US poet laureate dedicates ode to Europa for NASA mission to Jupiter’s icy moon

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón is seen at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Limón wrote a brand new poem for an upcoming NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. In Reward of Thriller: A Poem for Europa shall be engraved on the Europa Clipper spacecraft. NASA expects to launch the mission in October 2024.
| Picture Credit score: AP

When U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon was requested to jot down a poem for inscription on a NASA spacecraft headed to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, she felt a rush of pleasure on the honour, adopted by bewilderment on the seeming enormity of the duty.

“The place do you begin a poem like that?” she recalled considering simply after receiving the invitation in a name on the Library of Congress, the place the 47-year-old poet is serving a two-year second time period because the nation’s prime bard.

On Thursday evening, precisely one yr later in a ceremony on the library, throughout the road from the U.S. Capitol, Limon’s 21-line creation, In Reward of Thriller: a Poem for Europa, was unveiled and browse aloud to a public viewers for the primary time, receiving a standing ovation.

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Your entire poem, a free-verse ode consisting of seven three-line stanzas, or tercets, shall be engraved in Limon’s handwriting on the outside of the Europa Clipper, due for launch from NASA’s Kennedy House Heart in Florida in October 2024.

Now being assembled at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory close to Los Angeles, the spacecraft – bigger than some other flown by NASA on an interplanetary mission – ought to attain Jovian orbit in 2030 after a 1.6 billion-mile (2.6 billion km) journey.

The solar-powered Clipper may have an array of devices designed to check the huge ocean of water that scientists strongly imagine lies beneath Europa’s icy crust, probably harboring circumstances appropriate for all times.

Throughout its mission, the spacecraft is predicted to make almost 50 fly-bys of Europa, slightly than repeatedly orbit the moon, as a result of doing so would convey it too shut for too lengthy to Jupiter’s powerfully harsh radiation belts.

Uniting two water worlds

Limon’s Poem for Europa is much less a meditation on science – although its first line appears to allude to a rocket launch – as it’s an ode to nature and the awe it could actually encourage in humankind.

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón is seen at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Limón wrote a new poem for an upcoming NASA mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. 'In Praise of Mystery: A Poem for Europa' will be engraved on the Europa Clipper spacecraft. NASA expects to launch the mission in October 2024. (Gregory M. Waigand/NASA via AP)

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón is seen at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023. Limón wrote a brand new poem for an upcoming NASA mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa. “In Reward of Thriller: A Poem for Europa” shall be engraved on the Europa Clipper spacecraft. NASA expects to launch the mission in October 2024. (Gregory M. Waigand/NASA through AP)
| Picture Credit score:
Gregory M. Waigand

Apart from its title, it doesn’t point out Europa explicitly however refers to its place amongst Jupiter’s pure satellites, and to the commonality of water that it shares with Earth:

O second moon, we too are manufactured from water, of huge and beckoning seas.

It concludes:

We, too are manufactured from wonders, of niceand odd loves, of small invisible worldsof a have to name out by the darkish.

“I wished to level again to the Earth, and I believe the largest a part of the poem is that it unites these two issues,” she advised Reuters in an interview within the Library of Congress poetry room hours earlier than the piece was unveiled. “It unites each house and this unbelievable planet that we stay on.”

Limon, who received the Nationwide Ebook Critics Circle Award for her poetry assortment The Carrying, recounted nice issue when she first tried composing the Europa poem at a writers retreat in Hawaii.

Her breakthrough got here on a suggestion from her husband, who Limon mentioned inspired her to “cease writing a NASA poem” and to create “a poem that you’d write” as an alternative.

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“That modified all the pieces,” she remembered.

The one agency parameters NASA gave her have been to narrate one thing concerning the mission, to make it comprehensible to readers as younger as 9, and to jot down not more than 200 phrases.

On the Library of Congress on Thursday evening, Limon mentioned she considers the Europa fee “the best honor and privilege of my life.”

Reflecting earlier on what the task meant, Limon mentioned she wonders at “all the human eyes and human ears and human hearts that can obtain this poem and … it is the viewers that basically overwhelms me.”

A author of Mexican ancestry, Limon grew to become the primary Latina U.S. poet laureate and the twenty fourth particular person to carry the title when she was first appointed in September 2022.

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