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The surface of Mars, taken from the Curiosity Rover shortly after touchdown

Last night I returned from masjid at just the right time to tune into the live stream of the final ten minutes of the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars. The description of how the rover landed is astonishing – in essence, the car-sized rover was lowered to the ground with cables, from a hovering rocket-based crane. This sounds like science fiction but it’s not. It’s an amazing technical and engineering triumph, one that partially restored my sense of optimism in our human race, after the senseless shootings at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin earlier in the day.

Of course, this being Ramadan, my focus is on Allah and thus I can’t help but also see the news of Curiosity Rover in that context; after all, whatever our engineering prowess as a nation or of humankind as a whole, all knowledge ultimately flows from Allah, and the entire scientific process itself is an exercise of the faculty of Reason which Allah bestowed upon mankind and mankind alone. The knowledge that made this landing on Mars possible (and future landings, inshallah!) comes from Him. It is our obligation to use that knowledge, and to seek more, not just for a better understanding of our Universe – the Creation – but also to better ourselves and in the end come closer to Allah.

Allah says in the Qur’an –

It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course. (Ya-Sin, 21:33)

This is one verse that NASA would be well-advised to remember! 🙂

UPDATE: here’s an action shot of Curiosity descending to the surface of Mars via the tethered balloon – photo taken from the orbiter as it passes overhead. The timing on this shot is exquisite.

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