paperworks that will merely feed their makers and the makers’ masters, these are the minimum actions that have to taken from National Level to avoid catastrophe in Nepal:

  • Focus on Water Management: Sustainable agricultural techniques have to be developed that are less water intensive and refocused efforts have to be put on the rehabilitation of water infrastructure. 
  • Focus on Infrastructure development and crisis mitigation: Roads, Electricity and such infrastructures are going to suffer. Appropriate preparations have to start NOW.
  • Support Local and Independent Actors: If you can’t and don’t want to do it yourself, at least don’t make it difficult for others. 

From the local to individual level:

Awareness programs have to be greatly initiated. Usage of less water, diverse agriculture, micro irrigation, small scale storage, etc. have to be taught and adapted. Public actors have to be active for this.

A short history of Space Exploration
Let's see how it all started!

history of space exploration

I believe that the sky is greatly responsible for the birth of philosophy, religion and science – if not the most.  

The Sun and the clouds no doubt had immense practical implications so the ancients could not help but try to understand and interpret it in a utilitarian sense, but the dark night sky with specks of white lights must have triggered an even greater curiosity in man.

Hidden by the grandeur of the Sun, the sky at day time looks limited and practical, but at night the same sky looks monstrous and vague. Immense and vast. Beautiful and Impractical. Abstract. It must have been crucial to raising that elusive question for the first time:

Where are we?

Astronomy is the name given to the study of that vast expanse of space above our heads. It is one of the oldest sciences. Every advanced society we know of has had interest and works done on it. Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indus-Valley, MesoAmerican, Chinese, Greek- all these civilizations have some kind of interpretation on the sky above and our positions relative to it. They all have questioned Space.

Space in the simplest of terms is the region beyond earth.

Exploration has a deep meaning:

an act or instance of exploring or investigating; examination.

It is not just limited to physically being available at the site of exploration. In that regard, every form of investigation or inquiry is an exploration. But what we will be concerned with here is only the physical exploration of the sky and space above us. That is the immediate developments leading to and activities in space. Let us begin.

As mentioned above, space is the region beyond the Earth. This immediately begs a question- Where does it begin?

For this, a system called Karman Line is used. Named after engineer and physicist Theodore Von Karman, this hypothetical line lies 100 kms above earth’s mean sea level.

Another approach taken towards determining the boundary is: The U.S. Armed Forces definition of an astronaut is a person who has flown higher than 50 miles (80 km) above mean sea level, approximately the line between the mesosphere and the thermosphere.

The first spacecraft to cross the Karman Line was the German A-4/V-2 rocket MW 18014 launched in June 1944. It was the first manmade object to cross the line and attained the apogee of 176 kms. It was a test launch as a follow up to multiple A-4 rockets which had managed to reach an altitude of 90 kms. But those rockets weren’t convincing enough. The MW 18014 was in fact a series of launches designed to monitor the rockets’ behavior in vacuum. This paved a way for post-war rockets and eventual satellites. But this was by no means the beginning of rockets. But it had the same use rockets’ conception had: Military.    

The transportation technology for space travels is called rockets. 

It was a British mathematician William Moore in 1813, who contributed significantly towards thrusting ourselves upwards seriously. He developed rocket theory and developed a rocket equation. Where he

...described the relevant dynamics for constant thrust and constant propellant consumption rate acting on a rocket with the varying mass. Moore however did not relate thrust and the exhaust velocity and, therefore, did not relate the rocket velocity increment and the exhaust velocity of the propellant flow. 

British inventor Henry Trengrouse then developed a rocket apparatus in 1818. It’s purpose was to project a lifeline from a wrecked ship to the shore. It was supposed to save lives for a change and not the other way around.   

The next few decades saw many developments and improvements on military rocketing. But it was a Russian-Soviet self-taught genius Konstantin Tsiolkovsky born in 1857 who was to focus and work on the space beyond in such a way that it changed rocketry and the possibilities of space exploration forever.  

