You squeeze the eyedropper, and a drop of pond water drips out onto the microscope stage. You look at the projected image. The drop is full of life - strange beings swimming, crawling, tumbling; high dramas of pursuit and escape, triumph and tragedy. This is a world populated by beings far more exotic than in any science fiction movie...
If we are to send people, it must be for a very good reason - and with a realistic understanding that almost certainly we will lose lives. Astronauts and Cosmonauts have always understood this. Nevertheless, there has been and will be no shortage of volunteers.
The symbolism seemed so apt. The same technology that can propel apocalyptic weapons from continent to continent would enable the first human voyage to another planet. It was a choice of fitting mythic power: to embrace the planet named after, rather than the madness ascribed to, the god of war.
Exactly the same technology can be used for good and for evil. It is as if there were a God who said to us, I set before you two ways: You can use your technology to destroy yourselves or to carry you to the planets and the stars. It's up to you.
Arguments from authority carry little weight – authorities have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
Religious sects, established and marginal, and some newly invented for the purpose, were dissecting the theological implications of the Message. Some thought it was from God, and some from the Devil. Astonishingly, some were even unsure.
On the other hand, mere critical thinking, without creative and intuitive insights, without the search for new patterns, is sterile and doomed. To solve complex problems in changing circumstances requires the activity of both cerebral hemispheres: the path to the future lies through the corpus callosum.
Cutting off fundamental, curiosity-driven science is like eating the seed corn. We may have a little more to eat next winter but what will we plant so we and our children will have enough to get through the winters to come?