Today is the atumnal equinox. Say it–ah TUM nal...  kinda rolls off the tongue.

…when the Sun is exactly above the Equator, this year cacluated to be at 8:04 pm, EDT,  and day and night are of equal length. Today the sun begins the journey south to mark the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Exactly above the equator…imagine being in space and seeing that! ‘Course, there is not really a line and I can’t even come up with where you would have to be in space…but still, pretty cool thought.

Way back in the last century, I took an astronomy class for my college science credits.  Mrs. Larson was the professor, she and her husband square danced with my parents.  I loved astronomy.  To this day I remember the parts about the eighteen nodes of the moon, the orbit of the sun, the impact of the moon on the tides, waning and waxing moons, identifying the constellations, which I am still lousy at and the solar system.

Space, the final frontier!  <can’t you just hear the music swell?> Ah, James T. Kirk and his hallmark opening to Star Trek.

I am a huge science fiction reader. Huge! From Martians Go Home in the second grade–shocking sweet Mother Patricia no end–to John Carter traveling to Mars by thought to the warp drives of Star Trek and the folding of space with spice in Dune, I’ve been to lots of places. And, like most I would love to meet an alien–ya know, the kind from outside our atmosphere!

Back in 2000 I found a book by authors Ward and Brownlee. In RARE EARTH the authors postulate that we are the amazing beneficiaries of confluence of events that make the Earth habitable by high brain functioning beings. That in orders of magnatiude really won’t happen elsewhere. That we really are alone.

Kinda sad, sort of. But in no way daunting. After all,  writing fiction is about what could be imagined, not always what is possible or probable. And, here we are on this ONE, this ONLY planet capable of fostering and maintaining higher forms of life over thousands of years. Wow.

Which is one of the reasons why, for the most part, Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite SCIFi writers.  I can’t think of a book of his that is about actual extraterrestrial beings, and not humans who have risked traveling in the vacuum of space to find and terraform or colonize another planet.

At the very end of ROBOTS OF DAWN, the final in the CAVES OF STEEL trilogy,  Asimov’s  main character, Elijah Baley,  has a conversation with the mind reading robot, Giskard.  As part of the series, the Spacers, who have longer lives than those humans who still stay on Earth, want to use robots to go out and colonize more of space.  But Giskard states robots colonizing will not help the human race but that it should be humans who do the work. He adds that the Earthmen have walls that are ‘crude and literal’ but escapable.  While the Spacers have walls that are immaterial and unseen, making them inescapable. It is here that Giskard mentions the Galatic Empire, presumably of Foundation series, recognizing the inherent qualities of doggedness, steadfastness and determination of the Earthmen  that will prove to be necessary to colonizing space in a huge way.

Reading the robot series again after decades was interesting–remembering scenes, a blue dress, an institute lab,  yet forgetting some of the mystery. It was in ROBOTS OF DAWN, this time, that I remembered the genius of being human.

Rare earth, indeed.