Dedicated to scientific agendas from an early age, he had already begun to fantasize space travels.  Based on his vision of solar-system, galaxy colonization and a human controlled Universe, he studied motion of rocket apparatus, rocket propulsion and eventually derived the now famous Tsiolkovsky equation. The equation described motions of rocket-vehicles as:

a device that can apply acceleration to itself using thrust by expelling part of its mass with high velocity can thereby move due to the conservation of momentum 

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

His main technical contributions were in liquid fuels and staging. He also discussed space-suits. 

Along with him, Robert Esnault-Pelterie, Robert Goddard, Herman Oberth, others independently derived the equation too. All this paved way for seriously leaving the earth. Pelterie presented papers calculating energy required to reach moon and other planets.   Goddard built the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket. Oberth wrote, discovered and worked in many aspects of space travels.  

Rocket Scientist such as Wernher Von Braun, who was immensely influencial to the developments of rockets in both Nazi Germany (V2) and later in the US space program; and engineers/designers such Valetin Glushko and Sergey Korolev were influenced by Tsiolkovsky and the latter two may have even worked to realize his vision. 

In May of 1924 the Society for Studies of Interplanetary Travelwas founded in Moscow by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Friedrich Zander and 200 other space and rocket experts to discuss space travels majorly. 

1927 saw the amateur space organization Society for Space Travel established in Germany which helped push things there.

Around the same time Ukrainian/Soviet visionary Yuri Kondratyuk  circulated his book The Conquest of Interplanetary Spaces where he discussed many ideas on space travels among which he talked of lunar orbits and the concept of gravitational slingshots which were to be influential later.

Another key figure around this time was a Solvene engineer named Herman Potočnik. He published a book The Problems of Space Travels in 1928 where he discussed human settlements in space, space stations, use of space for communication, etc. He also expressed skepticism on the potential military use of space.

With all these technical, scientific and philosophical ideas, rockets started to blast off in 1928 with the Lippisch Ente (German for Lippisch duck). The struggling aircraft flew 4900 feet in its second attempt in its first flight and met with an accident in its second flight. This was a part of the Opel company’s program. 

Opel RAK.1, world’s first public flight of a rocket-powered aircraft.

The Opel-RAK program in Germany saw a series of rocket aircrafts. It helped advance rocket and aviation greatly.

EA-41 developed during 1931-1942 saw the development of the first French liquid fuelled rockets. It was a part of the French Space Program, the third national program after the USSR and US. There were multiple launches in 1941-42 with the fifth one reaching 60 kms.

Multiple experiments with JETO (Jet assisted Take Off)/RATO (Rocket Assisted Take Off) were conducted in the US in 1941. 

This takes us to the V2 rockets mentioned earlier. 

After the Second World-War,  the V2 systems came into the hands of the US and thus began the proper take-off of exploratory programs. In 1946 the first research flight took place from the US with V2 for cosmic radiation experiments. The same year also saw the flight of the Nike Missile. 

A landmark achievement saw V2 No. 13 take the first photograph of Earth from the Space. It was taken from 105 kms. The project was launched on 24th October 1946. 

First Photograph of Earth from Space

In 1949 the RTV-G-4 Bumper (Bumper-5), a combination of V2 and the American WAC Corporal sounding rocket attained the altitude of 392.68 kilometers. 

1949 also saw the publication of the influential book The Conquest of Space by William Ley. The book talked about the prospects of Solar System exploration. 

Wernher von Braun published The Mars Project in 1952 which highlighted the technical specification on the human expedition to Mars. It has often been deemed an influential and important book.  He talked about a scientific expedition of 10 spacecrafts, 70 crew members spending 443 days on the surface of Mars.  He also talked about nitric acid/hydrazine propellant and  reusable heavy-lift launch vehicles

In 1956 the American Jupiter-C program saw the first rocket to enter the Exosphere. It went to a height of 1097.57 kms and achieved Mach 18 velocity. von Braun was influential in the development of these vehicles. 

Jupiter C

The same year saw the first launch of PGM-17 Thor, a US ballistic missile which paved the way for Delta space launch rockets. 

