Today is “Kansas Day“, commemorating Kansas’ official admission into the Union and the beginning of statehood on this day in 1861. You might wonder why on earth the Astronomy Department is talking about Kansas state history, but there is a connection: the state motto. The Kansas State Motto is “Ad astra per aspera.” The translation of which is “To the stars through difficulties.” Of course at the time of adoption, there was no space program. Abraham Lincoln dropped the ball on that one. Kansas was, however, on the cusp of the western frontier, and many of the risks of spaceflight are inherently the same as the pioneers endured. They were on their own. When problems arose, and they did, they had to work a solution themselves.
Today, we do have a space program, and it is still difficult. That’s one of the reasons we go, though. The difficulty spurs our creativity and innovation, and through that difficulty we find ourselves and our society enhanced. So we strive to explore the space, our new frontier, and search for our place among the stars knowing that we will face many difficulties in doing so, but through those difficulties, we will grow and be enriched. Happy birthday, Kansas! Ad astra per aspera!