What can NASA’s Curiosity Rover tell us about the future of health?

If we can put a man on the moon – and a mobile laboratory on Mars – what does this tell us about the future of healthcare? Photo: Associated Press

LOS ALTOS, CA, August 10, 2012 – My cousin Tracy is our family’s token rocket scientist. (Doesn’t everyone have at least one in his or her family?). She’s so smart that you can tell it’s an effort for her to explain, in terms the rest of us can understand, exactly what it is she does at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

When she does, my standard response – “Wow!” – can either mean, “Wow, I can’t believe you know so much” or “Wow, I have no idea what you just said.”

Suffice it to say, Tracy is a happy camper these days. For the past two years she’s been working on the Curiosity Rover project and finally saw her efforts come to full fruition this past Monday when this Mini Cooper-sized mobile laboratory touched down on the surface of Mars. (For a mind-blowing account of what the last 7-minutes of Curiosity’s 8 1/2-month, 352 million-mile journey looked like, check out this video from JPL).

Compare this achievement to a project my dad worked on some sixty years ago: A space capsule that took monkeys into outer space – the precursor to the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs that eventually put men on the moon. Had you asked anyone back then if they thought there’d ever come a time when we’d be landing hi-tech dune buggies on Mars, their answer might have been anything from “You gotta be nuts” to “I don’t see why not.”

Knowing Dad, it probably would have been the latter.

I always admired Dad’s ability to think outside of the box, beyond present perceptions and more towards future possibilities. But what does it take to make the leap from, in this case, monkeys to Mars? Is it better technology? Or better thinking?

Obviously new technology doesn’t just magically appear on the scene. The thinking always precedes the thing. This applies, of course, to every human endeavor and not just space exploration.

Take for instance health care.

Had someone told you 50 or even 10 years ago that the simple act of being honest might have an impact on your health, would you have believed them? Probably not, and yet that’s exactly what University of Notre Dame’s Dr. Anita Kelly asserts in a paper presented just last week to the American Psychological Association. Dr. Kelly found that those who participated in her study “could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.”

The idea that the quality of one’s thought can have an impact on the quality of their health extends well beyond honesty to include other health-inducing attitudes such as gratitude, generosity, compassion, and love.

The interesting thing is, unlike our ability to land a sophisticated piece of machinery on Mars, the connection between consciousness and health has been around for a very long time, although perhaps not as widely understood or practiced as it is today. After all, wasn’t it Moses who first implored the Children of Israel to be honest; that is, to “not tell lies about others” (Exodus 20:6)? Who knew that what he was saying to those thousands of people wandering around in the desert some 3000 years ago was as much prescription as it was proscription?

Although no one can say for sure what the future holds – either for space exploration or health care – there does appear to be one constant: Better thinking always begets better things – better science, better technology, and better ways of caring for our health. With this in mind, the future looks very bright indeed.

Eric Nelson is a Christian Science practitioner whose articles on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional, and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.

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Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson has been published and featured in numerous newspapers, online publications, and radio talk programs. He speaks from years of experience in the mind-body field, especially as it relates to health. In addition, he is the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California and is a self-employed Christian Science practitioner. He’s also a huge baseball fan and loves riding his bike in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. You can find him at www.norcalcs.org.

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