21 August 1957 saw the launch of the first ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) through(8K71) or SS-6 Sapwood. These missiles have a minimum range of 5500 kms.

Thus the Cold War Space Race gathered serious momentum. While it had political motivations, it helped develop technologies and mechanisms that changed space travel and explorations forever. 

1957 saw the launch of USSR’s Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite which also sent the first signals from space. It orbited for three weeks.  The same year in the month of November the first mammal -Laika the dog was sent to the orbit in Sputnik-2. A decade earlier fruit flies were sent as the first organisms in space in V2 by the US. 

1958 saw the US send its first artificial satellite in Explorer 1 mission. It confirmed the existence of Van Allen Radiation Belt which is a zone of charged particles held by Earth’s magnetosphere. The same year the US also launched its first ISBM in Atlas B. 

In 1959, the Luna 1 spacecraft reached the vicinity of the Moon as it missed its surface by only about 6000 kms. Luna 1 also became the first spacecraft to detect solar wind and reach Earth’s escape velocity. The same year American Satellite Explorer 6 took the first photograph of Earth from Orbit.

Explorer 6’s photograph

The same year also saw Luna 2 become the first human spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon. It has impacted the Moon at the speed of 3.3 kms per second. Next month Luna 3 brought the first photograph of the far side of the moon. 

Luna 3’s Image of Moon

The 1960s saw the most revolutionary decade in human Space-Exploration. First, the US mission Pioneer 5 launched a space probe to investigate the regions between the orbits of Earth and Venus. It confirmed the existence of interplanetary magnetic fields. In August, the Korabl-Sputnik 2 mission saw the USSR send two dogs, two rats, forty mice and plants to orbit and bring them back. 

Strelka. Made it into Space way before the billionaires!

October saw the failed attempt at first shot at Mars through USSR’s Mars 1M.  

1961 began with US sending the astrochimp, Ham in MR (Mercury Redstone) 2. A dozen days later USSRs Venera 1 achieved the first spin-stabilization of a space vehicle. Then a landmark moment in 12th April saw USSRs Vostok 1 send Yuri Gagarin to space in what was to become the first instance of a human orbiting the Earth. US followed with the first human-piloted space flight Freedom 7 with Alan Shepard becoming the 2nd man to reach space. The spacecraft was launched on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight. A couple of weeks later USSRs Venera 1 reached within 100,000 kms of Venus. 

In 1962 USA with its OSA (Orbiting Solar Observatory)-1 initiated the first orbital solar observatory. The same year the US launched Mercury MA-6 (Friendship 7) where John Glenn put US in orbit. In August, Norway with Ferdinand 1 launched the first auroral research rocket into the ionosphere. USSRs Mars 1 reached 11,000 kms to Mars and in December, USs Mariner 2 reached 34,773 kms to Venus. 

In 1963, USSR launched Vostok 6 where Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman and first civilian to orbit earth. US X-15 Flight 90, the first reusable manned spacecraft (suborbital) reached space which pioneered reusability and carried out launch and glide landings.

In March of 1964, Alexei Leonov performed the first space walk. 

Ranger 8 in 1965 yielded over 7,000 photos of the lunar surface. The Soviet probe Venera 3 became the 1st artificial probe to impact on the surface of another planet, Venus. USSR Proton rocket, a highly successful launch vehicle was launched with notable payloads, Salyut 6 & Salyut 7, Mir & ISS components. US Mariner 4 took the first close-up photograph of Mars in July. 

Source – NASA

In 1966, the USSR Luna 9 made the first soft landing on the Moon. Later the USSR launched Soyuz spacecrafts. Vanera 3 in March made the first impact on Venus. In August, Lunar Orbita 1 became the first mission to map the moon. 

1967 saw Surveyor 3, scoop and test lunar soil. Mariner 5’s mission to Venus saw it reach solar orbit and achieved the closest Venus flyby which paved the way for obtaining readings of Venus atmosphere.

