In the movie, “ET”, ET’s desperate cries to “call home” is a poignant and unforgettable moment. Despite his obvious delight with his newly found Earthling friends, the need to return to his roots dominates his time on this planet.  This was not a warm and emotional contrivance of movie fiction, it is, instead, the recognition of the pull of “home” that is embedded within all of us.

The history of exploration of our planet also illustrates this need.  Even in those expeditions that failed, such as Robert Scott’s Antarctic Expedition, notes and letters were left that clearly document the pull of home. Additionally, those same historical records show the functional relevance of the returning explorer who brings reports, stories and artifacts that introduce “home folks” to the wonders of their respective expeditions. In all cases, returning explorers are hailed as heroes and regarded so forever. This process enables the link between the real voyager and those inherent exploratory yearnings that live in all of us.

In nationally troubling times, such as many nations are experiencing now any exploratory urge is stifled by anxiety and other distracting emotions. Far reaching expeditions into the unknown seem of low priority; even unwise or selfish.  The public concentration is on “home” in both personal and national contexts. Yet, it is often those very dramatic and challenging expeditions that raise the hopes of the public and help them realize that reaching out in new ways and into new frontiers also creates the promise of a better future. This latter result is achieved through the returning home of those heroic explorers with their reports, stories and artifacts.

In a fully dedicated, spacefaring nation this relationship between exploration and public enlightenment and reassurance would be commonplace.  We are not yet there and we will not be until we successfully reach out to the “home folk” with enough detailed presentations that attract their attention and enliven their urge to explore.  NASA and its international partners have successfully done this through the International Space Station project, but it needs expanded public media support to be truly effective. Regardless the vital link between the explorer and home is demonstrated and as such proves the value of this effort. Those of us who “connect”, even briefly, with the ISS crews experience an unforgettable bond.  Our exploration ethic becomes alive and well.

Lastly, it is critical for the space community to realize that the majority of citizens will never leave planet Earth. This could be regarded as a unique insularity, but actually it is not.  It is a strong emotional and biological attachment that is reassuring and protective.  Exploratory urges aside, the thought of leaving our planetary home is never seriously considered; however, the opportunity to intimately share in the expeditions of our space heroes allows us to experience their discoveries while nestled safely here at home. In this sharing we reinforce the bond between the space traveler and us that always sends the message: “please, call home.” At the same time, in our hearts and in our dreams we stand side by side with all our courageous astronauts as they trek across the cosmos.


Image of “ET” from: http://www.solasfilmfestival.com/2008/index.htm

Explore posts in the same categories: Humankind and Exploration


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waddell Robey, Waddell Robey. Waddell Robey said: HOME AND THE EXPLORATION ETHIC: http://wp.me/po5Ku-2U […]

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