These certainly are exciting times in space exploration. On Jan. 1, NASA’s New Horizon probe, which flew past Pluto in 2015, reached its next target, a red, snowman-shaped double rock nicknamed Ultima Thule. Then on Jan. 3, China made history by landing the first probe (Chang’e) on the far side of the Moon.

Meanwhile the Voyager spacecraft, which toured the giant planets decades ago, keep on ticking (so to speak), sending back data from beyond the limits of the solar system. Spacecraft orbit Jupiter and Mars and a landing craft and rover are dong science on the Martian surface. Another probe (ESA/JAXA), BepiColumbo, has launched on a mission to Mercury. Other spacecraft study the stars, the Sun, look back at Earth and search for planets around other stars.

They do so for years on end.

I like to smirk, if only they could build our cars to last that well. Imagine no trips to the garage, and not even a gas station. They of course have teams of people back on Earth studying every signal and sending back instructions, at times having to manipulate a spacecraft from millions or even billions of miles away to correct some condition. Hours lapse between signals, so the spacecraft have to be designed very well, to function almost on their own.

Imagine no potholes to hit; only the constant threat of meteors, extreme temperatures we can only imagine and bombardment of cosmic rays!

Back to our cars. If they DID make them that well, hardly anyone could afford them!

Meanwhile we ride our own "spaceship," we call Earth. Every time our "ship" rotates us away from the sunshine and we face the distant stars, as soon as the clouds depart we have a portal to the vast Universe of which we are a part. We behold thousands of stars with eyes alone, stars that we can liken to our very own Sun, many with their own variations in size, color and temperature.

The same basic curiosity that put men on the Moon, keeps the International Space Station going, sends robotic craft to do wonders out there and forges plans to send people to Mars, keeps us "looking up" to trace constellations, inspect the heavens with our backyard telescopes and gazing in awe and humble appreciation.

We’re constantly learning and coming up with new questions, often having to revise what we thought we knew. Just ask (if you could) those who thought the Earth was flat and the Sun and planets went around the stable Earth. They weren’t "dumb," anymore than we are who still build on what we thought before.

The Earth itself of course is a fascinating place to explore, even without looking out on a clear night. Imagine what it takes to make a habitable world. Whether there are others we are still investigating, and then the question exists if anything alive inhabits them.

Those of us who so choose have no problem sensing a Designer behind the Grand Design; others are content with another perception. In either case, we share the wonder of it all and can be thankful for eyes to see, a mind to try and understand and a heart to appreciate.

Keep looking up!