In 1968 the Apollo 8 became the first space mission to enter the gravitational influence of another celestial body (Moon). 

1969 saw Mariner 6 reach within ~ 3200 of Mars where it collected photos and other data. American mission Apollo 11, sent the first men on the Moon. It also brought the first sample from the moon. In August, Mariner 7 took the first photograph of Phobos, the moon of Mars. 

In 1970 Venera 7, the Soviet probe became the first to land safely on the surface of Venus. Earlier the American satellite Uhuru became the first X-ray orbital observatory

In 1971, the Soviet Salyut 1, the first Space Station was established. Mariner 9 in November became the first spacecraft to orbit Mars.  Later, Soviets with Mars 2 and 3 had the first impact on Mars and the first soft landing there with photographs of its surface, respectively. 

Pioneer 10 in 1972 passed Jupiter and it took readings on Jupiter’s composition finding that the planet is composed mostly of hydrogen. It also became the first craft to escape in a trajectory away from the Sun and also the first mission to escape the inner Solar System into the asteroid belt. American SAS 2 also became the first orbital gamma ray observatory. 

In 1973, Pioneer 11 passed Jupiter and then Saturn in 1979. It discovered an additional ring around Saturn and also 2 moons. The same year the Mariner 10 mission to Venus and Mercury began. It passed Venus in 1974 and arrived at Mercury in 1974. It also took readings of clouds and wind patterns of Venus’ atmosphere.

Viking 1 took off for Mars in 1975 and landed there in 1976. It was the first probe to land safely on Mars. There it performed chemical analysis of soil.

Panoramic photo of Mars from Viking 1 lander.

Viking 2, the sister probe of Viking 1 took off in 1975 and landed on Mars 1976. The year 1975 also saw the establishment of ESA, the European Space Agency. Soviet Venera 9 became the first to orbit Venus and took photographs of its surface. 

 1976 saw Helios 2, the joint venture between US (NASA) and West Germany’s DFVLR fly closest to the Sun at 43.432 million kilometers. It also recorded the highest speed by any aircraft at 252,792 km/h. Later, Viking Lander took photos and soil samples from the surface of Mars. 

The legendary Voyager 2 in 1977 left for Jupiter, Saturn,Uranus and Neptune. It eventually encountered Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus 1986 and Neptune in 1989. It provided evidence of  rings around Neptune and its great dark spot. It entered into the boundary area of the solar system in 2007.

Voyager 1 left for Jupiter and Saturn 16 days after Voyager 2. It had encountered Jupiter 1979, providing evidence of rings around it and passed Saturn in 1980. 

The Voyagers contain sounds and images portraying the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form who may find them. 

Towards the end of the decade the Pioneer Venus 1 in 1978 entered Venus’ orbit, studied its atmosphere, magnetic field, weather, and surface. Pioneer Venus 2 was a multiprobe which entered the Venus atmosphere, took its readings and impacted on its surface.

In 1981, US space shuttle STS 1 pioneered reusability and glide landings. 

The next year, Vanera 13 took sound recordings of Venus. 

This Is What The Surface Of Venus Sounds Like! Venera 14 Sound Recording 1982 (4K UHD) – YouTube

In 1983, IRAS became the first Infrared orbital observatory.

In 1986 USSRs Mir was the first constantly inhabited space station. The same year ESAs Giotto made a close observation of Halley’s Comet at a mere 596 kms. 

Giotto: Halley’s Comet Flyby Animation (1986.03.14) [720p] – YouTube

In 1989, ESAs Hipparcos became the first astrometric satellite in that its work was to precisely measure positions of celestial bodies in the sky. Magellan left for Venus the same year and landed in 1990. It then mapped over 99% of its surface. Observed volcanoes. Galileo used Earth’s gravity to propel itself toward Jupiter. The COBE launched in November was the orbital cosmic microwave observatory. 

1990 saw Voyager send the first Solar System image and the launch of the legendary Hubble Space Telescope as a joint venture of NASA (USA) and ESA. 

