There is a poem by the Victorian poet William Ernest Henley known as “Invictus”, which is latin for “unconquered”. It goes like this, (I’ve actually memorized it)
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Now, here is a derivation of an expression for the escape velocity of a planet, (I ripped it off of Wikipedia because using MathML or Latex to write it all myself on wordpress is hell)
Now if I were to give this derivation a name, I would call it ‘Invictus’. Think about it. We emerged long ago as a collection of nomadic tribes in Africa. As a young species, the sky was inaccessible to us. We envied the birds and their ability to elegantly glide through the air and soar through the heavens (in fact, I think we still envy the birds, at least I do). Even more inaccessible was the serene and beautiful white orb that appeared in the skies on a clear night, which we call the moon. Rising up into the heavens like the birds seemed impossible. We were thrown into a gravitational prison cell, that was ‘black as the pit from pole to pole’… and yet our soul was unconquerable.
We developed the scientific method and found out that Nature had laws and these laws could be understood by experimentation and mathematical reasoning. Sir Isaac Newton published the Principia that created a launchpad for our species. It enabled us to decrypt the mysteries of the heavens… and emancipate ourselves. At the launch of Sputnik, we proved that we were Invictus. All of this was possible because of this derivation and the science that lay behind it.
The place on the Moon where humanity first landed is called the Sea of Tranquility. Whenever I look at the Moon it seems astonishing, almost incredulous to me that tiny creatures like us have actually set foot on that beautiful shiny-white world that harmoniously orbits our planet. And yet, we did set foot on it… and by doing so we proved that our species was unconquered by gravity.