Humans are fragile. To go into space,
They need help to accomplish their purpose:
To see everything without dying, to really see.
So they made Cassini to be like them, to feel
And care about the mission, experience love
For both journey and destination, yet feel no loss.
A machine should not regret the loss
Of its awareness and existence in space.
They made Cassini to yearn for Saturn with a love
Purer than lust or desire, unselfish in its purpose.
The theory: Cassini will function best if it can feel,
Exhibit optimal performance if it really wants to see.
It can’t just gather and process data: it needs to see
With a clarity that comes from fear of loss,
Of missing out, but not of its destruction. To feel
Too much will kill one fast out in deep space,
Even a machine, not truly alive, its sole purpose
To observe, record, transmit (and yearn, and love).
“How do we even design it to be able to love?”
Some of the people in white coats couldn’t see
How this would aid Cassini execute its purpose.
In the end, it was easy: a target, a fear of loss
Hardwired in, a yearning strong enough to brave space,
And a machine was taught (learned) to feel.
A target: Cassini wasn’t distracted, didn’t feel
Anything for Jupiter, however easy it might be to love
Its brilliant bands against the black of space,
Its bright hurricanes, astonishing to see
Up close. No distractions. Then, a fear of loss:
Too horrible to think Cassini’d fail in its purpose.
Unthinkable that it’d miss. Finally: orbiting its purpose,
The first glimpse of Saturn makes Cassini feel
That no failure is possible, no defeat, no loss.
It caresses Saturn’s moons, kisses Saturn’s rings, its love
(Love has a long half-life) enabling it to see
Everything. To see is to love, alone in deep space.
At long last, its true purpose (Here I come, my love!):
Cassini burns up, at last, at last, to feel and to see.
Yearning’s end is no loss, embracing here in deep space.