In 1991 USA Galileo experienced 951 Gaspra, which was the closest flyby to an asteroid at 1600 kms. 

In 1992 Ulysses, a joint venture of NASA and ESA began a journey to orbit around the Sun. It made scans of the Sun in 1995, 2005 and 2008. 

Mars Global Surveyor in 1996 began orbiting Mars. It began mapping its entire surface in 1999. Discovering a weak magnetic field on the planet and finding evidence of liquid water of sometime in the past. Mars Pathfinder took off and landed on Mars in 1997, it sent surface images. 

Cassini-Huygens headed for Saturn in 1997 and began orbiting in 2004. It was a mission to study the planet’s atmosphere, rings, and moons. It managed to spot a subterranean ocean and other astounding discoveries. Mars Pathfinder headed to Mars. 

In 1998, the first multinational space station ISS, was established as a joint venture of- Russia (FKA) USA (NASA)  Europe (ESA)  Japan (JAXA) and Canada (CSA). Russia launched the Zarya module as the first part of the ISS.  Lunar Prospector began orbiting and mapped 11 elements on its surface. It also  discovered evidence of water ice at both lunar poles. Deep Space 1 saw the comet Borrelly fly by within 2414 kms.  It used an ion thruster for propulsion. 

Deep Space 1 Encounters a Comet – Video File – Borrelly (AVC-2001-131) – YouTube

Stardust in 1999 headed for the comet Wild-2. It reached there in 2004 and gathered its dust samples. 

Taken by Stardust in 2004

The 21st Century began with NEAR Shoesmaker orbiting the asteroid 433 Eros first in 2000 then in 2001. 

2001 Mars Odyssey reached Mars and detected evidence of water ice near its South Pole. It also aimed to identify minerals on Mars.  Genesis in 2001 orbited The Sun and collected particles from solar wind. 

Mars Express/ Beagle 2 arrived at Mars in 2003 and performed remote sensing. 

Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004. There they found further evidence that water existed on its surface. 

2004 also saw Cassini-Huygens orbit Saturn. The following year it had the first soft landing on Titan

and then in the outer Solar System. MESSENGER in 2004 left for Mercury and flew by in 2008. It managed to provide images of 20% of Mercury’s surface. 

Deep Impact in 2005 headed for the Comet Tempel 1. It did reach and deployed an impact probe which slammed into the comet. Japan’s Hayabusa managed the first asteroid ascent on 25143 Itokawa.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in 2005 reached there in 2006. It took detailed images of the Martian surface. Later it discovered salt deposits. 

In 2006 India’s Chandrayaan -1 from ISRO discovered lunar water in ice-form. 

2009 saw the launch of the much anticipated Kepler telescope. It’s function being to search for Earth-like exoplanets. 

Hayabusa brought sample returns in 2010. 

MESSENGER had its orbit of Mercury in 2011. The same year the Dawn probe managed to orbit Vesta. It later went on to orbit the dwarf planet (Ceres).

In 2012 Voyager 1 reached Interstellar Space. 

2014 saw ESA Rosetta soft-land on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

New Horizons flew by Pluto in 2015. 

In 2017 Hawaii Haleakalā Observatory detected Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object. 

This very deep combined image shows the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua at the centre of the picture.

Hayabusa 2 in 2018 sent a rover on the asteroid Ryugu 162173.

2019 saw New Horizon exploring contact binary 486958 Arrokoth, the trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper Belt. It also saw Chang’e 4 land on the far side of the moon. Event Horizon, the telescopic network provided the first direct photograph of Black Hole Sagittarius A*. 

In 2021, Ingenuity had aerodynamic flight on Mars. 

There are numerous missions today headed for the future. We can talk about it sometime later. 

The story of human success in space exploration is the story of the success of human will.

How do we measure how much of an influence the gaze, awe and curiosity of ancient wonderers have had on the present successful human venture into the vast unknown?

I also wonder what those ancient musers would be more surprised by:

  • The fact that their progenies have managed to physically reach to that vast, dark unknown above OR
  • How that vast, dark unknown turned out to be?