U.S. poet laureate Ada Limón has been called up for active duty in the NASA Europa Clipper space mission!
Limón wrote a poem (which you can hear her read over at this jump) that will be engraved on the spacecraft journeying to explore the moon Europa in Jupiter’s orbit, one of up to 95 moons jangling around the giant’s neck, but second in our book, per the poem “In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa”:
Arching under the night sky inky
with black expansiveness, we point
to the planets we know, we
pin quick wishes on stars. From earth,
we read the sky as if it is an unerring book
of the universe, expert and evident.
Still, there are mysteries below our sky:
the whale song, the songbird singing
its call in the bough of a wind-shaken tree.
We are creatures of constant awe,
curious at beauty, at leaf and blossom,
at grief and pleasure, sun and shadow.
And it is not darkness that unites us,
not the cold distance of space, but
the offering of water, each drop of rain,
each rivulet, each pulse, each vein.
O second moon, we, too, are made
of water, of vast and beckoning seas.
We, too, are made of wonders, of great
and ordinary loves, of small invisible worlds,
of a need to call out through the dark.
“Writing this poem was one of the greatest honors of my life, but also one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever been assigned,” Limón told NASA, putting it lightly. “Eventually, what made the poem come together was realizing that in pointing toward other planets, stars and moons, we are also recognizing the enormous gift that is our planet Earth. To point outward is also to point inward.”
Think you’ll agree it is a goodie, projected out to the heav’ns but also reflecting back to our existence here on the pale blue dot. The mission looks to ascertain whether an icy ocean beneath the crust of Europa could support life, in which case maybe we’ll get a stitch back of the original audio.
Even better, you can ensure your name and tiny carbon-based ego are onboard the spacecraft by hopping over to NASA to submit your name to the roll that will be printed and loaded onto the spacecraft. Your name (and the poem) will then travel 1.8 billion miles.
pin quick wishes on stars
Godspeed to the Europa Clipper!