“Perseverance will get you anywhere”
Those were the words tweeted by the rover team today following the landing. (As an aside, it’s odd that twitter is the formal way we now etch words into stone. Imagine if Neil Armstrong tweeted his famous words…) Regardless of the medium of posting, I can not express how much those words mean to me. Today, I wore my NASA science team polo while the advisor I literally viewed as a god amongst mortals only a few months ago spoke to me about how excited she would be to have me.
Now, I don’t say this to boast. I am lucky. Very lucky. I genuinely don’t think I deserve the opportunities I am getting, but someone does, so who am I to say no. I say this because I truly believe that a willingness to persevere has been my greatest skill thus far along my journey. In fact, I think it is my greatest skill in life. Some call it the beauty of the immigrant story. Others refer to it as an unfortunate side effect of the difficulties of immigrant life. I understand both sides. The struggles of cultural alienation most certainly sparked and fueled much of the mental health issues I’ve dealt with in my life. I am aware of the irony that the ability to persevere through those difficulties was certainly spawned by the same formative experiences that birthed many of the difficulties themselves. I’ve come to terms with the comedy of life, or at least the comedies of my own childhood. And more importantly, I’m thankful for the ability to persevere.
The poetic nature of a human spacecraft named Perseverance landing on another planet during a global pandemic is surely not lost on me. And surely it has not been lost of the leaders of the mission and the public at large. The turmoil on Earth continues to rage on and by no means does this rocket end any of that suffering, but the power of the symbol does not lose is luster in my eyes. In such a way, this day reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”. Throughout the broadcast, the engineers and leaders were explaining a laundry list of events that needed to occur correctly for the Rover to land safely. If they occurred, the rover would land safely. The sheer number of ifs almost seems preposterous. Without prior knowledge, you may think that the team had no chance of making this happen. But anyone even mildly aware of their planning and continued perseverance almost expected a successful landing. And thus it happened. One by one, ifs were checked off. And even if it had failed, the team would have dusted itself off and tried again.
The sheer number of ifs in life often feel unsurmountable. Or at least they often do in my eyes. Whether it be in my own personal scientific projects, the dreams I have for my career, or more importantly for the future of humanity. But these things can be achieved with a little bit of perseverance. That’s the hope I carry with me today.